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Rangers sign 2008 first-round pick Del Zotto

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has signed defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

Michael Del Zotto wore a Rangers uniform for the first time at the 2008 Traverse City Prospects Tournament -- just a few months after being drafted by the Blueshirts.
Del Zotto, 18, skated in 62 games with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season, registering 13 goals and 50 assists for 63 points, along with 78 penalty minutes. The two-time OHL All-Star finished the season ranked sixth among all OHL defensemen in scoring and assists, while his 50 assists tied for 11th in the league overall. He also ranked fifth in the league with 32 power play assists.

"It's definitely unbelievable being part of this organization," Del Zotto told earlier today. "This is just a baby step, though. It's a first step in trying to make the team and take it further."

Del Zotto recorded the sixth-longest assist streak in the OHL this season, registering an assist in seven straight contests from February 1 at Ottawa to February 16 at Guelph (nine assists). In addition, he posted 14 multi-point games, including five, three-point efforts.

In the postseason with London, Del Zotto led the team with 16 assists and tied for fourth on the Knights with 19 points in 14 games.  His 16 assists ranked second among all OHL defensemen in the playoffs, while his 19 points finished third among league blueliners.

Del Zotto, who was with Oshawa when the Rangers drafted him but was traded to London in the middle of last season, said joining the Knights was a turning point in an already big year.

"I think that (the trade) was the best thing for me. It was a great opportunity going to London with the team they have there and all that talent. It gave me a great opportunity to go deep in the playoffs and play with amazing players. It definitely helped out my game."

The 6-0, 195-pound defenseman has skated in 190 career OHL games with Oshawa and London, collecting 39 goals and 144 assists for 183 points, along with 238 penalty minutes. Last season, Del Zotto tied for third among all OHL defensemen in scoring with 63 points and ranked fourth with a career-high, 16 goals. 

He also tied for fifth in the league overall with five shorthanded goals. The second overall pick in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, Del Zotto was twice named OHL Defensemen of the Month –- November 2006 and December 2007.

This past season was particularly satisfying for Del Zotto, who was ended up slipping into the Rangers' laps at the 2008 draft despite a high ranking. From the start of the 2008-09 campaign, Del Zotto wanted to show that he could build on the success he enjoyed in his draft year.

"I kind of wanted to prove everyone wrong who had criticized my game and to show them I could be a two-way player," said Del Zotto, who was plus-9 in 28 games with London. "That's definitely what I wanted to do all year long."

The native of Stouffville, Ontario, was the Rangers’ first round choice, 20th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The selection marked the third time in four years the Rangers have chosen a defenseman in the first round, having drafted Marc Staal with the 12th overall pick in 2005 and Bobby Sanguinetti with the 21st overall pick in 2006.

Del Zotto will participate in his second Rangers Prospect Development Camp this summer and will attend main training camp in the fall.

"The mindset I want to have is that I want to go into camp trying to make the team," he said. "That's the only way you can go into it. I'll go in there and try my hardest and hopefully give the coaching staff a tough decision to make."

Another highlight of the summer will be watching the 2009 NHL Entry Draft next month, when Del Zotto's longtime teammate in both Oshawa and London, John Tavares, could be selected No. 1 overall.

"I'll definitely be watching (the draft)," said Del Zotto. "There are two guys that I played with who are projected to go in the first round (Tavares and Nazem Kadri), so I will be interested to see where they're going."
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