LOS ANGELES - Christian Thomas, the Oshawa Generals wing who was the Rangers' second-round selection at No. 40 in yesterday's NHL entry draft, scored 41 goals last season.

The only first-rounders to score more were Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner, former Islander Steve Thomas - Christian's father - reminded reporters. "Puts him in pretty good company," he said.

"He's got good speed, better hands than I ever had," said the proud dad, who played 20 years in the NHL - four with the Islanders starting in 1991-92 and then three with the Devils starting in 1995-96. "He sees the game better than I ever did, he can shoot the puck better than I could. That's why he's a second-rounder and I wasn't drafted. I think he's a pretty mature kid, but he needs a couple years to become the player we all think he can be."

Asked if his son will have any problems in the big market of New York, Thomas said: "Right now the goal is to get there. You can't look too far ahead . . . He's got a lot of work to do and all kinds of time to do it."

Christian, listed at 5-81/2, 162 pounds, said: "I'll do whatever it takes . . . go to the net, go into the corners . . . I learned from my dad."

It was a breakout season for the younger Thomas, Steve said. "He got a great opportunity from his coach. He was used in all situations - power play, penalty-killing, shootouts," and his confidence level rose.

"When you're struggling, you go nine or 10 games without scoring a goal, you're on suicide watch," Thomas, who scored 421 NHL goals, said with a laugh.

It was the second straight season that the Rangers took a son of an NHL veteran. Last year's third-round pick was Ryan Bourque, son of former Bruin Ray Bourque.

"The comparison is really in the speed and the hands," said Gordie Clark, the team's director of player personnel. "He can really rip it for a smaller guy. He was able to score 41 goals on a weak junior team that's getting better. It's not so much as playing like their dads, it's more the stock."

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