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David Quinn Comes to the Rangers With a Gift for Developing Young Players

David Quinn Comes to the Rangers With a Gift for Developing Young Players

For the last three years, David Quinn, the men’s hockey coach at Boston University, hardly ever let up on Jordan Greenway, one of his star players.

Jordan, move your feet. Jordan, get the puck down low. Jordan, stop lagging. Jordan, watch your grades.

Then, in April, after Greenway had signed with the Minnesota Wild after his junior season, Quinn hopped a plane to Nashville to surprise him at his N.H.L. debut.

“Quinnie was tough on Greenway, especially at the beginning because we all knew how good Greenway could be,” said Scott Young, the Penguins’ director of player development who served as a B.U. assistant for three years.

“But throughout the process, when he was pushing Jordan, Greenway knew Quinnie loved him,” Young added.

Quinn, 51, was named coach of the Rangers on Wednesday, and the team will hold an introductory news conference on Thursday morning. In his five years at B.U., Quinn’s teams lost a heartbreaker in 2015 N.C.A.A. championship game, won two Hockey East championships and one Beanpot tournament. They made the N.C.A.A. tournament in four of his five seasons.

More than titles, though, Quinn’s run as the Terriers’ coach was marked by the string of highly rated prospects that came through his system on their way to the N.H.L. They include Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, Arizona’s Clayton Keller, Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Greenway.

Quinn was known to develop close bonds with his players. A year ago, when McAvoy made his pro debut with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, Quinn attended the game and ran into McAvoy’s mother, who hugged the coach and sobbed into his chest for a minute or more, unable to speak. Finally, she told Quinn, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”

“He’s kind of a players’ coach and really wants to connect with you, and not just on the ice,” said Matt Grzelcyk, the Bruins defenseman who played for Quinn for three of his four seasons at B.U.

Developing young players is going to be a big part of Quinn’s job with the Rangers. In February, with the team languishing at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, General Manager Jeff Gorton shipped off the veterans Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, among others, in exchange for prospects. The roster has 14 players who are 26 or younger.

More fresh legs will be coming, too. The Rangers have two picks in the first round of the N.H.L. draft in June, after selecting the young forwards Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil in the first round of last year’s draft.

At least one of the Rangers already knows Quinn as a coach. Kevin Shattenkirk was a defenseman on the B.U. team that won the national championship team in 2009, when Quinn was an assistant.

Success at the college level does not necessarily translate into success in the N.H.L. Only five other coaches have jumped directly from the N.C.A.A. to the N.H.L., including Jim Montgomery, who this month left the University of Denver to take over the Dallas Stars.

As the Terriers’ coach, Quinn employed a style of play based on puck possession and aggressive forechecking.

“You almost have to have a football mentality,” he said last season, referring to how he wanted his forwards to attack opposing puck carriers and leave them little time or space to make a play.

Grzelcyk said Quinn’s style would fit in the N.H.L. “It’s a speed game now,” he said, “and that is something Quinnie teaches really well.”

Jack Parker, the longtime B.U. coach who passed the torch to Quinn in 2013, said his protégé’s strength as a coach was his ability to communicate with players.

“That’s a huge part of the pro game,” Parker said. “I think the Rangers will be real happy with the results they get with him.”

At B.U., top prospects often got the same blunt treatment as fourth liners on partial scholarships. In the summer before arriving at B.U., Keller was selected sixth overall pick in the 2016 N.H.L. draft. In the news media spotlight, Keller appeared to waffle on his commitment to the school, suggesting there was a chance he might play in Canada instead, and adding that he planned to bolt for the N.H.L. after one season with the Terriers.

Quinn got in touch with Keller and gave him a stern talk. “If you don’t want to come to B.U., don’t come,” Quinn told him. If you’re going to be a Terrier, he added, you have to be all in. Keller ended up leading the team in scoring his freshman season before signing with the Coyotes.

A native of Cranston, R.I., Quinn was selected in the first round of the 1984 N.H.L. draft, 13th overall, by the Minnesota North Stars, a rarity at the time for American-born players. He then starred at B.U. under Parker, but during his junior season he was diagnosed with a form of hemophilia known as Christmas disease.

With his hopes for an N.H.L. career dashed, Quinn fell into a funk, drank beer and gained weight. One night his mother came to him crying and asked, “What happened to you?”

“Right there I realized you can have your pity party for a while, but eventually you have to dust yourself off,” he recalled in 2016.

Quinn turned to coaching, working his way through the college ranks, serving as Parker’s assistant in the 2000s. He then joined the Colorado Avalanche as head coach of their A.H.L. affiliate and spent one season as assistant with the N.H.L. club before succeeding Parker in 2013.

In Quinn’s second season, with Eichel, the future No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, in the lineup, B.U. reached the national championship game. The Terriers led Providence College, 3-2, in the third period when their goalie dropped the puck out of his glove and it trickled into the net. Stunned, B.U. gave up another goal and lost, 4-3.

Quinn admits the loss still haunts him.

The 2017-18 season probably represented his finest coaching job. Although loaded with talent, the team was 8-11-1 on Jan. 6. But Quinn pushed his team not to lose faith, said Bernie Corbett, the Terriers’ radio broadcaster and a longtime friend of Quinn’s. B.U. finished 22-14-4, won the Hockey East title, and won one game in the N.C.A.A. tournament.

“The job he did, conveying to the team that they could make a run, that they were the best team in Hockey East — it was magnificent,” Corbett said.

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