Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking At The Prospects After Month One

Now that we have just crossed the month mark at least in the CHL leagues figured we could take a look at a variety of Ranger prospects in terms of their production to this point in the season.  Disclaimers up front include that points do not reveal all there is about level of play a prospect or any hockey player for that matter is playing at.  Also, the variance in the leagues in terms of quality of competition can alter what statistically would qualify as quality production. 

With those out of the way I am going to break down the prospect into a few categories as there are prospects who are just on fire to start the year, those who are simmer with solid play and production, some who are smoldering and others that are building the fire as they adjust to new leagues.  For the purposes of this I will leave Stepan’s start out because of being in the NHL.

On Fire:
Roman Horak- The 2009 5th round pick has 6 goal and 10 assists in the first 9 games while playing first line center for the Chiliwack Bruins of the WHL.  Along with Ryan Howse (Calgary), Brandon Manning (FA, Ranger camp invitee) the trio has helped to form of deadly power play for the Bruins to start the year on which Horak already has 4 goals and 6 assists.  Many people have spoken of Horak as a 3rd/4th line player in the NHL game but if he keeps this up he will prove the offensive potential I believe he has to go with his undeniable strength on faceoffs and excellent penalty killing future.
Christian Thomas- The 2010 2nd round pick who is right there with Horak for the prospect scoring lead has 10 goals and 7 assists in 10 games for one of the best team in the CHL, the Oshawa Generals, of the OHL.  This sniper and son of Steve Thomas has picked up right where he left off last season when he scored 41 goals.  He currently rank T-11th in the OHL in points, though everyone ahead of him has played 2 or 3 more game than him. Thomas fits a few needs in the Rangers system in my opinion as the weakest spot for prospects is RW and he also presents a potential sniper we could always use.  Size will always be his knock, but he plays bigger than his measurables.
Ethan Werek – One of my personal favorite prospects, the 2009 2nd round pick has proven to everyone in the early season that he is perfectly fine and fully recovered from his late season knee injury which seemed to overshadow his 2nd 30 goal year.  To start the season he has 8 goals and 8 assists in 10 games, for the Kingston Frontenacs, which includes the 1 assist he has in the 5-1 lead they currently hold tonight.  Werek is a legitimate 2nd line prospect who plays in all the dirty areas and if he doesn’t stick at center in the NHL will be a very good left wing.  He certainly has a very good teacher to learn from in Doug Glimour.
Scott Stacjer – The biggest surprise of the early season for me has been 2009 5th rounder Scott Stacjer as during the offseason I had doubts as to whether after this year the Rangers would even offer him a contract, but he has been phenomenal early sporting and 8-1 record with a 2.52GAA and .921SV%.  The challenge for Stacjer will be to continue this all season and I will certainly be watching and hoping he does as will the Owen Sound of the OHL.
Ryan Bourque – The 2008 3rd round pick Ryan Bourque coming off the back of his huge weekend now posts 4G 7A in 7 games this season.  As I said in my write up of his prospect of the weekend award the question for Bourque I not skill, he has the vision, the playmaking ability and quality finish or heart as he plays with all those necessary qualities to be successful but a combination for some on his size and for me on injuries some of which can be size related.
Brandon Manning – I include Manning even though he is not Ranger “property” as he was in Rangers camp and I am hoping that gives the Rangers the best chance to secure this excellent young defenseman.  Manning has 4G 9A in his first 8 games playing with Horak and the Chiliwaack Bruins.  Manning is a commodity the Rangers do not possess in all the very good defensive prospects they have within their system as he is excellent on both ends as a two way defender who will take the body, fight and lead in the locker room, thus him being the Captain of the Bruins.  Hopefully Glen Sather will make the right decision and get him locked up before another team gets to him, though as I have said in other conversations about Manning every game he plays the price keeps going up.
Carl Hagelin – The best chance at salvaging the 2007 draft this 6th rounder is now a senior at Michigan, co-captain and first line left wing who is a preseason candidate for the Hobby Baker.  He has 2G 4A in 6 games and a breakout game appear to be right around the corner for him.  Haglein is a very fast skater, but unlike some other speedsters we have seen he has finish, playmaking ability and grit in his game.  Hagelin is also known for his counter threat when he kills penalties.  Expecting him to be in the on-fire category by the next time this is done.
Dale Weise – Weise, the 2008 4th rounder, had 2 goals 1 assist in his first 3 games for the Hartford club before breaking his hand and now being out 4-6 weeks.  If he had not gotten hurt I believe the callup of Jeremy Williams on Sunday would have been Weise as he is better suited to fill a Brandon Prust type physical role and provide some offensive punch.
Chris Kreider – The 2009 1st rounder who pleasantly surprised many last year with his WJC performance and his 2nd half with Boston College has some worried by his line of 0 points in 4 games so far this year.  I am not one of them not just because he has produced in the past but because he is producing lots of chances so far this year, just hasn’t converted them into points yet.  Prospects with Kreider’s kind of size, speed and finish don’t come around often and you just don’t hold them down for long. 
Evgeny Grachev – The expectations for the 2008 3rd round pick were through the roof last year coming off his tremendous year in Juniors for Brampton.  He struggled mightily making the transition to the pro level and so coming into this year there was a mix of being down on him and excuse making for his age among Ranger fans.  Needless to say this was considered a big year for him and so far he has produced 1G 1A in 8 games bringing the debate about him back to the forefront for some.  I am not ready to write him off yet as the talent is in there, and reports about his overall play are better this year, but consistency is still apparently an issue, so the growth must start to show.
Pavel Valentenko – I had mixed expectations on Valentenko once he was assigned to Hartford after a very good camp.  The former 2006 5th rounder acquired from Montreal in the Gomez trade showed flashes in his defensive play and his huge shot from the point during the preseason but that was countered in my mind by the fact he had played very little game action the last two year.  Giving him another couple months and then see where he is before any conclusions are made by me.
Dylan McIlrath – Truck, this year’s 1st round pick, got off to a slow start but has been getting the 18 wheeler out of the mud and back on course over the last few weeks and with it I will expect him to move up the performance categories in future months.  The main thing for Dylan is to be that intimidating presence and shutdown pair, focusing on that part of his game and letting the natural skill he has take over for the rest of it.  His line so far this year is 1 goal, 2 assists, minus 8 and  27 PIM in 12 games, but as I said the production and play has improved the last few weeks.
Chad Johnson -  Last season Chad Johnson, 4th rounder by Pitt in 2006, came in as an unknown commodity to Ranger fans and stole the AHL starting job, and showed himself very capable as an NHL backup in his limited opportunities.  The Rangers went out and brought in Martin Biron to be the backup at the NHL level for this season and I do not know if that shook CJ’s confidence but he doesn’t seem as sharp to start this season.  So far the numbers are ok 6GP 2.48GAA .906 SV%, so let’s hope the promise he showed last year is able to click back in confidence wise.
Mats Zuccarello – Mats has to in some sense relearn the game on the different ice surface in North America which can be tough when you play a game based in part of speed and vision.  In 8 games he has 2 goals and he has displayed flashes of the speed, vision and scoring ability that made him so good in the SEL last season so let him get his legs under him and work from there.
Ryan McDonagh – Former 1st  round pick of the Canadiens also acquired in the Gomez trade is transitioning from College game to the pro game and while reports are he is doing a solid job in his own end the numbers show a different perception with his minus 5 in 8 games.  I am not a huge +/- proponent but that mark is the worst on the team.  McDonagh is not going to play a flashy game, just solid on both ends, make the simple smart plays, so his game may get less appreciation that it might warrant.  Other than Redden there are no real veterans on the Hartford D core, so lets see where he is in another month before we get worried.
Tomas Kundratek – Kundratek is a very talented D making the transition from the Junior world to the AHL and by all accounts doing a good job of it, so he along with the other two wont really have the adjusting label in a month and we will fully evaluate the results we are seeing.
There is my take on where our bigger prospects are at close to the end of October and I will probably do this at or around the end of every month just to check in with some details to go with the weekly stats updates on the Rangers Prospect Page.  As always for detailed reviews of individual games go to Jess Rubenstein and TheProspectPark for all the guys in Juniors and Mitch Beck does a great job covering Hartford at Howlings.

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