Gift-Wrapping Up the Annual Draft


Carl Hagelin — gone.

Scott Gomez — gone.

Steve Bernier — gone.

What’s going on here?

House-cleaning in New Jersey, that’s what. Cap-spacing in New York, that’s the other what behind Hagelin’s departure.

The second day of the NHL Draft produced some surprises in both the Rangers and Devils’ camps, not to mention one headline grabber from the Islanders.

Hagelin, a Seventh Avenue fan favorite for both his speed and timely goals, was dealt to Anaheim for 6-1, 212 pound lower priced left wing Emerson Etem and the 41st draft pick.

With that 41st selection, Glen Sather nabbed 6-3, 192 pound left wing Ryan Gropp who skated for Seattle in the Western Hockey League.

A rare product of Long Beach, California, the speedy Etem attracted attention during the playoffs with three goals and a plus-one for the Ducks in a dozen playoff games.

Sather — who previously had dealt super backup Cam Talbot to Edmonton — swiftly compensated by filling the crease with Antti Raanta who had shown major-league quality for the Blackhawks.

The Blueshirts dispatched forward Ryan Haggerty to Chicago, completing that exchange.

If Hagelin’s exit surprised many Rangers fans, Devils followers were doing double-takes when they learned that new general manager Ray Shero revealed that he would not try to re-sign Gomez and Bernier.

Ditto for defensemen Peter Harrold and Mark Fraser.

“It’s about our club getting younger,” explained Shero, “and a little different type team.”

Already stocked with veteran center Travis Zajac and improving pivot Adam Henrique, Shero asserted that he would give 2009 first-rounder Jacob Josefson a shot at being a regular third-line center.

As for Bernier — one of the brightest performers in the second half of the Devils’ season — the acquisition of right wing Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim made Steve less relevant to the Devils’ plans.

Shero also noted that 2012 first-round Stefan Matteau as well as KHL signee Sergey Kalinin will be given plenty of opportunities to make the big team.

With Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid, his one-two goaltending combo, Shero obtained more cease insurance with his 42nd pick,Mackenzie Blackwood.

A Thunder Bay, Ontario product, Blackwood, who played for Barrie in the Ontario (Junior) Hockey League, is regarded as the best of the draft-available North American puck-stoppers.

At 6-4, 205 pounds, Blackwood’s forte is puck-tracking. “He’s good at reading the play,” said one scout, “and getting into position.”

Another bird dog raved about the manner in which Mackenzie uses his size. “He’s so big and he fills the net — he almost looks like (the Florida Panthers) Roberto Luongo in there.”

The Gomez comeback saga has been particularly touching no matter how you view it.

He came to New Jersey’s camp last fall, starred in an exhibition game against the Islanders yet went un-signed until well into the season.

When then-Devils boss Lou Lamoriello restored Scott’s hockey life, Gomez’s enthusiasm spread through the dressing room. Plus, he finished third overall in team scoring.

Now Scotty is looking for a job again.

“I know I can play,” Gomez told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I got better as the year went on.”

And so he did. But Shero is running the hockey show in New Jersey and not Lamoriello who quite possibly would have re-signed Gomer.

Bernier also was a Devils mainstay and an equally positive personality. But this is Shero’s team and anyone who doubts that just has to review his moves.

If any postscript is needed in the surprise department, the Islanders pulled it off on the 172nd pick.


Garth Snow chose Andong Song who most recently starred for the Lawrenceville (New Jersey) School.

A native of Beijing, Song became the first Chinese-born player ever selected in the NHL draft.

“Hopefully,” Song enthused, “I can get people to rally behind me. Not focus on myself but do something good for Chinese hockey.”

Hey, sometime down the line Andong Song may so something good for Islanders hockey as well!

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.