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Day 1 Of Prospects Camp: Notes-n-Quotes

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Day One of the Rangers 2013 Prospects Development Camp at the MSG Training Center kicked off Monday, less than 24 hours after the NHL Draft, with the players taking part in on-ice conditioning tests. Most of the 39 players invited to the camp were on hand---the main exception being defenseman Brady Skjei, the Rangers top pick in the 2012 draft, who will arrive later in the week after finishing summer classes at the University of Minnesota.

It had originally been believed that J.T. Miller, the Rangers first rounder from 2011 who was an AHL All Star in 2012-13 while also appearing in 26 games at the NHL level with the Blueshirts, was going to attend the five-day camp, but that was mistaken. Miller was never asked to take part in this year's development camp; and instead the Rangers will next see him for the major league training camp in September.

Most of the media focus Day One was on McIlrath, who says that his kneecap---dislocated at last year's development camp in a collision with Kyle Jean---is still not 100 percent, though it has been structurally sound for more than half a year. McIlrath said he had pain in his knee most of last season while appearing in 45 games with the Rangers minor league affiliate in Hartford, and admitted to "an up and down year", his first as a pro. But he also stated that his knee should be 100 percent by September's training camp and that he plans to push for a spot on the Rangers roster.

"I think I have a legitimate shot, and I am going to work my hardest, and my knee is not an excuse any more," explained McIlrath before his on-ice session Monday morning. "I'm not going to change my style or anything, but I think I gained some respect around (the AHL) last year with my fighting, so I really want to work on my all-around game as much as I can now."

McIlrath recorded 125 penalty minutes in those 45 games a year ago and met every physical challenge thrown his way, earning a quick reputation as one of the league's top fighters. This year McIlrath will try and make a solid first impression on the Rangers new head coach Alain Vigneault, who was not present at development camp Monday.

"I haven't met (Vigneault) yet, but I am excited to do that," said McIlrath. "But really (the coaching change) had no impact on me because I wasn't here last year and I still need to prove myself. I do know that I have heard great things about him."

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The Rangers signed forward Michael Kantor as an undrafted free agent last spring after his OHL career came to an end. A rugged winger who oozes character and leadership, Kantor also scored 20 goals with Sudbury a year ago; and the Rangers were excited to get a first look at him here in prospects camp.

However Kantor somehow hurt his left foot during the on-ice testing Monday morning and exited with the trainer, slamming his stick in frustration on his way to the locker room. When he reappeared later, Kantor was wearing a walking boot on his foot.

There was no immediate update on Kantor's condition.

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Like McIlrath, Christian Thomas is one of five players in camp who played for the Rangers AHL minor league affiliate in Hartford last season. But unlike McIlrath, Andrew Yogan, Kyle Jean, or Marek Hrivik, Thomas actually appeared in an NHL game a year ago---making his NHL debut in Montreal on February 23rd.

"It was such an amazing experience, just seeing my Rangers jersey sitting in my locker," Thomas told me on Monday. "It really motivates you to want to get back there again. I am really looking forward to training camp, and am really working hard to prepare for it."

As for Jean, he told me that he rested for about three or four weeks when the AHL season finally concluded in April. It was far and away the most games he had ever played in one year---73 for the Whale, where he scored nine goals and totaled 23 points. Working out again now, Jean believes he will know how to be better prepared for such a long season when 2013-14 rolls around.

Jean was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Lake Superior State University last summer after an impressive performance in the Rangers prospects camp, where he had been an invitee. Ironically, during that camp, Jean collided with McIlrath during a scrimmage, helping cause the injury to McIlrath's kneecap mentioned above.

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Jul 1 - 7:51pm
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