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Bright futures for two first-rounders

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Gordie Clark Discusses What He Saw at Camp Watch

By Jim Cerny,

If Dylan McIlrath and Chris Kreider, the Rangers’ two most recent first-round draft picks, had not already become acquainted earlier in the week, then they most surely did early in Friday’s scrimmage that closed out the team’s Prospects Development Camp.

Defenseman Dylan McIlrath, the Rangers' 2010 first-round draft pick, got his initial taste of the Madison Square Garden Training Center at this year's Development Camp for Blueshirts prospects.
Kreider, the 19th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, used his trademark speed to chase down a puck behind the net in the offensive zone. McIlrath, the 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft, closed quickly in pursuit of Kreider and hammered his fellow first-rounder into the back boards. Kreider absorbed the thunderous check and continued on with the play.

As the puck rolled out of the zone, Kreider and McIlrath gave each other a quick knowing look of respect. One day down the road,  the Rangers are hoping that Kreider, the speedy and offensively gifted center, and McIlrath, the hulking stay-at-home defenseman, will be centerpieces of the club, and teammates, for years to come.

“They are two very important players to us, for sure,” said Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director, Player Personnel. “Kreider is obviously further along than Dylan, and we won’t know for several years yet what we have in both players, but we are excited to have both guys here in the Rangers organization.”

This week’s Development Camp was McIlrath’s introduction to the organization and to New York City. It has been a whirlwind past week for the Winnipeg native. Who was selected with the 10th overall pick at last Friday’s draft. He spent Saturday enjoying the rest of the draft and then flew home Sunday, only to head all the way back to New York on Monday for camp.

“It’s pretty surreal and quite an experience these past couple of weeks,” said McIlrath. “Spending time with (Mark) Messier and (Adam) Graves on its own is just great and then being a part of their organization is another thing. I’m just looking forward to everything here.”

McIlrath actually missed the first day of the 2010 Development Camp because his flight did not arrive until Monday afternoon. He hit the ground running, however, as he was whisked away into Manhattan to attend a Season Subscriber event at Madison Square Garden, getting his first taste of the big city and The World’s Most Famous Arena.

“The Garden is great, just looking at all the banners and everything involved, it’s just an amazing place,” said McIlrath, who added that many of the fans he has met already compare him to former Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom.

“They’re really passionate fans,” he said.

While McIlrath was taking part in his initial mini-camp with the Rangers, this is the second go-round for Kreider. Much has happened since Kreider appeared in his first Blueshirts’ camp a year ago. The 19-year-old from Boxford, MA entered college, scored 15 goals and recorded 23 points in 38 games as a freshman for Boston College, helped BC to win the NCAA Championship, helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships tournament, and then played with a group of professional players in representing the U.S. again at the World Championship tournament in Germany.

For some players, what Kreider accomplished last year would be enough for several seasons’ worth of highlights and experience. Kreider, and the Rangers, believe that all of that experience and success in such a short amount of time will prove to be invaluable to Kreider’s growth as a player.

“It was good for me to see how important winning is, that what you did in the regular season doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t win games, winning is what matters,” said Kreider. “That had always been my mindset, but it was kind of comforting to see that at the next level.”

Along with his growth as a player, what stood out this week with Kreider was his tremendous physical growth. A physical specimen when drafted by the Rangers in June of 2009, Kreider has added between 15 and 20 pounds of muscle to his rock-solid frame, and he now tips the scales at 220 pounds.

The key to the added weight and muscle is that, through excellent workout programs developed by both the Rangers and Boston College, Kreider has not lost any speed, which is his true calling card as an elite hockey player. In fact, Kreider -- called by Clark the fastest player “by far” in the 2009 draft -- believes he is skating even faster now and has a more powerful stride.

Left wing Chris Kreider did a lot more than just win championships in 2009-10. He also added some 15 to 20 pounds of muscle to his very powerful frame.
By what was witnessed this past week, Kreider is not exaggerating those facts. Particularly impressive is Kreider’s initial step where he repeatedly bursts past opposing players.

“He’s a machine,” fellow Rangers prospect Derek Stepan said of Kreider. “When you play against him you can’t catch him. I learned that lesson the hard way (in college) when I went flying into the boards and was unconscious for 25 seconds trying to catch him. Playing with him (at the World Junior Championships) you see that he’s a great teammate, a great guy, a great skater, can shoot the puck, just a great hockey player.”

Exactly when Kreider and McIlrath reach The Garden is not yet known for certain. Kreider is scheduled to play next season at BC, while McIlrath has two full years of major-junior eligibility ahead of him.

But as of the conclusion of the 2010 Development Camp, it was safe to say that the Blueshirts are more than pleased with where their two most recent first-rounders are at right now, and the organization is excited to project a future that one day includes Kreider and McIlrath skating as teammates at Madison Square Garden.
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