McNaught not letting injury slow him down
Big winger will be ready for training camp, understands role he has to play
Saturday, 06.11.2011 / 5:03 PM / Prospects Central
• Your View: How Will McNaught Adjust to Pros?
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
Sometimes it’s difficult for a seventh-round draft pick to make his presence felt, but in the case of right wing Randy McNaught, who was chosen by the Rangers with their final pick at last year's NHL Entry Draft, getting noticed has never been a problem.
McNaught is a very large man at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds. Nearing his 21st birthday later this summer, he is also a very intimidating figure on skates.
When he drops the gloves, it is always a heavyweight bout. Members of the Columbus and Minnesota teams at the 2010 Traverse City (Mich.) Prospects Tournament learned about McNaught quickly as he stood up for his Rangers teammates in consecutive games.
McNaught wasn't only impressive at Traverse City because of his scuffles as he played in all situations and had a few scoring chances. In a game against Carolina, he nearly scored on a drive to the net and then drew a penalty off the next faceoff.
The Traverse City performance was consistent with what McNaught had done over 65 games with Chilliwack and Saskatoon during the 2009-10 WHL season. As a 19-year-old, he scored six goals and 12 points to go with his more noteworthy statistic -- 163 penalty minutes.
All three of those stats were career highs for McNaught, who was traded to Saskatoon just six games into the season. The breakout nature of his season helped convinced the Rangers scouts to draft him even though he was nearing the final year of his Entry Draft eligibility
|Randy McNaught, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010, turned in a strong showing on the third and fourth lines for the Blueshirts at his first Traverse City Prospects Tournament last September in Michigan, where he engaged in a pair of heavyweight bouts.|
As an overage player finally performing on a team near his hometown, McNaught was poised for a big season with the Giants, because his natural intimidation factor would go a long way to strengthen a perennial playoff team led by Don Hay, one of the most successful head coaches in major-junior history.
McNaught responded to the trade with scoring and toughness. He dropped the gloves in his season debut on Sept. 25 at Everett and again in his third game of the season vs. Portland. In his sixth game, he scored his first goal -- on a power play at 18:44 of the third period to help the Giants beat Kelowna. The next night, he assisted on another power-play goal in a 5-4 loss to Kamloops.
"I was getting a lot of minutes and power-play time, which was really good," said McNaught. "I felt I was off to a great start."
Everything was going so right for him, and then -- just eight games into the 2010-11 season – McNaught suffered a setback, as he sustained a season-ending ankle injury on Oct. 11 at Kamloops.
McNaught can still see the play that changed everything.
"During the first period, me and another guy just got tangled up in front of the net after a whistle," he recalled. "There was kind of a scrum in there, and we ended up both falling over together. My ankle was lodged in one spot under the guy -- with his weight and my weight falling together".
|Randy McNaught attended a Prospect Development Camp at the MSG Training Center just a few days after being drafted. Unfortunately, he won't make it back to the camp this year since he is completing his an ankle injury that ended his 2010-11 season.
Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel, said it was disappointing for everyone involved to see McNaught miss so many games.
"We were excited to see how he was going to come along," said Clark. "This guy came into Development Camp, and we all saw his size right away. It was going to be great to go watch him play in junior and see what he did with all the experience he got at Traverse City, but then he sustained the injury."
Clark credits McNaught for all the work he has been putting in to return to the ice.
"It's all been about conditioning," said Clark. "He's been working really hard with a trainer and getting ready to get back at it."
Once he does come back, McNaught said he understands the role he will likely be asked to play in his first pro season, and he is just fine with that.
"I'm definitely a physical presence, and I like to throw my weight around with big hits," he said. "And I definitely stand up for my teammates and myself when need be."
Assured there will be no long term problems related to his ankle surgery, McNaught can continue chasing the NHL dream he developed as a kid in Nanaimo. From a very early age, he aspired to be a power forward in the mold of his two favorite NHL players -- Cam Neely and Todd Bertuzzi.
"If I could model my game after anyone playing in the NHL today, I would probably choose a player like Milan Lucic," said McNaught. "I'd want to be physical and play a little offense, too. When I was younger, scoring goals was more of my role. That changed in junior, but I still feel that I have decent hands for my size and for the role I play. I definitely like to help out offensively, and most of my goals come from working hard in the corners and going hard to the net, although there are no toe drags.”
Clark agrees that McNaught can contribute scoring and said that Rangers' recognition of this potential was a factor in drafting him.
"We saw another part of his game once he got traded from Chilliwack to Saskatoon," said Clark. "We saw that he played a lot more in Saskatoon, and we saw him do a lot more with the puck."
After dealing with an injury for so long, McNaught can't wait to get back to hockey.
"Playing at Traverse City was definitely an eye-opener and I realized I have a lot of work ahead of me," he said. "But I'm really excited to get started with my pro career. I have been dreaming of playing pro hockey my whole life ever since I was a kid. Now I have that chance to play in the pros, and it's really exciting for me that New York is giving me the opportunity to start out in the minors and find out what it's all about as I try to work my way up."