Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rangers Prospect Review: November

Last month I took a look at the prospects a month into the season and since it is now the end of November it is time to check in on the group again.  Same disclaimers apply in 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. 

Head of the Class:
Ryan Bourque – The 2008 3rd round pick Ryan Bourque had a spectacular month of November with 8 goals, and 11 assists boosting his year totals to 13 goals 18 assists in just 21 games this season.  Bourque was the best prospect for the Rangers in the month displaying his skill and toughness in just about every game.
Slowing down some, but still top notch production:
Roman Horak- The 2009 5th round pick was bound to slow down from his 8 goal 8 assists in 11 October games, but 5 goals and 5 assists in 11 November games is nothing to sneeze at leaving his season totals as 14 goals and 16 assists in 23 games.  Horak is still the number one center for his Chilliwack Bruins and displaying an all-around game that should have Rangers fans excited, particularly on special teams where he continues to score on the power play and is a threat to go the other way on the kill.

Christian Thomas- The 2010 2nd round pick is the leader among prospects in scoring and it is tough to say a guy who had 5 goals and 5 assists in two games in the slowing down category but for the other eight games in the month he had 2 goals and 3 assists.  His season totals now sit at a very impressive 18 goals and 16 assists.  The biggest knock on Thomas potential will always be his size, but guys who know how to score the puck seem to find a way and Thomas looks primed to be one of those as he is a true sniper.

Ethan Werek – The 2009 2nd round pick, currently playing for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, had a rough month by Werek standards tallying 5 goals and adding 4 helpers in 11 games.  The reason I say it was a rough month was because he was held off the score five times including four of the last five games of the month. 

Picking up their game:
Dylan McIlrath – When I wrote the October review a few days before the end of the month McIlrath’s numbers 1G 2A and -8 on the season.  From that point up until his knee injury he played excellent hockey and his team turned around as a result.  His statistical line of 1 goal 3 assists and +7 do not speak to the way he impacts the game just with his sheer presence on the ice.  He has been out since November 13th with a right knee injury that was ultimately less severe than originally feared and he could be in the lineup this week.

Mats Zuccarello – When I reviewed Mats last month I said he was adjusting to the North American game and that once he got his legs under him he would show the skill level that made him so go in the SEL.  Zuke went out and made me look very smart because after an opening month in which he tallied 2 goals, in 13 November games he scored 7 times and assisted on 7 other goals.  This overall performance included both his first career hat-trick in the league and his current hot play of points in five of his last six.

Ryan McDonagh – Former 1st  round pick of the Canadiens also acquired in the Gomez trade had a lot of fans nervous when looking at his scoreless October and even more concerning -7 rating.  In November the play picked up to include 3 assists and a +3 rating.  Ryan will never wow the fans with flashy play but he will make smart, simple hockey plays and be solid in his own end.

Tomas Kundratek – Kundratek of all the Hartford young defenders has probably played the best and the smoothest transition to the pros.  In November played very solid hockey if not on the boxscore where he only had 1 assist and was a plus one.  Watch out for Kundratek to go from the least talked about of the three defensive prospects there to the head of the class in terms of preparedness for the NHL.
Pavel Valentenko – Valentenko had another solid month in the AHL overall with 1 goal 3 assists and a +1 overall rating.  There was some slippage in his game early in the month, but he has since righted the ship and as one of the veterans of the league on defense he is going to have to help all the kids in their adjustments.

Getting it done with no fanfare:
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.  Hagelin just seems to put up a point in every game whether it be himself or setting up a teammate.  On the year he now has seven tallies and nine helpers in his 16 games.  I keep waiting for him to have that huge 3 or 4 point night but it has not happened yet this year, but I wont be complaining about a player who with his speed and finish along with defensively responsible puts up a point a game. 

Dale Weise – Weise, the 2008 4th rounder, is another forgotten prospect for many, maybe because he is in the AHL or maybe because he isn’t seen as a top 6 player so he gets lost in the hype of other guys.  Weise came back this month from being out with wrist surgery last month and the team responded to the combination of his return and other personnel moves to go 4-1-0-1 in the last six after being 1-9-1-2 in the prior 13 which he missed them all.  Overall Hartford is 5-2-0-2 with Weise in the lineup this year which isn’t bad when overall the team is 8-11-2-3.

Not Meeting Expectations:
Evgeny Grachev – Last month when he was sitting at 1G 1A in 8 games I said the results were not where they needed to be but due to the talent and reports of him playing a better overall game that time should still be given.  In the intervening time Grachev came up to the NHL when he clearly was not ready and some nice shifts, but needs to be developed a lot more for the big level.  Overall even with his goal in the last game he only had two points in the month and the questions remain.  More frustrating might be if you watch how he scored his goal in the last game because it will make you ask why he doesn’t do that more. 

Chris Kreider – The 2009 1st rounder is off to another slow start this season as he was last year up until the WJC kicked him into full gear.  Let us hope that is the case again this year because while Kreider showed flashes this month he still is not having the impact for his BC eagles all expected.  Statistically he has 3G and 4 assists in 14 gaes.

There is my take on where many of 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.