By Robert Picarello
The New York Rangers prospects took to the ice Monday, not just to beat the heat, but also to learn a thing or two. The future Rangers were in town to take part in a weeklong Prospect Development Camp at the team's state-of-the-art training center in Tarrytown, NY. Several of the club's top young talents were in attendance for the training sessions, including the team's top pick from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Marc Staal
While the 12th overall selection in the Entry Draft will only be able to partake in the camp for a short while, as he will be traveling to attend Canada's World Junior Team training camp along with 2005 fourth-round selection Tom Pyatt, the 18-year old was thrilled to be able to come to New York for the first time in his life.
"This has been a really fun camp," Staal said. "They teach you a lot about having quick feet and a lot of quick movements and stuff like that - stuff that will definitely help us down the road. Speed is probably the biggest thing. They're really concentrating on developing you as a player, so that really helps and has made it exciting."
What also made it exciting for the up-and-comers was the fact that they all 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).
"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 and develop strategies to work on." Rangers Asst. General Manager/VP of Player Personnel Don Maloney said. "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 terrific. It's been great.
"I think a camp like this allows the players themselves to get familiar with the organization and what we have available for them. When I talked to the players in our opening meeting last night, what I tried to emphasize to them was to use the resources we have here. Our goal is to get each and everyone of them to the NHL, so whether it's spending time with Reg Grant and our strength people or Jim Schoenfeld or Ken Gernander or the Adam Graves of the world who has spent 15 or 20 years in the NHL, I let them know that all these guys are there for them. I told them that they are there to help them improve their games. As much as there's structured drills and activities, I told them to use the time to improve their games. That's really the message we're trying to get to them. We let them know that this is what we're trying to do. We let them know that we'll do anything we can to get them to the NHL, but ultimately they're responsible for their own actions."
The players' daily workouts will vary every day. They range from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM each day, with additional 3x3 scrimmages on select evenings. The youngsters also get schooled in classroom sessions by the staff, while learning about staying in shape through proper weight training and nutrition.
"We want our players to know that we care about them and that this is where they want to be," Rangers Head Coach and Vice President of Player Development Tom Renney said. "We also want them to know that the New York Rangers are in this for the long haul and that we believe in our young people and that we believe in developing our team from within as much as we possibly can. We want them to know that they should stick with it and give themselves every opportunity to be a part of probably the best organization in the game."
Judging by the looks on some of the players' eyes, you could tell they knew they had it good. Many of the prospects were blown away by the on-ice sessions and the MSG Training Center and all it had to offer them, which was music to Maloney's ears. "When they come to this facility and take one look at it, there's not one player out here that doesn't want to play for the New York Rangers. Having the resources we have here and this state-of-the-art facility, there's none that rival it. There are some other nice practice rinks, but generally, they're all open to the public and they have a certain slotted time. This is here 24 hours a day for Rangers personnel and it can make them better. It really is a great selling tool and I think more and more in the years ahead, the ability to attract players is going to be more and more important and I think this is a terrific tool to use."
Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather was also happy that the prospects were enjoying the Prospect Development Camp. "We are excited to bring these young kids to New York so that they can get a taste of what we are expecting of them. These players are the future of our organization, and they need to understand what it means to be a Ranger and what will be expected of them when they make it to the NHL."