First, here's a link to the story on John Tortorella being named a Team USA assistant.
And some sights and sounds from Day 1 of the Rangers' development camp...
Tortorella watched from above with assistant GMs Jim Schoenfeld and Mike Barnett. GM Glen Sather was in and out of his office, talking to an agent and fielding other calls. On ice instructors were Adam Graves and the Hartford staff of Ken Gernander, J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller. Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire also was on the ice. At one point, forward Paul Crowder sent a shot that deflected over the net and into the executive box. It looked like it came close to beaning Tortorella. Also, I don't know much about 25-year-old forward Matt Maccarone but I can tell you this, he has an NHL playoff-ready mustache. It definitely stood out amongst the teens. As noted before, the on-ice portion - two half-hour sessions for the split groups and then about an hour for all 26 players - was described by second-rounder Ethan Werek as a "bag skate." That's not necessarilly accurate. Bag skates - or heavy skating, no or limited time with the puck skates - are given to teams as punishment. Tortorella and the Rangers' brass is testing the prospects' conditioning.
Last year's first-round pick, defenseman Michael Del Zotto, asked how he was after the skate said, "Not the greatest. I've felt better." On other topics, he called his OHL trade from Oshawa to London (a guy named John Tavares was also included) the "best thing" that could have happened to him. He said he improved every facet of his game "more so defensively, especially come playoff time. I never knew I could block a shot but that's something I did in the course of the playoffs a lot of times." He said he'll go into the Rangers' training camp feeling confident about himself. It says here he has a very good shot of making this team, particularly when the Rangers do not sign veterans Derek Morris and Paul Mara.
Defenseman Matt Gilroy, who turns 25 in July, also stands a good shot at making the team after winning the Hobey Baker Award at Boston University (I asked but he does not know or is familiar with Hobey Baker finalist Chad Johnson, the goalie the Rangers acquired on Saturday from the Penguins. He is friends with hulking center Brian Boyle, acquired from the Kings on the same day). "I graduated school, which is nice," Gilroy said of his summer. "Mom's happy. I'm happy, too, no more classes." In fact, the Long Island product said he enjoys busting on his hometown buddies, many of who have to ride the LIRR early each morning for work. Still, Gilroy said he's not projecting ahead toward September. "Not at all," he said. "One step at a time." Gilroy, asked whether he's paying close attention to Del Zotto, who could be his competition for a roster spot come September, said he was trying to take in everybody's game.
Meanwhile, the biggest improvement could be seen in Evgeny Grachev, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Russian who played last season for Brampton (OHL), winning rookie of the year while scoring 40 goals with 40 assists in 60 games. Last year at this time, he spoke halting, if that, English. Now, after a season spent without any other Russian teammates - meaning he had to learn English to communicate - he can more than hold his own in an interview. In fact, he flawlessly fielded a question about him "acclimating" to North America. He knew the word. I asked him whether his junior teammates had taught him some dirty phrases, since they passed for his English teachers (he also said he went to about five class sessions at a local high school). "That was the first thing they taught me," Grachev said. Grachev, essentially skating for the first time in two months, showed some frustration in not being able to do what he wanted on the ice and said he wanted to spend the summer skating in Russia making sure he got into the proper condition for training camp. He also downplayed his rookie of the year award, noting he was a couple of years older than most OHL rookies. It says here this guy is going to be a very productive NHL player, possibly this season.
Werek said it's obvious conditioning is a major point of concentration under Tortorella. But that suits Werek, praised by Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark for his strong work ethic, just fine. Plus, Werek said he feels like he has a bit of a sense of what Tortorella is seeking. "He was on TSN for a while, you really know his attitude," Werek said. Other than his strong work ethic, Werek described himself as a "good faceoff guy, defensively very responsible, offensively with good vision. An all-around player who works really hard."