Recently Pavel Valentenko completed his first season with the Connecticut Whale. While it seems his skating ability may hold him back from reaching the NHL (those in the know, doubt he has the skating level required for the big show) his fearless play and willingness to give up his body won’t stop him from getting to the NHL. Recently, the AHL ran a feature on the Russian defenseman who remains a legitimate prospect for the Rangers.
The AHL lauded Valentenko a ‘prime shot blocker’ (hence the perhaps misleading title on this post…) while the Russian defenseman received praise from several team mates for his style. Whale goalie Cam Talbot went pretty far with the compliments when he said the following:
“Pavel blocks shots so well it’s like having three goalies.”
Valentenko has been drawing comparisons to NHL defenseman Anton Volchenkov, so it seems its not just their surnames that are similar. Wade Redden, by all accounts a great mentor down in Connecticut, considers Volchenkov one of the best shot blockers he has seen in his long career so the comparison is certainly high praise for Valentenko – the young Rangers prospect. To go with the title of the post, it seems there are indeed some links to Dan Girardi. Whale coach JJ Daigneault coached Girardi when the Rangers defenseman was in the minors and Girardi has become a fearless, elite NHL shot blocker. Could Valentenko go the same way?
With a cannon of a shot also in his armoury, Valentenko had a pretty successful season this year. With 5 goals, 17 points and an excellent +21 on his stat sheet for the regular season, Valentenko seems to have a little bit of everything in his game. Despite his physical style he only had 38 penalty minutes while he also had 123 shots. Maybe Valentenko should be finding Brian Boyle’s cell number. Boyle’s skating was also the one major concern in his game and he used Barbara Underhill to help him turn the weakness around and all Rangers fans will gladly discuss the strong season Boyle just had as he established himself as a good NHL player. Maybe with some help, Valentenko can do the same.