Day 4 of Rangers Development Camp: College Athletes see sturdy success

Rangers see success with college athletes

The New York Rangers have an extremely rich prospect pool full of college athletes and junior standouts. 

Drafting is not a science in any professional sport, and there is never a perfect system to find the top players that will be the future of the club. 

While the juniors have shown out to be some of the best players in the sport, Rangers director of player personnel John Lilley sees merit in the college game as well. 

“I think you get extra time with college players…maybe an extra year or two. Time is on their side with college players.” Lilley said. The front office executive later emphasized that college hockey players do not have the same wear and tear as opposed to other professional hockey leagues as another advantage. 

The Rangers have 15 attendees of prospect development camp from college institutions. Many have also been drafted by the team in the past. 

Riley Hughes, a seventh round pick of the Rangers back in 2018 understands that although there are new faces in camp, they all share the same dream. 

“We all have the same goals and similar interests. We all have plans to play in the NHL one day and make the Rangers so it’s nice bonding with these guys. The on-ice hasn’t been too long but high tempo, and high urgency.” Riley said. 

Hughes is entering his senior season with Northeastern. A captain of the unit, the 22 year old tallied 12 points in 31 games played for the Huskies. The Massachusetts product is aware of the differences between the college game and the juniors, and it doesn’t all have to do with hockey. 

“We live by ourselves so we have a lot of learning to do. Myself, I feel I’m more mature than I was four years ago when I came here. I learned to deal for myself, and take care of all my things myself.” Hughes said.  “The major junior guys have people taking care of them. Obviously they develop really well on the ice and they are great players, but I think the college lifestyle teaches you how to manage both academics, hockey and your social life. It really does help you get ready for the next level out of school.”

University of Massachusetts star Bobby Trivigno also gave credit to UMASS for his overall development and helping him prepare for life after hockey. 

Hank Kempf is currently at Cornell and was drafted by the Rangers just last year. Being with the Rangers once again and seeing the mix of both groups is something that has excited the 20-year old.  

“It’s been a lot of fun and skating with all these great players. It’s been fun to see where I’m at and see where my summer training is at.” Kempf added. 

From a maturation standpoint, the college athletes have noticed an edge, but even on the ice the collegiate players are seeing an edge. 

“I think there’s definitely certain aspects it…for example my roommate on the road was a 25 year old captain.” Kempf said. “You just get to bounce a lot of things on older guys. You get to see a lot of details and balance your schedule. You get to train a lot more on the ice and play less games.”

Kempf is only 20 years old and was a seventh round selection in the 2021 NHL Draft. At 32 games for Cornell, the 6’2 defender played in 32 games and totaled eight assists. He was named to the All-Rookie Team in the highly competitive ECAC. 

While there are certainly benefits having many college athletes in one group, there also leads to the chance for some personal rivalries to come out when college hockey begins in a few months.

“For sure. There’s a few ECAC guys here and that’s a pretty competitive conference.” Kempf said. “It’s fun though. All these guys are good guys so it’s fun to talk to these guys.”

The Rangers understand that having a balance between college and junior athletes is extremely important to rounding out the rest of the strong prospect pool they host. College players like Kempf, Trivigno and Hughes are all going to be ready when their number is called upon. 

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