New York Rangers prospect Ryan Gropp had a good rookie year with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack last season. He now looks forward to competing for a roster spot with the Blueshirts this year.
The winger had a successful junior league career as he played four seasons for Seattle in the Western Hockey League, winning a championship with the team in 2017.
Last season, his first with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack, Gropp experienced the differences between the WHL and the AHL. Gropp realized the play outside of the offensive side of the rink was vital in having a strong first season with the Wolf Pack.
Speaking with Matt Calamia of the New York Rangers official website, Gropp discussed what he felt he needed to work on in order to get to the next level.
“I think just my play away from the puck,” Gropp said when asked what the biggest thing he learned following his first season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League. “I’ve gotten better at that and really focused a lot on that. Just being good away from the puck and taking care of my D zone and being more responsible. I’ve really grown in that area.”
Gropp’s adjustments to the AHL included the ability to play against bigger and stronger players as opposed to the size of the players he went up against while he played for Seattle. Another factor that Gropp acknowledged was the opponent’s speed, forcing him to make quicker decisions with the puck.
“It’s hard to get to the net in this league and you don’t have much time with the puck. I think that was the biggest transition for me, and I think I’m still learning as I go here.” Gropp told Calamia.
Gropp came to the Wolf Pack as an offensive scorer, something the Rangers are keeping an eye on. In his four seasons with Seattle, Gropp scored 30 goals in three consecutive seasons and in his last season in the WHL he lit the lamp 35 times. The speed of the opposing players now has made it harder for Gropp to get on the puck, but he will get more accustomed to that as he gets more playing time.
The second round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft for the New York Rangers, Gropp improved his play as his first year in Hartford moved on through the season. He scored 14 goals with 21 points in 59 games played. Those numbers were good enough to rank him third on the team in rookie scoring.
Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge liked what he saw out of his rookie defenseman last season.
“The positives out of his game are his offensive instincts,” he said. “He’s got a real nice shot, a nice release to the way he shoots the puck. He’s a real good young man who wants to learn and wants to get better. We’ve been able to see the strengths of his game and work on those and make sure there’s consistency with the play in the defensive zone and without the puck.”
He has some motivation to help get him to the NHL. His roommate last season was 2017 first round draft pick Filip Chytil. Seeing him wear the Rangers jersey on television for the last month of the season has to help Gropp see that the next step is there for the taking.
Gropp is going to return home and work out hard in the offseason. With the New York Rangers having a new head coach and a defensive unit that struggled often last season, Gropp may have an opportunity to shine in training camp this year.
The organization is looking to improve their offense and Gropp could be the player from within the organization to make the leap.
Time will tell, but Gropp is going to give it his best shot in training camp hoping to open some eyes and maybe get an opportunity to make it to Broadway.