We made the trip along with the bro, friend and Dad and greeted rabid Blueshirt fans, who were pumped for festivities that included guest appearances from former picks Dylan McIlrath, Christian Thomas and Carl Hagelin. The trio all were superb signing everything and greeting everyone. It was MC'd by team PA announcer Joe Tolleson, who looked thrilled to be there. :P Hey. It wasn't a big place. So, he was basically stuck in a corner with helpful Rangers PR assistants, who handed out sheets for Ranger Trivia pertaining to the draft. Despite the chaotic scene, that had many standing including yours truly, it was a fun time had by all. From our section 411, the comical Chris, Big Mikey were there along with Bob, who rocked our favorite Ranger jersey Petr Prucha. If only I could upload the pics. There also were some other cool fans, including two women with enough pins for a Ranger army. Plus one of the cooler dudes John, who started what else but a "Let's Go Rangers," chant as our turn finally came.
As the smoking cigar son of a gun made his way up there along with Gordie Clark, a special guest also went up to the podium to say a few words about his brother. In the second emotional scene of the night, Aaron Boogaard spoke about how much Derek Boogaard meant. Whether he donned the Wild #24 or the Rangers #94, he always made time for the little people off the ice, who needed it. The Boogey Man was a fan favorite in Minnesota and got a warm reception like the one he received along with the infamous "Boos" when our team returned to play the Wild during the season. It was in that moment that we all were united, quietly watching and listening to every word Aaron said about his brother. That's when the hockey community is at its best. Very strong and supportive. Kudos go out to Kevin of The NYR Blog for making special Boogey t-shirts with all proceeds going to one of Boogaard's charities. He raised over a thousand dollars. Tremendous job!
Sometimes, it's not always about super fans like Dancin' Larry, who made the rounds in future captain Ryan Callahan's jersey as if he was some rockstar. Sometimes, it's about emotional moments like when troll Gary Bettman brought out former top Draft Chief Scout E.J. McGuire's family to begin the proceedings. There stood his wife and two kids honoring their husband/father who put so much into the game of hockey, making it better for us to follow. Only the good die young. So, this Draft was unlike others with more sentiment attached before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went first to Edmonton and Gabriel Landeskog second to Colorado with Florida selecting Jonathan Huberdeau. Bettman also paid homage to former part-time Calgary owner Harley Hotchkiss, who passed at the age of 83 a couple of days prior to that night. It's in these moments that our commish is at his best. Whatever you make think of him, he knows how to handle such heartbreaking news.
In a 75-minute span leading up to our pick, three people in our sport were remembered. We all took part, honoring them the best we could. As our selection was finally made with Clark opting for the leading point getter in Team USA's 18-U gold medal J.T. Miller, cheers went up for the Ohio kid who's attending hockey power North Dakota this Fall. An exciting moment for any 18 year-old on a special day.
"It's an unbelievable honor, an original six team, a great state to play in. It will be great to hopefully play there soon," a pleased Miller said. "I was a little shocked. I only had one meeting with them. So I wasn't really expecting it. But getting my name called was the best thing in the world, and I couldn't thank them enough."Miller also discussed what he expects to work on this summer.
"I have to get a little stronger and faster and be able to play with some men out there. I have to work out in the off-season and play this next year in North Dakota and see what happens there. ... I'm going to get stronger, I guess, probably conditioning, getting in a little better shape so I can last a little longer with the stronger guys, to be able to compete at my best and be successful doing it."Miller is listed as a center/left wing, which definitely is a team need. In 56 games in the USHL, Miller totaled 50 points (15-35-50) before pacing the gold medal winning Team USA with 13 points at the World U-18's. He was ranked 23rd among North American skaters. Now, he'll get to play for one of the best college programs that's produced current Devil tandem Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. Definitely encouraging for Garden Faithful.
Slated for only four picks with none until Round 4, Glen Sather worked the phones and dealt prospect Evgeny Grachev to St. Louis for their third round pick, which turned into Notre Dame bound Steven Fogarty. The 72nd overall pick is a 6-2, 194-pound center who possesses playmaking capabilities and sound defensive skills. It sounds like a potential steal. The Minnesota native starred for high school Edina Hornets, notching 47 points (23-24-47) over 24 games. Slats discussed many things in a rare conference call afterwards, including why he parted with Grachev, who was once thought of in high regard. Indicating that the former '09 third rounder wanted a change and that the Blues were the one team that expressed interest, Sather admitted that he had shopped Grachev for a while. He noted that they felt he was coming along slowly in their system, which saw the talented Russian shift to center and improve gradually in his second pro year at Connecticut. They liked Fogarty, who sounds like a better fit but weren't down on Grach. Just felt it was best to move forward and give him a fresh start. He'll get to see familiar face Vladimir Tarashenko, who the Blues are hoping for big things from. Best wishes to Grach.
The other Ranger picks are as follows:
C Michael St. Croix 4th Rd (106th)
RW Shane McColgan 5th Rd (134th)
D Samuel Noreau 5th Rd (136th)
D Peter Ceresnak 6th Rd (172nd)
We'll have more details on those and the rest of the Devils, Islanders and Sabres picks in what amounts to a busy weekend with the unofficial NHL Holiday July 1 on Friday. From the looks of it, Jaromir Jagr could be returning for one last hurrah in Pittsburgh. He was rumored to be close to a one-year deal between $1.4 million and 2 M. There has been plenty of activity with the Islanders sending a fourth round pick to Vancouver for the negotiating rights to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, in hopes of convincing him to stay on Long Island. Our take is that he'll bolt for Detroit, which makes sense due to Brian Rafalski's retirement. The Brad Richards Watch is on with the Rangers expected to be the frontrunner after buying out former captain Chris Drury earlier today. Certainly a bittersweet day for one of the classiest Rangers, who always acquitted himself well despite a slew of injuries. Wishing Captain Clutch best of luck moving forward.
I'll have more including some fun filled FA predictions sometime tomorrow. Stay tuned.
One other note from the Draft Party. Apparently, I made TV on MSG during our pick. Dad caught it on the tube, which of course I missed even when it was replayed. I don't really care. But that's cool. Haha. Overall, it was nice to meet other fans along with familiar faces amidst chaos. I only wish more fans could've been involved instead of it limited to just people 21-and-over. I guess that's what happens with the Renovation and on a Friday night in the city. Hope to do it again next year!