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Riley Hughes could be seventh-round steal for Rangers

Rangers prospect Riley Hughes #67 speaks with a

Rangers prospect Riley Hughes #67 speaks with a reporter after a scrimmage on Thursday, June 28, 2018. Credit: James Escher

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Riley Hughes knew there was a possibility he could get selected at last weekend’s NHL Draft, and he knew the Rangers had some interest. But he knew the Rangers didn’t have a pick in the seventh round, so when he didn’t get chosen in the sixth round, he figured that was that.

But general manager Jeff Gorton offered it up to his scouts that he could trade for a seventh-round pick if there was someone the group felt strongly about. Gorton traded one of the Rangers’ seventh-round picks in 2019 to Carolina for the second-to-last pick in the draft and chose Hughes, a 6-1, 174-pound forward from the Boston suburb of Westwood, Massachusetts, and St. Sebastian’s School.

“He’s a kid that, basically, he just stepped up his game in the last year,’’ Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark said of Hughes. “He took a little stretch in height, a little stretch in his workout programs and stuff . . . He was skating good, he had a good year — scored 20 [actually, 21 goals] at St. Sebastian’s. We told Jeff we wanted to get him. We didn’t have a seventh, Jeff got one.’’

Picking Hughes, who turned 18 on Wednesday, was clearly a long-term investment by the Rangers. First, he has to finish high school — he’s heading into his senior year — and then he’s committed to play college hockey at Northeastern University in Boston. Even before that, his first order of business is to figure out, in the next couple weeks, where he wants to play this winter. He’s been drafted by Sioux Falls of the USHL, and he’s also talking to Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League. And of course, he also could just go back to high school.

“Going back to school [at St. Sebastian’s], I’d like to go back, finish out my high school career, my youth career, with all my buddies — I’ve been playing with them a long time, since I was a little kid,’’ he said. “It’s been the same group, and it’s a good group, and it’d be nice to finish with a [championship] win, and we haven’t done that yet.’’

But, he said, the USHL is more physical and harder to score in than prep school hockey, and that, he believes, would be a good learning experience. The BCHL is a more offensive-minded league, and may help his development as an offensive player. He’d have to move from home to go to either place, and that would be good for him, too.

The Rangers won’t tell Hughes where he should play, Clark said. That decision is one the family should make.

“They know him better than I do,’’ he said. “All they know from me is I’m always looking for a player to challenge himself.’’

Notes & quotes: Goalie Olof Lindbom, the Rangers’ second-round pick, did not take part in the scrimmages that began Wednesday because he’s bothered by a slight hamstring pull . . . Lias Andersson’s gear, held up in France since Friday, finally arrived and he used his own skates for the first time all week.

New York Sports