By Robert Picarello
The Rangers wrapped up a successful Prospect Development Camp on Friday at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, where 41 of the team's possible future players were schooled all week on, as well as off, the ice.
The youngsters had access to the Rangers coaching staff of Tom Renney, Perry Pearn, Mike Pelino and Benoit Allaire and former NHLers such as Adam Graves (Rangers Assistant, Prospect Development and Community Relations), Jim Schoenfeld (Hartford Wolf Pack Head Coach), Ken Gernander (Hartford Assistant Coach) and Ulf Samuelsson (Hartford Assistant Coach), who were just as important to the prospects as the training sessions were.
The players' daily workouts varied every day. Sessions ranged from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM each day, with additional 3x3 scrimmages on select evenings. The youngsters also got schooled on various topics in the classroom by the Rangers' staff, including lessons about staying in shape through proper weight training and nutrition.
"It was a good opportunity for us to learn a lot of things about our own games and about the game of hockey on the ice and off," said Greg Moore, a 21-year old power forward who the Rangers picked up from the Calgary Flames in the Chris Simon deal in 2004. "You pick up a lot of knowledge from guys like Adam Graves and Ulf Samuelsson. They teach you little things about the game that contribute to your growth as a player."
While the Rangers may use the prospect camp every year to reevaluate their young talent, it's mostly run to help the kids work on their skills and show them what may be down the pike if they ever were to make it to the NHL and play for the organization.
"It's not so much an evaluation camp, as it is a skill development camp," Rangers Asst. General Manager/VP of Player Personnel Don Maloney said. "We have a lot of very qualified people on the ice who are really trying to identify the deficiency in each individual player's game and try to develop strategies to work on. It's been very, very interesting. Not too often do you get access to the college players that are here, so for them to come in for a week and sort of get to know them a little better, it's been great."
The players also felt the camp was great, as it allowed them to get into better shape for their upcoming seasons.
"This is one of the greatest things to prepare you for your upcoming season," said Chris Holt, a 20-year old netminder who was drafted by the Rangers with the 180th overall pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. "You play with such high caliber players that when you go back to your normal team - it's not as though it gets easier, you just feel more comfortable and better prepared.
"For the goaltenders, I think the fitness is the biggest thing we got out of this week. We got in great shape from this camp. We had a lot of ice sessions - way more than the skaters - so that challenged us both mentally and physically. We took a lot of shots this week and practice will always make you better. The four of us probably took anywhere from 3,000 - 4,000 shots a day. So we're all beat up, but it was definitely worthy it."
But it wasn't only the on-ice training sessions that helped the players improve their games.
"The training we got here this week off ice was just as important as the sessions on ice," Moore said. "All that stuff is a big part of hockey too - learning to eat right, how to take care of yourself as a hockey player and the classroom sessions we had definitely helped a lot. We learned about trying to become mentally tough as well as physically tough and that should help us become better hockey players."
With the organization committed to building a winner from within, camps like this are a great tool to show the prospects just what the Rangers are looking for in their future players.
"The bottom line is that this is a greeting into the Ranger culture," New York's Head Coach and Vice President of Player Development Tom Renney said. "And these last few groups that we've done this with will be the Ranger culture; one that's based on hard work, good energy and those types of things. The idea behind this is to just expose them to us as much as possible and us to them and begin to develop that relationship."
By week's end it seemed the Rangers had accomplished their goal, as the kids not only skated away improving their games, they also gained some knowledge and made some friends, who may very well be their teammates in the not-too-distant future.
"I always knew there was certain areas of my game I needed to work on, whether it's down low in the corners in the offensive zone or being quicker in coming out of the corners and attacking the net," Moore said. "But I think the relationships we built here were very important to me because once you get to a certain point, the hockey world is really small and it's great to get to know the guys you may someday be playing with."