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Clark, scouts eye a big L.A. weekend

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

By Jim Cerny,

Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ Director, Player Personnel, and the team’s point-man at the NHL Entry Draft, has been having the same recurring thought flash through his brain leading up to this year’s draft which takes place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday.

Despite the countless hours of preparation he and the Rangers organization have put into scouting each draft-eligible player, Clark has moments of anxiety, fearing that somehow, some way, something has been overlooked.

Gordie Clark, Rangers' Director, Player Personnel, has made the key decisions at the draft table for the past several years and was instrumental in both the scouting and selection of Chris Kreider last year.
“It’ll just hit me out of the blue, and I’ll be wondering about a certain player, do I have it right about this guy?” Clark explained. “Then I just go watch the tape again to make sure I do have it right about this certain player. Then a little bit later I’ll have the same thought about another player, and I am back to the tapes again.”

Clark and the rest of the Rangers front office, led by team President and General Manager Glen Sather, arrive in Los Angeles on Tuesday for their final draft preparations, a process that has been 12 months in the making since Chris Kreider headed a list of youngsters selected by the Blueshirts last June in Montreal. As soon as one year’s draft is complete, it’s time to work on next year’s draft.

“We really liked what we accomplished at last year’s draft,” said Clark, who is entering his ninth season with the Rangers and fourth in his current role. “But as soon as the draft is done, we get those kids into prospect camp and then start planning for the next draft.”

This year the Rangers own the 10th overall selection. The club has not picked that high in the first round since 2004 when the Rangers had the sixth overall selection. Since Clark has been in charge of the draft, the Rangers have selected 17th in 2007 (Alexei Cherepanov), 20th in 2008 (Michael Del Zotto), and 19th in 2009 (Kreider).

The Rangers have four other picks after the first round. On Saturday, they are scheduled to select at No. 40 overall in Round 2, No. 100 overall in Round 4, No. 130 overall in Round 5 and No. 190 overall in Round 7.

“You always feel the pressure to pick a player who is going to play for you at the NHL level in the first round,” explained Clark. “But obviously the closer you pick to (first overall) the better chance you have to choose a special player.”

In the opinion of most hockey experts, there are two players in this year’s draft that stand above the rest, Windsor forward Taylor Hall and Plymouth center Tyler Seguin.
In Clark’s opinion, after these players are off the board, there are a group of players that could be drafted anywhere between the fourth overall pick and No. 20.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see a player rated at 20 go in the top six or eight (picks) or one ranked, say, No. 6 go 20th,” said Clark. “It really is going to depend on what each team needs and is looking for and how they rate each individual player according to their specifications.”

As for whether the Rangers plan on selecting the best available player on their draft board or will try and fill a positional need when the 10th overall selection comes their way on Friday, Clark said that it’s impossible to say right now because there is no way to know exactly how the previous nine selections will go.

“You always have to take the best player, but right now we don’t know who will be available, so we’ll just wait and see,” said Clark.

Two-time Memorial Cup champion Taylor Hall is all but certain to go in the first two picks. If Edmonton does not select him at No. 1 overall, the Ontario native could end up with the Boston Bruins at No. 2.
Another option the Rangers have is to trade the No. 10 pick, either moving up to select a player they covet or moving down if given a solid offer from another team. Clark said that he expects Sather’s phone to be ringing quite a bit on Friday.

“Even last year when we were at 19, Glen’s phone was ringing and teams were looking to move up and make a trade,” Clark said. “But we wanted Kreider, so we weren’t going to take that chance. Glen has talked to teams already. I am sure he will talk to more during the week, and even at the table the night of the draft.”

While there are countless scenarios involving whom the Rangers might select or what else they might do with their No. 10 pick, one thing is certain: There are distinct qualities upper management wants to see in any player expected to play for the organization. Skill level is important, but so, too, is character.

“We want great hockey players and great people,” explained Clark. “I think we have been able to change the culture of the type of person that we bring in. This is a special place to play, so they should be that special kind of person. I think we’ve kept that philosophy with our draft picks, character and leadership are things we look for, and maybe we’ll take a guy who’s stronger in that department than a guy who might have a bit more skill but far less character.”

Considering all that factors in to the decision of whom the Rangers select, it’s no wonder why Gordie Clark has been second guessing whether or not he “has it right” as the days dwindle before draft day.

“I just want to make 100 percent sure we get the right guy.”
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