The New York Rangers brass have been making a steady push towards adding youth and home grown talent to their hockey team.
On defense the numbers are even better, with Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh (who counts because he spent time in Connecticut), and Michael Sauer making an impact right now. That's four of six defenseman who are home grown, and that doesn't even include Marc Staal who has yet to play a game this year.
Jim Schoenfeld, assistant coach and assistant general manager for the New York Rangers, knows the importance of having home grown players on a lineup.
"You love to have your home grown players become the core of your team," he said. "You look at the board and over half our team is draft picks or graduates from our team in Connecticut."
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Schoenfeld thinks the mentality of being a home grown player is something that's very important for a prospects' development path.
"What happens is they come into the league as Rangers and grow up as Rangers and I think there's a lot to be said for that," he said. "You're first and foremost a Ranger and that's where you want to spend your career, and I think that being a homegrown player has an underlying strength of it's own."
Schoenfeld, who is also an assistant coach for the Connecticut Whale, has seen many of the current Rangers pass through in the AHL.
"I've watched some of these kids like Callahan, Dubinsky and Girardi from coaching in Hartford, and I just watched their friendships develop and watched their play develop down there," he said. "And then they come here and the whole thing is good."
It's not just about the coaches though. Schoenfeld gives tons of credit to all the "behind the scenes" work that goes on with Rangers' prospects from the day they're acquired.
"It's a reward for all the hard work our scouts do, which often goes unrecognized," he said. "It starts with the hard work put into the draft, where they make a good selection. But then there's all the hard work that goes into developing these kids. Sauer, McDonagh, Girardi and Del Zotto are all stalwarts on our blue line, and they all spent time in Hartford and are carrying the load for us right now."
In the end, Schoenfeld believes the Rangers are doing things right.
"Looking at it organizationally, we're moving in the right direction, from the grass roots up," he said. "From the players to the scouts to the coaches who are developing them, they're all doing a great job at getting these guys to be successful at New York."
And right now all of the Rangers' home grown talent is contributing to the team's success in one way or another. And for both the fans and the coaches it's a great thing to see.