GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Surrounded by all these kids at the Rangers Prospect Development Camp this week, Ville Meskanen wanted to make it clear that he’s not exactly an old geezer, or anything.
“I think I’m still young,’’ the 22-year-old Meskanen said Wednesday with a grin, after he scored two goals and added another in the shootout in the first scrimmage of the week-long camp.
Meskanen, a 6-1, 190-pound right wing the Rangers signed as an undrafted European free agent on May 3, is one of the new faces with a legitimate chance to make the club out of training camp this fall. He scored 24 goals, with 20 assists, in 48 games last season with Ilves of the Finnish Elite League. And with the Rangers in an all-out rebuild, the native of Tampere, Finland, will get a long look, along with fellow Euro free agent Michael Lindqvist, 2017 first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil and others.
Like Lindqvist, Meskanen wasn’t drafted by an NHL team at 18, and with nine goals and 14 points in 34 games for Ilves’ U20 team in his draft year, he didn’t expect to be, he said.
“No. I wasn’t that good,’’ Meskanen said. “I want to be honest. I think I wasn’t that good back then. I wasn’t any junior superstar.’’
But he exploded the next season, scoring 30 goals, with 32 assists, in 35 games with the junior team and three goals in 10 games with the men’s team. The year after that, he had six goals and seven assists in 39 games for Ilves, and another six goals and four assists while playing on loan with a second division club, LeKi. He was, he said, a late bloomer who got bigger, stronger, faster and — most important, he believes — more confident after his draft year.
The Rangers, and other NHL teams, began to take notice, and around Christmastime last season, the Rangers approached him, told him they were interested and wanted to sign him. He was “thrilled,’’ he said.
“It’s always has been a dream to play in the NHL, and especially that this is an Original Six team,’’ said Meskanen, who signed a two-year entry-level contract that carries a cap hit of $925,000 per season. “What better I can hope?’’
So far, Meskanen is enjoying his first trip to New York. He’d been to Canada once many years ago, he said, but never had visited the U.S. He was looking forward to seeing some sights Wednesday — the prospects were scheduled to visit Madison Square Garden and the Statue of Liberty and then take a trip on the Circle Line. He was also pretty excited to have left a good first impression with his three goals on the day. Scoring goals makes him feel good, he said.
“Always,’’ he said. “That’s the best feeling in the world.’’