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Rangers getting World of experience

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
By Jim Cerny,

When the 2010 IIHF World Championship gets under way this Friday in Germany, the Rangers will be well represented in the tournament with eight players from the organization taking part, representing four different countries.

This is the largest group of Blueshirts to compete for a World gold medal since 1993, and the most exciting aspect for the Rangers franchise is that, except for veteran defenseman Michael Rozsival who will play for the Czech Republic, the players taking part range in age from 19-25 and will benefit greatly from this tournament experience. It is also a compliment to the organization that so much of its young talent will be on display in the World Championship this year.

The biggest winners at the World Championship are often the youngsters like Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who will have a chance to gain valuable international experience on a world-class stage a full month before turning 20.
The youngest of the group is Chris Kreider, the Rangers’ first-round pick from the 2009 draft, who just turned 19 years old last week. Kreider, who helped lead Boston College to the NCAA Championship as a freshman this past season, is the only non-professional player on the United States roster, certainly a tremendous honor for the skilled and speedy center.

Kreider will be joined on Team USA by two current Rangers, 24-year-old forward Brandon Dubinsky and 25-year-old defenseman Matt Gilroy. Dubinsky, in particular, will be cast in a leading role for a United States squad that has not medaled at the World Championships since earning the bronze back in 2004.

The 20 goals scored by Dubinsky this past season are not only a personal career-best, but they represent the most goals scored by any NHL player on Team USA. As such, Dubinsky will be looked upon to help lead the offense along with other talented young NHL players like T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues and Kyle Okposo of the Islanders.

Gilroy is part of a deep pool of defensemen compiled by Team USA. Headlining that group is Los Angeles Kings blueliner Jack Johnson, who earned a silver medal while skating for the United States in the Olympics this past February. Johnson’s teammate on the Kings, Matt Greene, is also on the backline along with Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, Andy Greene of the Devils, and Jack Hillen of the Islanders.

Coming off a rookie campaign in which he scored four goals, added 11 assists, and totaled 15 points, the smooth-skating Gilroy just might be able to land some valuable power-play time for Team USA in this tournament as the United States looks to better its fourth-place finish of a year ago.

Two of Gilroy’s teammates from the Rangers’ backline, 23-year-old Marc Staal and 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto, will be playing for Canada, whose general manager is Mark Messier, the Rangers legend and current Special Assistant to President and General Manager Glen Sather.

Staal, the Rangers’ top shutdown defenseman who also established career-highs in goals (8), assists (19), and points (27) this past season, will likely assume the same role on the Canadian blueline, while Del Zotto (an impressive 9-28-37 in his rookie season) will be expected to provide offense and quarterback the power play for Team Canada.

The standout Canadian defense includes another well-regarded rookie, Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, as well as the talented Brent Burns of the Minnesota Wild and the veteran Francois Beauchemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That group will work in front of the goaltending tandem of veteran Chris Mason and Rangers’ rookie Chad Johnson, who impressed enough while playing down in Hartford and during his stints at the NHL level this past season to be added to the Team Canada roster a few days ago.

As General Manager of Team Canada at this year's World Championship, Hall of Famer Mark Messier looks to get his home country back to the gold medal after two straight runner-up performances.
Canada’s true strength is up front where Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s co-leader with 51 goals, leads a group that includes talented NHL stars like Corey Perry of Anaheim, Ryan Smith of Los Angeles, and Ray Whitney of Carolina. In addition three of the top four picks from last year’s draft -- John Tavares of the Islanders, Matt Duchene of the Avalanche, and Evander Kane of the Thrashers -- will skate for the deep Canadian squad which shoots for a gold medal this year after silver-medal finishes at each of the last two World Championships.

Of course, to win gold, every team in the tournament will have to get through two-time defending champion Russia first. And Russia announced earlier in the week that its highly-skilled roster would be fortified even more with the additions of Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Semyon Varlamov, all of whom star for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.

Artem Anisimov, the Rangers’ 21-year-old, will look to help Russia defend its gold medal. In pre-World Championship action at Sweden’s LG Games, Anisimov was centering Russia’s fourth line after coming off a strong rookie season on Broadway in which he played in all 82 games, scored 12 goals, added 16 assists, and totaled 28 points.

Like Staal, Del Zotto, Dubinsky, Gilroy, Kreider, and Johnson, Anisimov will be soaking up valuable experience by playing in the World Championship this spring.

And the Rangers hope that this experience is just part of the ongoing building process for the team’s young core of talent, one that was highly praised by head coach John Tortorella at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season.
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