Rangers Prospects Stepping Up For the WhaleApril 12, 2011, by
A season of promise at every level for the Rangers organisation seems to be continuing for the prospects. Recently signed to short term contracts following their junior seasons, 2010 top pick Dylan McIlrath and fellow draftee Andrew Yogan have already made their presence felt in the AHL.
In their first pro game they couldn’t have made more of an impression. Injured for most of the year, Yogan made a spectacular impact scoring twice even though the Whale lost to Bridgeport on Saturday night, 4-3. Not to be outdone however was McIlrath. The big defenseman got into a fight, which he won, and was a laying numerous hits throughout the game to play a very physical game in his pro debut. Both young players showed remarkable confidence and ability in their pro debuts. Indeed, Mitch Beck of Howlings noted that he was very impressed with McIlrath’s play.
While the Whale lost their regular season finale to the Admirals on Sunday, Yogan once more found a way to get involved offensively. The big center notched an assist to cap his minor league cameo off in impressive style. Overall the Rangers pick grabbed 3 points in 2 games and went +1. In the Admiral game, McIlrath had a shot and was -1 for the night. Other prospects also pitched in during the game. Pavel Valentenko (not to be forgotten amid all the rookie defensemen hysteria in New York) had 1+1 to finish the year with 17 points and an excellent +21 for the year. Some opinions suggest he may get a long look in training camp for the Rangers. At 6’2 and 220lbs, with a cannon of a shot and a physical game, Valentenko would be a welcome addition if he could make the grade next year.
Quietly having a solid second year is Evgeny Grachev. He may not have dominated at the AHL level or even managed to keep up with the (unfair?) level of expectancy but Grachev notched an assist against Norfolk to finish the year with 38 points, a +21 (compared to a – 13 the year before) and more shots in less games over the year so there has been decent progress made this season. With the few games of NHL experience he managed to grab, Grachev should be well stocked to make an impact next year, perhaps at both levels. 2 years of pro seasoning, further acclimatising to the language and being carefully monitored by Rangers staff should really allow for a decent camp for the big Russian. There could be a spot there for the taking.
Still on the Rangers bubble is Dale Weise. In a season where Weise played in the NHL and AHL as well as suffering through injury he managed to finish with 38 points in 47 games to make sure everyone remembers the big body has an offensive side to his game. Weise should have a chance at a bottom 6 roster spot next camp but he will need to be wary of the prospects fast developing in the organisation also looking for spots.
The Whale will begin their playoff schedule against Portland in the first round. Game 1 will be on Thursday 14th while the first two games are held in Portland. It will be an upset if the Whale can win (similar to the Rangers series vs. Washington) as Portland finished top of both teams’ division with an impressive 47 win, 103 point season. Portland will likely be led by Luke Adam and NHL veteran Mark Parrish as two of the team’s better offensive players are up with the Sabres in the NHL playoffs. It should be an interesting series to see how the Rangers prospects step up against quality opposition.