After a spring and summer in which the Rangers collected defensemen of all ages, nationalities and styles, training camp figures to be a spirited event.
The Blueshirts selected six defensemen in the NHL Draft in June, then added one more on the first day of free agency when they signed Fredrik Claesson to a one-year contract.
At the trade deadline in February, the Rangers acquired two 20-year-old defense prospects — Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek. Both think they can compete for a roster spot when camp opens in September.
Hajek, acquired from Tampa Bay, and Lindgren, acquired from Boston, will battle for the final few roster spots with young defensemen Neal Pionk, John Gilmour, Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Sproul and Rob O’Gara of Nesconset, all of whom finished the season with the Rangers last spring.
“Yeah, I’m going into camp thinking I’m going to make the Ranger team,’’ Lindgren said during the prospect camp. “Obviously, there’s a lot of good young defensemen I’m going to compete with.”
Said Hajek, “I believe I will make it this year. That’s my goal . . . I’m just healthy and I believe in myself.’’
At the Rangers’ prospect development camp after the draft, general manager Jeff Gorton said: “Specifically, dealing with the Bruins and Tampa [sending Rick Nash to Boston and Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning at the deadline], we saw some ‘D’ we liked.”
Lindgren (6 feet, 198), from Minneapolis, signed with the Rangers this past spring after completing his second season at the University of Minnesota. He is a thick-bodied, physical, stay-at-home defenseman who plays with bite and snarl — something the Rangers need.
Hajek (6-2, 200), from the Czech Republic, is more of a two-way defenseman. His junior coach with the WHL Regina Pats, former Binghamton Rangers coach John Paddock, thinks he is ready to challenge for an NHL spot. Gorton said the team liked Hajek’s ability to play big minutes in all situations and added that it “would be great’’ if he made the team.
Said Gorton, “Listen, if he comes into camp and he’s close [to making the team], and he’s ready, and he’s pushing, we’ll just keep giving him rope and see how far he can take it.’’