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Rangers Get Younger with Smrek

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers sat down with Rangers Vice President of Player Development/Assistant General Manager Don Maloney to discuss the team's acquisition of St. Louis Blues prospect Peter Smrek on Monday. Here's what he had to say on the 6-1, 215-pound native of Slovakia:

Tell us a little about Peter Smrek. What impressed the organization about him?

DM: "We’ve seen Peter a lot. We liked him his draft year. He’s a big, solid defenseman and an excellent skater with balance. Three weeks ago we had three or four scouts independently rank the St. Louis prospects, defensive prospects, and he came out #1 on all their lists. He was the guy we really liked. I think it’s a terrific deal for us."

Why did the Rangers make this particular deal?

DM: "I think that if the deal makes sense -- I mean Alex Gusarov is a good player - he’s an NHL player - but I think we’re in the mode of trying to acquire the best assets possible and I think this guy has tremendous upside. He’s a young player. We’ve seen him a lot in Worcester (AHL) the last two years, and he’s gotten better the last two years. He’s a developing player and I think that’s certainly good in our organization at this time."

Do you feel that Smrek was overlooked a bit in the NHL Draft, being a third round selection in 1999?

DM: "Yeah, what happened was he didn’t come over (to North America). He eventually went to the US Junior League as a 19-year old and really made his mark at the World Juniors in Winnipeg. He was outstanding on the Slovak team; actually I think they won the bronze medal that year, and that’s really what got him drafted. I talked to Jan Gadosik, who’s our Czech scout, and, again, he’s another good skater who has just seemed to get better and better."

Where do you see him fitting in with the organization?

DM: "I think he’s still a development player. I think we can determine this week whether we keep him here, stick him in and look at him or send him to Hartford (AHL). I think he’s still got some growing and maturing. He’s a young guy who did not play major junior. He has one year of US Junior League and then jumped right into the minor leagues. So, I think he will see some games here this year, whether it’s this week or next week, or the week after. Mike Mottau is here now, and we can only dress six defensemen, so we have a lot of guys here."

Your thoughts on acquiring such talented youth for the organization's future?

DM: "I think we were in the market that if we could find a premiere young asset, regardless, that was what we were going to make the deal for - the long-term. I think that’s probably why you haven’t seen a lot of deals happen yet with Glen. Nobody’s looking here to make a short-term fix for a week or two."

6-1, 215 pounds
BORN: February 16, 1979, Martin, Slovakia
DRAFTED: Selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 3rd round (85th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft
ACQUIRED: From the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenseman Alexei Gusarov on March 5, 2001.

Strong, aggressive and intelligent player ... An excellent skater with great mobility ... Plays a very simple, yet effective puck game ... Possesses a big shot from the point ... Takes people out efficiently in his own zone ... Shows good awareness and patience with the puck ... A very good NHL prospect.

"“I’m definitely a little nervous. This is my first
time being traded, so it’s kind of a shock. This is
actually my first time at Madison Square Garden.
Being traded is just part of the game and I am excited
to join the Rangers.”

“I’m just going to play a hard, strong style of
defense and try to keep things simple. That’s my
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