By Warren Kozireski —
Much has been made of the New York Rangers finding one of the organization’s all-time greats in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft in Henrik Lundqvist.
Not nearly at the same level, but they also selected Steve Weeks in the 11th round all the way back in 1978 and he went on to win 111 NHL games with 42 coming while in a Rangers uniform.
And current goaltending prodigy Igor Shesterkin lasted all the way until the fourth round in 2014, 118th overall.
Current Hartford AHL goaltender Adam Huska was taken in the seventh round in 2015 after three seasons at UConn and had eight wins over his first 19 games.
Add to the list of possibilities 13th ranked University of Massachusetts-Lowell senior netminder Tyler Wall.
The Rangers selected him in the sixth round, 174th overall in 2016 and all he has done is set the record for most wins in the Division I history of the program with 52, set at RIT Jan. 10. The mark was previously held by Dwayne Roloson, who went on to a 16-year, 227 NHL career.
Wall also led Hockey East in save percentage (.939) and stood third in goals against average (1.87).
“I think it has been a hope for the best, expect the worst type of thing, but I think the time this team has put in during the offseason and the time I’ve put in this is about what I expected (of this season),” Wall said in mid-January.
Since he was selected four years ago, he has now attended all four summer camps with the parent team and feels he has grown at each.
“Every time I get to be out there is a huge thing for experience and it’s great to just pick the other goalies’ brains. I know the one year I was there with (Alexandar) Georgiev and talking with different guys and seeing what they are thinking on different plays really makes a big difference for me starting the season every year.”
Post-hockey, the Mechanical Engineering major has his eye on a career designing cars following in his fathers (Henry) footsteps—he works at Chrysler.
But that will hopefully need to wait at least a few years. Wall is one of 16 goaltenders and 79 players currently nominated for the 2019-20 Hobey Baker Award—college hockey’s highest honor.
He is an assistant captain this season, which has resulted in a step forward in leadership of the room.
And he is well aware of the Rangers success in developing late round goaltending prospects.
“It’s a huge thing for their scouting group that they can find talent like that and a huge compliment to me that they would find me and think that I am worthy of a draft pick. (Coming out of Junior B Leamington Flyers of the GOJHL) that league compared to others like the OHL or other leagues that guys were coming out of, I really didn’t get my hopes up so it was a real honor that I was drafted by them.”
But there is still half a season and more work to be done for the Leamington, Ontario, Canada native.