Blueshirt Banter Talks To Gordie Clark: State Of The Defense Edition

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers hits David Clarkson #23 of the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 2011 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Devils 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Once again, I want to give a tremendous thanks to the New York Rangers organization and their PR Department (especially John Rosasco) who helped me interview Gordie Clark about the upcoming Traverse City tournament and about some of the prospects within the Rangers organization. I would also like to thank Gordie, who gave a fantastic interview and took a significant amount of time out of his day to answer all of my questions. 

Another topic breached in my 30-minute interview with Clark was the situation with the highly touted Rangers' defense. Clark goes into detail about some of the young guns, what they bring to the table and more. 

Join me after the jump for that story:

 

The New York Rangers have grown a remarkable defensive corps the past few seasons, using both the draft and two jaw-dropping trades to get it done.

Both Ryan McDonagh (acquired from the Scott Gomez trade) and Tim Erixon (acquired this offseason for essentially two second round draft picks) were first-round selections of other teams. McDonagh was selected 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft while Erixon was selected by the Calgary Flames 23rd overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. 

Then add in both Michael Del Zotto (20th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft) and Dylan McIlrath (10th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft) and you have four defenseman with seemingly unlimited potential added in just four years. That's not even including guys like Mike Sauer, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi; who were all added earlier. 

Gordie Clark, Director of Player Personnel for the New york Rangers, is obviously ecstatic the Rangers have guys like McDonagh, Del Zotto, McIlrath and Erixon (not even including the others). Clark talked about how interesting it is that the Rangers were able to get Erixon via trade, since the organization almost drafted him in the first place. 

"Tim Erixon is, in fact we have told this to many people, the guy we would have selected [in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft] if we had wanted a defenseman," he said. "So it's interesting that we're very luck to have both him and Chris Kreider. It was a tough decision to make, but we went with the forward because at that time we already had Ryan McDonagh, the trade had already been made. And we had Michael Del Zotto coming too so we figured 'let's get a forward' at that particular time."

Clark talked about what all four guys bring to the table for the team. 

"If you take those four defenseman, they're all different types of players," he said. "When you think about it, you need all four types of guys on your team. When you look at Del Zotto, he's an offensive type of player, he's a puck mover and a power play type of guy. McDonagh is a shut down guy, his game seems to be more in his own end with the strength and power. Erixon plays similar to McDonagh, where he is more of a shut down guy, but he does it more with his head and his hands and his hockey sense, where McDonagh, who certianly does it with sense, does it with more body contact.  And then McIlrath, you have to take care of all this stuff when you're looking for the future, and all these boys are coming into the NHL, Christian Thomas and Kreider and all those guys so you do need a guy who plays the kind of game that McIlrath does."

Erixon is expected to make an offensive impact for the Rangers in the future, but his defense is what caught Clark's eye. McDonagh is someone who might add offense down the road, he was fantastic on the point for Wisconsin, but that part of his game hasn't translated yet. 

McIlrath -- who the Rangers drafted because of his size, mobility and physicality -- fills a void the team has had for years. Clark believes McIlrath isn't just a big mean defenseman, but a smart one as well. 

"He makes sure that nothing happens to anybody out there, he takes care of his teammates," Clark said. "I've said a million times, we made sure he had the mobility for his size and he ended up being a shut down defender for his team. His fights were all for the right reason, they weren't just 'oh let's go out there and fight,' they were all to protect a teammate or when someone was trying to take advantage of a teammate or himself."

Another interesting thing to note from my conversation with Clark, through all his years as a scout two players stick out in his mind for having a fantastic NHL combine before they were drafted. Both players are now Rangers' property. 

"I would say that probably two of the best performances I've ever seen at the NHL combine were by McDonagh and Kreider," Clark said. "Of everyone that was tested they were like men working out against boys." 

Clark, like many Rangers fans, just can't wait to see them all play together. 

"They're all different ingredients and it will be interesting to see if they're all on the ice at the same time," he said. 

The Rangers are hoping that thee of the four (Del Zotto, Erixon and McDonagh) become staples on the blue line this year.

Thoughts on this guys? 

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