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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


September 29, 2009 9:04 PM

Del Zotto and Schremp Get Different New York Calls


It might have been a foregone conclusion once the Rangers re-assigned Bobby Sanguinetti  to Hartford in the American Hockey League last week, but head coach John Tortorella made it official today that 19 year-old blueliner Michael Del Zotto (photo right) will be on the club's opening night roster.

"Based on his play, he has made the club," Tortorella said of Del Zotto this afternoon. "We feel right now he has played well enough to be with the National Hockey League team."

Del Zotto, the club's first round pick in the 2008 draft, has displayed much poise and confidence during camp and the pre-season games. And he has also show that he is as-advertised as a highly-skilled puck-moving defensemen.

Tortorella places much emphasis on having his defensemen join, and often lead, the rush. Now he has added two rookies who are more than willing to do that in Del Zotto and the 25 year-old Matt Gilroy, who also had a splendid pre-season.

There will be a big learning curve for Del Zotto---especially on the defensive-side of his game---but there is a tremendous upside, as well. There is the chance he does not spend the entire season in the NHL because he still is eligible to play for his major junior team in London, though he will start the season as a New York Ranger, and will be evaluated closely from that day forward. The Rangers can play Del Zotto in nine NHL games without him losing his junior eligibility and before his entry level contract kicks in.

Mark my words, though. If Del Zotto proves he can play in the NHL over those nine games, Tortorella will keep him. His age and inexperience will not matter. Torts just lights up when he speaks about Del Zotto and Gilroy quarterbacking things, both at present and in the future.

If Del Zotto is overwhelmed during his indoctrination to the NHL, he can still go back to London and play 30 minutes a night, knowing that a return engagement in the National Hockey League is coming as soon as 2010-11.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time," Del Zotto told me. "They could send me back before nine games, or even tomorrow, for all I know. So I am here to prove myself every day. My goal is to be here all year."

I have more on Del Zotto in a feature I wrote today over at newyorkrangers.com.

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Smart pick-up by the Islanders today, claiming center Rob Schremp off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. The 23 year-old has been a big disappointment since being Edmonton's first round pick in 2004. Schremp has played in only seven NHL games---picking up three points, all during last year's four-game stint---and has not come close to resembling the 58-goal, 145-point player he was with London in the OHL back in 2005-06.

But Schremp does have a 20-goal season under his belt at the professional level (23 in the AHL two years ago), and, well, he'll always have that monster season in junior on his resume, making him worth a second look.

With the Islanders, Schremp should land some quality ice-time, including important power play time, which should jumpstart his confidence, as well as his offensive production.

Katie Strang of Newsday caught up with Schremp earlier today as he was driving down from his home in upsate New York to Long Island, and he was predictably excited about the opportunity with the Islanders.

"It's exciting," Schremp told Katie. "It's a new situation...I'm excited to be an Islander."

Unless someone moves to the wing, the Islanders are putting together a pretty interesting young nucleus down the middle with Schremp, first overall pick John Tavares, and last year's No. 1 Josh Bailey. Throw 25 year-old Frans Nielsen into the mix, along with veteran Doug Weight, and, well, at least it's better than what they had last year, and they could be developing a decent nucleus moving forward.

Schremp will get his opportunity on the Island. Let's see what he does with it.

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