Scouts Honour: New York Rangers Scouts Saved Season

Steve McSween@dansallowsSenior Analyst INovember 26, 2009

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16: Michael Del Zotto #43 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 16, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Rangers 3-2 in the shoot out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In the grand scheme of things NHL scouts are the forgotten man when it comes to a teams success.

But in the case of the New York Rangers this season, the scouting staff did their best David Copperfield impression and made magic happen in the Big Apple.

Going into training camp the Blueshirts had four NHL defensemen under contract with Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi; whom was a superb find in 2006 as an undrafted free agent signing.

To make matters worse GM Glen Sather had little cap room after signing free agent sniper Marian Gaborik to a $37.5 million contract over five years.

It seemed as though nothing short of a miracle was going to make the Rangers a playoff contender this season.

Even if Henrik Lundqvist was the second coming of Jacques Plante, Sean Avery played like Mark Messier, and Gaborik suddenly transformed into Pavel Bure, the Rangers had way too many holes on the blue line to be taken seriously.

But then came the emergence of 25-year-old free agent signing Matt Gilroy out of Boston University, and the 19-year-old phenom Michael Del Zotto; who was drafted 20th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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The scouts knew Gilroy was capable of being an NHL defenseman, and he was highly pursued by numerous clubs including the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, but inevitably decided his star would shine brighter on Broadway.

So far it has, as he has been rock solid through the first two months of the season.

In the case of Del Zotto, the Rangers scouts knew he could step in and play offensively at an elite level even at 19, and he has not disappointed, leading the back end with 5 goals and 11 assists in 23 games.

Where he has surprised many is in his calm demeanor and smart defensive play as well.

But it doesn't stop there, as the scouts of the Blueshirts have also seen their 54th overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft pay huge dividends.

Artem Anisimov has provided an offensive spark to go with his size at 6'4" and 200lb frame.

When you throw these players into the mix of other good finds like Brandon Dubinsky (60th overall in 2004), Ryan Callahan (127th overall in 2004), and of course Marc Staal (12th overall in 2005), well you have to give credit to an underrated scouting staff in the Big Apple.

They may just be the Simon Cowell's of the hockey world when it comes to finding talent.

One has to wonder just how good this team could be if they didn't have $17 million a year tied up in the questionable contracts to Chris Drury, Wade Redden and Sean Avery.

But that might just make the amateur scouting staff of the Rangers about as important to the team as Kramer was to Seinfeld.

The fact is, they just wouldn't be this good without them.

The New York Rangers may or may not challenge for a Stanley Cup this season, but the fact there is even mention of it is due to the guys that spend numerous nights away from their families in a cold arena somewhere trying to find the next big thing.

Or in the Rangers case, trying to find a player to fill a void left by the almighty salary cap.

And for that, fans of the Blueshirts are blessed.

Watch Gilroy snap one home from this past weekend.


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