Rangers 1st-round draft pick EJ Emery models game after K’Andre Miller

EJ Emery
Credit: Jim Cerny

LAS VEGAS — EJ Emery broke into a broad smile shortly after being selected by the New York Rangers with the No. 30 overall pick here in the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft, when asked who he models his game after.

And his answer is sure to make the Rangers smile, too.

“I model my game after K’Andre Miller,” the 18-year-old defenseman replied. “So, I’m not complaining about wearing this jersey. I haven’t met him yet, but hopefully pretty soon.”

Like Emery, Miller was a first-round pick by the Rangers, No. 22 overall in the 2018 draft. Each was selected out of the U.S. National Team Development Program. And they are also tall, rangy, athletic defensemen. But Emery is a stay-at-home defenseman, where Miller brings more offense to his game.

“There are some similarities. He can skate. Size-wise similar. But he’s his own person,” Rangers director of player personnel and amateur scouting John Lilley said. “He’s similar for sure just how he plays defense, can move, can skate. It’s a good role model for him to have.”

The Rangers would be thrilled if Emery developed as quickly and completely as Miller has. Miller spent two years in college (University of Wisconsin) and jumped right into the Rangers lineup in 2020-21 and has been a mainstay on the blue line for four seasons already.

Lilley emphasized, though, that Emery is “going to take time.” He pointed out that Emery needs to grow into his man’s body and get stronger. Emery is committed to the University of North Dakota this Fall.

“There’s no rush with him,” Lilley stated.

Related: Gabe Perreault tops Rangers prospects from 2023 NHL Draft

Rangers ‘excited’ to select EJ Emery with No. 30 overall pick in 2024 NHL Draft

Photo: Jim Cerny

Lilley said the Rangers were very pleased that Emery was there for the taking at No. 30. The son of former CFL football player Eric Emery has the tools and intangibles the Rangers love.

“We’re happy to have the player and the person,” Lilley said. “He’s a guy we had higher on our list and are very excited to get him in that range. He’s an exciting young man and has bright future.”

Emery had 16 assists and 61 penalty minutes in 61 games this past season with the NTDP. He did not score a goal all season but did have six assists and was an eye-opening plus-15 for the United States in seven games at the U18 World Championship.

“EJ is a very talented young man. He’s raw, athletic, just starting to come into his own,” Lilley explained. “The foundation is there. He’s an excellent skater and his defensive game we thought as a staff was one of the best in the entire draft.”

Defense is Emery’s greatest strength, and the 6-foot-3, 176 pounder knows it.

“I would say my skating ability and how well I play defense (are my best skills),” Emery said. “I’m really going to be a lockdown guy that can shutdown plays, get the puck up ice and make plays.”

Emery is a dual citizen, who grew up in Canada, until he joined the NTDP the past two years. His father was born in the United States and his mother is from Canada. His idol is Willie O’Ree, the first black player in NHL history.

“As a black man, growing up there’s not too many in hockey and he was one of those figures that I was able to look up to, and he’s the first person I got a signature from. Just an awesome guy,” Emery explained.

As for all the pre-draft chatter that the Rangers would trade out of the No. 30 pick, trying to move up in the first round, Lilley downplayed the notion.

“It’s not something we really talked about, we just went about our business,” Lilley explained. “We were comfortable with the way the list was falling as to who we were going to get. So, we just stayed pat.”

The draft continues Saturday at Sphere with Rounds 2-7. New York has three picks remaining, though none in the next two rounds. The Rangers will select in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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