Arrival of Erixon a Rangers family affair, Highly-rated Swedish defenseman eyes a roster spot on dad’s former team

The NHL Entry Draft’s top 10 picks are reserved for the cream of the crop — the elite 18-year-olds who often develop into the league’s brightest stars.

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft at St. Paul, Minn., won’t take place until June 24, but just over three weeks earlier, the Rangers effectively became the first team to land someone who would have been a top-10 pick. This particular player might just be more NHL-ready than anyone else in this year’s draft pool.

When Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather made the June 1 trade with Calgary to bring 20-year-old Swedish defenseman Tim Erixon, the son of longtime Blueshirts forward Jan Erixon, into the organization, he virtually pulled the equivalent of a player out of the top 10 in St. Paul.

Erixon, who signed with the Rangers within hours after the trade was complete, had been unable to reach an agreement with the Flames, who had drafted him two years earlier. With his NHL rights about to expire, Erixon was on the verge of re-entering the draft. Had he done that, it is widely believed that Erixon would have raised his previous first-round draft position (No. 23) and moved into the top 10.

“I think I’m a better player than in my draft year, but it’s not for me to scout myself like that,” said Erixon, who is now 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. “I definitely feel a lot better and I think I have improved at everything, both in my own end and offensively.”

In any case, Erixon is someone other NHL teams would have loved to get another shot at via the draft, but his NHL career is now set to begin in New York. Unlike, most of the highly-rated draft-2011 draft prospects, who are two years younger, Erixon is almost certainly ready to challenge for a spot on the NHL roster right now.

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