GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Welcome to another chance, Ryan Gropp.
The big left wing, who was selected 41st overall by the Rangers in the 2015 entry draft, immediately responded with 34 goals and 70 points in 66 games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
So expectations were high: Gropp was expected to join the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford last fall, but he wasn’t ready defensively and was returned to Seattle, where he started slow: Through 33 games, Gropp had 10 goals and 26 points.
But the Kamloops, British Columbia, native caught fire, in part when the Islanders returned center and ex-linemate Matthew Barzal to Seattle. Gropp posted 13 goals and 31 points in 14 games, finishing the regular season with 35 goals and 84 points, 14 more than the previous season. In the playoffs, he put up 19 points in 16 games.
Now in the first season of a three-year entry level contract, the 6-3 Gropp says he has learned to play a more complete game.
“That’s probably the biggest thing, my play away from the puck,” Gropp, who will be 21 in September, said Monday as prospect camp opened. “I worked a lot at that. I thought as the year progressed, I was good at working to get the puck back and being more reliable in my own zone.”
Gropp will go to Kamloops to train in July and come to Connecticut in August to work with Ben Prentiss (the sports performance specialist and team consultant). “I’m just trying to make the jump to pro hockey,” he said. “Show them I’m ready to play at the highest level possible.”
Neal Pionk, the University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman who signed as a free agent, added yoga to his weekly training regimen and noted that more college athletes are employing the practice . . . “Just trying to add mobility and flexibility,” he said. “They say longer muscles, stronger muscles.” . . . Sean Day, 19, who played for Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires, looks stronger and trimmer than last July, and was again invited to the U.S. World Juniors training camp. Day, who came from Belgium at age four, was cut early last fall. “I want to be a big part of the team. I feel more American than I think, so that makes me proud.”Swede Lias Andersson and Czech Filip Chytil, the Rangers’ two first-round picks Friday, posed for photos with Knicks first-rounder Frank Ntilikina, who is French.