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Draft Is A Start, But Rangers "Still Have Things To Do"

by Jim Cerny / New York Rangers

Once the dust had settled and the 2016 NHL Draft was completed Saturday afternoon the Rangers had added seven new players to the organization--one who will compete for a roster spot in 2016-17 and six others who will hopefully become NHLers down the road for the Blueshirts.

While there was much excitement within the organization about being able to select defenseman Sean Day in the third round (81st overall), it was the acquisition of 29 year-old defenseman Nick Holden that fills a more immediate need for the Rangers. Holden, who was acquired at the conclusion of the draft in a deal which saw New York send their 2017 fourth round pick to the Colorado Avalanche, has been a regular on the Avalanche defense for three seasons and has 221 games of NHL experience.

With veterans Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle not returning to the Rangers blue line next season, Holden provides New York with a fresh option on defense.

"I think Holden is a guy who has gotten better every year in the league, a pretty well-rounded guy," explained Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton. "He can kill penalties, play both sides. He's a player that can skate. I think he gives us good depth, and we'll see where he fits in."

While pleased to acquire Holden, who scored six goals and totaled 22 points while appearing in all 82 games last season, Gorton said he was not discouraged that he was unable to swing a larger deal at the draft this weekend.

"There were a couple things we had that I would say were close, but they didn't happen," Gorton said of his trade discussions with other teams. "We were close a couple times, but things didn't go the way we wanted them to. At the same time we're not going to be forced into a deal."

Gorton added that the organization plans to "keep our options" open regarding ongoing trade talks and possible free agent targets. He would not divulge what specific areas of the team he is trying to improve.

"It's June 24th and I think we have things to do to get ourselves to where we want to go," stated Gorton.

As for the bigger picture, Rangers executives were very happy that the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Day was still available in the third round when the team made its first selection--having previously traded away their first and second rounders this year.

Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director of Player Personnel, told that he would favorably compare Day's skating ability to that of legendary Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey. That was a big reason why Day was granted an exception by the OHL to begin his major junior career at the age of 15 as opposed to 16.

"Sean has always been a great talent, but this past year he became an athlete," offered Clark. "He had a family issue that put him in a little bit of a spin, but to his credit Sean worked his way out of it; and this past season was a really good season for him."

Day recorded six goals and 22 points in 57 games with Mississauga in 2015-16 after producing a 10-26-36 scoring line the year prior.

"I think I can bring a solid two-way game, and I'm always working on my offensive game," stated Day. "With my speed I can be more offensive, use that to my advantage; and I think I've come a long way defensively and using my big body."

Day admitted he was "shaking and couldn't stop smiling" when the Rangers called his name Saturday morning.

"It's amazing, just awesome, it really is," said a beaming Day. "It's a new Sean Day and hopefully the Rangers like that."

The Rangers selected a second defenseman, Tarmo Reunanen from Finland, in the fourth round of the draft (98th overall). Though injured much of last season, Clark was excited to land Reunanen and called him a player with "elite hockey sense".

"We were happy to fill a need with two defensemen, but really we took those guys at those positions because they had the most upside of who was still available at the time," Clark said of Day and Reunanen.

Six-foot-five forward Tim Gettinger, a teammate of Rangers prospect Brandon Halverson at Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL, was chosen in the fifth round (141st overall) by the Rangers. An assistant captain last season in the Soo, Gettinger scored 17 goals and 39 points a year ago.

The Rangers had a pair of picks in the sixth round and selected center Gabriel Fontaine 171st overall and then grabbed goaltender Tyler Wall three picks later. Fontaine was on hand in Buffalo at the draft and told reporters "to be a New York Ranger, to be a part of it in the future, is incredible, just awesome."

Fontaine scored 20 goals and totaled 45 points in 63 games with Rouyn-Noranda last season, helping the club reach the Memorial Cup Final with 5-11-16 production over 20 post-season contests. However the 18 year-old contends that he is more of a two-way player than just a scorer.

"I am a two-way player who is good defensively and who can bring offense, too," explained Fontaine.

With their final selection at the 2016 NHL Draft, the Rangers chose Ty Ronning, the son of former NHLer Cliff Ronning, who skated against the Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

The five-foot-nine Ronning scored 31 goals in the WHL last season.

The Rangers will hold their annual Prospects Camp next week at the MSG Training Center, while at the same time Gorton will resume his efforts to reshape the team's current roster for the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.

"We've been in a lot of conversations to make our team better," explained Gorton. "We will continue on that path moving forward."

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