Matt Gilroy is not the typical first-year professional hockey player.
At age 24, Gilroy found himself to be, in some cases, six years older than some of the other players he was skating with at the Rangers prospects camp last week at the MSG Training Center. In fact the only other player attending the prospects camp currently under contract to the Rangers that was Gilroy’s age was the 24 year-old Ilkka Heikkinen
, who has been playing professionally in Finland for several seasons.
|Winning the NCAA championship in his final college hockey game was a perfect ending to 24-year-old Matt Gilroy's remarkable career at Boston University. |
A self-described “late bloomer”, Gilroy really came into his own as a top defenseman the last couple of years while attending Boston University, so much so that he was selected as the winner of the 2009 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player.
As such, it was not a surprise to see Gilroy stand out amongst the prospects last week in Westchester. Playing with poise, confidence, and a high skill level, Gilroy he made a positive first impression on the Rangers, who signed him as a free agent this past April.
“It took me a while to get here, most of the guys come in at 18,” said Gilroy, who helped lead BU to the NCAA championship this past spring. “But hey, I’m 24, it took me a little longer, but I am happy I am here. I can’t complain.”
After a somewhat slow start to his collegiate playing career, Gilroy lifted his play dramatically the past two years, becoming a much-sought-after free agent once his days at Boston University had completed. Solid in his own end, Gilroy also improved his offensive game, posting a career-high 37 points in 45 games this past season.
Although he’ll be a first-year pro in 2009-10, Gilroy is ready to challenge for a spot on the Rangers’ blueline this upcoming season. And by the looks of his play at the prospects camp, he will fit right into the Rangers’ outstanding crop of young defense prospects, which already includes three first-round draft picks in Michael Del Zotto
, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Ryan McDonagh
“I’m taking it all one step at a time,” said Gilroy. “It’s a little different from college hockey. It’s a job now. I have a lot of work to do this summer, and hopefully when camp comes I’ll be ready.”
Gilroy’s whirlwind 2009 has included capturing the Hobey Baker Award, winning the NCAA title, signing with the Rangers, graduating from BU (“which made my Mom real happy!” noted Gilroy), and moving into his own place in Point Lookout on Long Island. His younger brother Kevin will move in with Gilroy as soon as he completes his studies at BU this summer.
Ironically, Gilroy has spent much of his off-season, so far, working out at the Islanders’ practice facility in Syosset as it is close to his home. Those workouts will intensify when his brother -- and workout partner -- arrives home from school.
And after the grueling on-ice drills and tests conducted by the coaching staff at the prospects camp, Gilroy is well aware of the type of physical condition he needs to be in to play for John Tortorella this fall.
“I think they want their players to be in tremendous condition; and they gave us pointers on how to prepare this summer so that we are ready for camp,” Gilroy said of the Rangers coaching and training staffs. “Coach Tortorella wants what he wants, so you just have to give it to him.”
Gilroy will head to training camp in September knowing at least a few of his teammates, not to mention players like Del Zotto, Heikkinen, and Evgeny Grachev who also took part in the prospects’ camp. Gilroy and Christopher Higgins, who are both from Long Island, have crossed paths many times over the years. Gilroy also knows Brian Boyle
from the Boston area. And Chris Drury, a former Hobey Baker winner himself at BU, has met and spoken with Gilroy on several occasions.
But whether he knows other players at camp or not, Gilroy’s goal heading to training camp is to secure a spot on the Rangers roster, and right now that opportunity is right before him.
“That’s all it is, an opportunity,” stated Gilroy. “I have to take advantage of it if I want it. I still have a lot of work to do.”