Gordie Clark spent the week in Toronto at the NHL Scouting Combine, interviewing dozens of potential draft picks. The Rangers have the 15th pick in this year's draft, which begins on June 24, but Clark and the Rangers already might have made their biggest prospect splash Wednesday.
That's when they acquired defenseman Tim Erixon, the Flames' 2009 first-round pick. The Rangers gave up two second-round picks in this month's draft plus prospect Roman Horak, but Rangers vice president of player personnel Clark thought it was an easy decision.
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"For us, it's a ready-made player -- you don't have to wait to see how he turns out," Clark told Newsday in discussing Erixon, 20, the son of former Ranger Jan Erixon. "We know right now he's a top-four D-man. He's played with men for three years. He's ready to step in right now."
That won't be the case with the 15th pick, which is the Rangers' only pick among the first 100. Clark agreed with the prevailing opinion that this year's draft features a top seven or eight and then a drop-off in talent.
With Erixon added to the Rangers' already deep pool of young defense talent, they might be looking to add something other than a defenseman with their lone high-round pick.
"Maybe we'll have to have that conversation," Clark said. "Last year, we felt certain with what we had coming that Dylan McIlrath [the 10th pick in 2010] gave us something we didn't have on our D, someone who could make it safe for everyone else to do their jobs and be that needed presence.
"Like any year, if it comes to us at 15 and there's someone we have high on our board who's fallen to us, we'll take them, whether it's a defenseman, a goalie or a forward. But maybe we need to have that talk [about drafting someone other than a defenseman] before we get to the table."
This will be the fourth draft Clark has run for the Rangers, and the previous three first-round picks -- McIlrath, Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto -- are all prized prospects.
Erixon was taken four spots after Kreider in 2009. Despite his decision to stay at Boston College for his junior year, Kreider is just as ready as Erixon is to turn pro, according to Clark.
"We felt it was his time, but he wanted to wait, and we respect that," Clark said.
With Erixon in the fold, the Rangers can afford to be patient now. Clark has been a coach or executive in the NHL for two decades and he's never seen or been part of a team with the core of young defensemen that this Rangers team has.
"In Boston, the year we went to the Finals [1989-90], we had [Ray] Bourque, [Glen] Wesley, and if we'd gotten Gordie Kluzak and Michael Thelven back from knee injuries, that would have been close," Clark said. "But never this young a group."