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Draft helped Rangers bulk up in hurry

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
First-round pick Dylan McIlrath set the tone for a Rangers draft that focused on big, tough Canadian players who are no fun for NHL opponents to face.

Exclusive: Gordie Clark on All the Rangers' Picks
McIlrath Video Profile with Game Highlights
Yogan Video Profile with Game Highlights
Thomas and His Dad, Steve, on Draft Experience
Exclusive Interview with New Ranger McIlrath
Exclusive Interview with New Ranger Thomas
Exclusive Interview with New Ranger Yogan
McIlrath Talks to Reporters after Being Selected
Thomas Talks to Reporters after Being Selected
Yogan Talks to Reporters after Being Selected

PHOTOS: Rangers at the Draft
Rangers End Draft With Six New Faces
Rangers' Draft Picks at a Glance
Blueshirts Got Their Man in McIlrath
2010 NHL First-Round Picks
Complete Draft Results

By Jim Cerny,

If there was one theme for the Rangers at the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft in Los Angeles, it was that size really does matter.

Four of the six players selected by the Rangers this weekend, beginning with hulking first-round pick Dylan McIlrath, stand at least 6-foot-3. The least heavy of that foursome tips the scales at 205 pounds.

“It was a concerted effort on our part, our philosophy in this draft, to go after big Canadian junior players,” said Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director, Player Personnel. “It starts with McIlrath, who was the toughest player in the draft, and carries through. I am very happy with what we accomplished here.”

Along with McIlrath, the 6-foot-4, 215 pound bruising stay-at-home defenseman who racked up 19 fighting majors with Moose Jaw last season, the Rangers added three other physical forwards before the draft concluded on Saturday afternoon.

In the second round, the Rangers added Oshawa Generals winger Christian Thomas, whose father, Steve, was a standout NHL player for two decades.
The Rangers selected 6-foot-3, 205 pound center Andrew Yogan out of Erie in the OHL in Round 3. In the fifth round, the Blueshirts nabbed 6-foot-3, 215 pound left wing Jason Wilson from Owen Sound in the OHL. And two rounds later, the Rangers drafted 6-foot-5, 225 pound Randy McNaught from Saskatoon in the WHL.

The Rangers also added a pair of smaller, smooth-skating forwards to the organization. Christian Thomas, the son of former NHL forward Steve Thomas, was selected by the Blueshirts in the second round, 40th overall, out of Oshawa in the OHL. And in Round 6, Swedish forward Jesper Fasth, considered to be one of the best skaters in the draft, was selected by the Rangers.

“We’re no different than the other 29 teams right now, everybody feels that they had a great draft,” said Clark. “But we are really happy with what we were able to accomplish.”

The key to the draft was McIlrath, the first-round selection who fills an admitted hole in the organization -- that of a punishing, mean defensive defenseman who also has strong skating skills and offensive upside. Rangers brass was elated to be able to add McIlrath to the organization on Friday night.

“We certainly filled a need that we have, and have had for a little while, because McIlrath is an aggressive defenseman that can play,” said Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather. “He seems to have all the things to make him that type of player, and he seems to be the kind of player that will adjust to New York very well.”

Thomas was the Rangers’ first selection on Saturday in Day 2 of the NHL Draft. A hard-nosed winger with a distinct nose for the net, Thomas netted 41 goals and recorded 66 points in 64 games this past season. Thomas ranked seventh in the OHL in goal-scoring and also established a new Oshawa franchise record by tallying four shorthanded goals.

“I am very excited,” Thomas said. “I got drafted to a great team, the Rangers. I like to score so every game I try and score as many goals as I can.”

It was the second year in a row that the Rangers drafted the son of a proven former National Hockey League player. Last June in Montreal, the Blueshirts selected Ryan Bourque, the son of Hall-of-Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, in the third round. And this year it was Thomas whose dad scored 421 goals in 1,235 games despite never being drafted.

“I look at them as different from their fathers because everyone is their own individual,” said Clark. “But I do notice the characteristics of their fathers because work ethic and character can be passed down. And Ray Bourque and Steve Thomas both certainly had tremendous character, and so do their boys.”

Third-round pick Andrew Yogan grew up in South Florida and would likely never have fallen in love with hockey if the NHL hadn't expanded to his geographic area in the year after he was born.
In the third round, the Rangers selected Yogan, who scored 25 goals, finished with 55 points, and totaled 97 penalty minutes in 63 games this past season. A solid play-maker, who also possesses a powerful shot, Yogan also helps fill a void at the center ice position within the organization.

Yogan hails from Coral Springs, Fla., and is the first player ever selected in the NHL draft from the state of Florida.

“I hope that I can open some doors for the really good talent that is down in Florida,” said Yogan, who grew up a big Panthers fan and had a poster of Pavel Bure adorning his bedroom wall growing up.

In the fifth and seventh rounds the Rangers selected Wilson and McNaught, a pair of bruising wings who Clark believes will both surprise a lot of people. Neither player put up eye-popping numbers, but both have improved marketedly the past year, catching the organization’s collective eye in the process.

Wilson notched 101 penalty minutes and 35 points in 48 games a year ago, while McNaught had 163 penalty minutes over 65 matches.

“McNaught is really coming along, and he’s a good old rugged Western Canadian farm boy,” said Clark. “And Wilson is going to surprise some people. He can really play.”

Originally, the Rangers did not have a pick in the sixth round of this year’s draft, but on Saturday Sather traded defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti to the Carolina Hurricanes for Washington’s second round pick in the 2011 draft and Carolina’s sixth rounder this year.

With that sixth-round selection, the Rangers chose Fasth, who scored 23 goals and notched 49 points in 37 games last season.

As for the trade, Sather said, “(Sanguinetti) is a nice kid, but I don’t think he’s going to fit the bill right now with the guys we have in the lineup and the guys we have drafted. It was better to move him now for a pick this year and an important pick next year.”

The Rangers will get a chance to see their six draft picks on the ice next week when the club holds its annual Prospects Camp at the Madison Square Garden Training Center. The newest Rangers will take part in the week-long camp along with other top organizational prospects like Evgeny Grachev, Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and Ethan Werek, among others.
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