While the Rangers lost 2-1 to Tampa Bay on Saturday, a key prospect was showing signs of life in Connecticut. Young Russian forward Evgeny Grachev scored 1 and added 2 assists for a career high 3 point (pro) game as the Connecticut Whale scored a 6-2 victory over Providence on New Year’s Day.
The game was a huge one personally for Grachev. Too often a passenger in his second pro season, Grachev has seen Dale Weise and Mats Zuccarello get (deserved) preference for playing time in New York this season. With four shots in the victory against the Baby Bruins, Grachev was involved all game as it wasn’t merely the case of a lucky goal or errant shot being Grachev’s offensive output. Grachev has now scored 5 goals and 10 points this season so he is still a long way from being a go-to offensive performer for the Whale but the events that saw him slip behind Weise and Zuccarello in the queue for New York should present an opportunity for the big Russian.
The 3 point night could be the break out game many hoped would come for Grachev but if it isn’t the absence of the other two key Whale forwards should mean extensive playing time, should mean extensive power play time (all 3 of his points versus the Bruins were with the man advantage) and should mean an opportunity to go on a run. The big Russian has all the skills and size needed to become a good NHL’er and has flashed it at times during his time as a pro but this may be his best opportunity thus far to make an impact. The Whale need him to fill a void – right now – while the Rangers could do with him becoming the draft steal that many have predicted so there is indeed plenty of pressure. We’ll get a potential glimpse into the future of Grachev over the next month or so.