A closer look at the New York Rangers' Hobey Baker winning, offensive defenseman Matt Gilroy.
Alexander Ovechkin's mother and Ilya Kovalchuk's father were both Olympic basketball players for the former Soviet Union. Ovechkin stole his now famous No. 8 from his basketball playing mother. Like both Russian superstars, Gilroy stole his athletic genes from a basketball playing relative, as his father Frank played hoops for St.John's University and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76'ers.
Those athletic genes took a long time to kick in, however, as Gilroy walked-onto Boston University's hockey program as a 5'6 forward at 17. A late bloomer, the Hobey Baker winner is now 6'2, 205 pounds. A recent New York Ranger free agent signee, Gilroy only moved to defence because the Terriers needed an eighth defenseman for practice.
One of eight children, Matt isn't the only hockey-playing member of the Gilroy family. His brother Kevin was a freshman for the Terriers this season, one reason why Gilroy came back for his senior year. The Gilroy brood grew up in North Bellmore Long Island, less than two miles from Nassau Coliseum where his uncle used to work. Gilroy rarely missed an Islander game at the Coliseum during the Pat Lafontaine era.
Because he turns 25 this summer, Gilroy was a true free agent and didn't have to sign an entry-level contract. He received a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.4 million base pay in 2009-10 and $2.1 million base pay in 2010-11 for a total of $3.75 million. Because of his age, Gilroy doesn't need waivers to go up and down to the AHL even though he signed a one-way contract, however, the one-way contract guarantees him the money even if he is in the AHL.
Pursued heavily by three NHL teams after a breakout senior year (he notched 37 points in 45 games), Gilroy has a tonne of young competition on the Ranger blue line. Already with the Rangers are Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, while solid prospects Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Del Zotto, Mike Sauer, and Corey Potter are fighting for position within the organization. Only Potter and Girardi are older than Gilroy and not by much. All three have birthdays within six months of one another. Gilroy's one-way contract will come in handy in the battle for Rangers' ice time.
Winning the Hobey Baker trophy doesn't guarantee NHL stardom, as recent winners include Junior Lessard (2004), Marty Sertich (2005) and Mike Mottau (2000). Since US college hockey gained a greater foothold in NHL player development over the last 15 years, Hobey Baker winners are becoming more and more valuable. Players like Ryan Miller (2001), Chris Drury (1998), Brendan Morrison (1997) and Matt Carle (2006) have all enjoyed star status in the NHL, at least for a time. Gilroy is hoping to join the latter group and make the Baker trophy winner a must-have player for NHL teams.
With the emergence of James vanRiemsdyk, Bobby Ryan, T.J. Brennan and Bobby Sanguinetti a few years back, southern New Jersey became a destination of choice for NHL scouts. Chris and Peter Ferraro made some noise in the 1990s, but more recently Chris Higgins, Mike Komisarek, Eric Nystrom and now Gilroy have put Long Island on the scouting map. Gilroy's success would not only add status to the Baker trophy it would put more scout's bums in the seats of Long Island arenas.