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Prospects Visit The Garden: There's Something Special Here

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

After two days of testing and a morning scrimmage, the Rangers' prospects traded in the pads and skates for slacks and polos for a visit to Madison Square Garden followed by dinner in the Big Apple.

Whether a player had the chance to play a game in college, sit in the stands as a fan or was entering the World's Most Famous Arena for the first time, the experience of stepping into the arena and the Rangers' dressing room left the dozens of youngsters with smiles on their faces.

"It's amazing," said Lias Andersson, the team's first round selection last week in Chicago. "I've been to a couple NHL teams' arena looking around a bit in their facilities, but this is the best facility I've been to. It's crazy."

The players were treated to a video package on Garden Vision that preceded a visit to the Rangers' dressing room that included a speech by former Ranger and current Director of Player Development Jed Ortmeyer, who described what it takes to be a Blueshirt.

Sean Day, the team's top draft choice in 2016, did the tour with last year's group, but said this time around was even more special.

"I think you see a lot more the second time you come through," he said. "Even just the passion the city has, the people behind-the-scenes running the team and stuff like that. We saw that video last year, but this time it really hit me. It gave me chills. Just little things like that, I think you appreciate a little more [the second time]."

Day wasn't the only defenseman getting the feels after the video, which showed Rangers history throughout the organization's 90-year existence.

"Watching that video really gave me chills throughout the whole thing," Neal Pionk said. "It's amazing. It would obviously be a dream to play here someday."

While some were stepping into the arena for the first time, others were spending their first day ever in New York City. Andersson and fellow first round selection Filip Chytil were seeing the City That Never Sleeps for the first time, and it was a far cry from what they're used to back home.

"I like the city," said Chytil, a 17-year-old from the Czech Republic. "It's my first time here. I like the buildings and the statues and the arena. It's awesome. I've enjoyed this trip."

While he may not have visited the city before, Andersson was told a great deal about it, including how special The Garden for all players, even those that were never Rangers.

"I've heard great things about New York. My parents love New York," Andersson said. "My dad [former NHLer Niklas Andersson] told me The Garden is the best place to play in the League. I'm very excited to be here. 

"You feel it," Andersson said of MSG. "There's something special in here. You can almost touch it. It's a crazy feeling."

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