Tomas Kundratek: The Dark Horse

Although there hasn’t  been much talk about it in the Rangers blog-o-sphere, there is an intense battle heating up for the bottom defense pairing.  Most of the focus has been on Brad Richards, and with good reason, but the bottom defense pairing is shaping up to be a great battle in camp.  Although Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto appear to have the inside track, and Pavel Valentenko is getting most of the attention for dark horses, I’m going out on a limb and saying that if Erixon or Del Zotto falter, that Tomas Kundratek is a prime candidate to take a spot.

Kundratek didn’t make it past the first round of cuts last year, but that means nothing heading into this year’s camp (see: Sauer, Mike).  Kundratek’s game is a simple one, he just gets in the opposition’s way.  He has been incredible in his own end with the CT Whale, he is rarely out of position and does the little things right.  The best thing that can be said about a defensive defenseman is that you don’t notice him on the ice.  If you do, he’s making mistakes.  It’s rare that you notice Kundratek.  His numbers aren’t fantastic, but it’s what you expect from someone who isn’t going to be jump starting the offense.  He just does everything in his own end properly, from positioning to defensive assignments.

Most people have been looking at Pavel Valentenko as a potential dark horse, and with good reason.  He has a great shot, is a big body who plays a physical game, and is essentially a second goalie on the ice with the number of shots he blocks.  While those attributes are great, they are marginalized if the opposition can just skate around him, which is Valentenko’s weakest area.  His skating might hold him back, whereas Kundratek is a smooth skater and more positionally sound than Kundratek.

Another aspect that Kundratek has that Valentenko does not: a right-handed shot.  The Rangers are chock-full-o lefties this year with Del Zotto, Erixon, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh.  They might need a right handed shot to balance out that bottom pairing.  It’s not much of an advantage, as Erixon is capable of playing both sides, but it is an advantage nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Valentenko, and there is absolutely no hate whatsoever, I just think he needs one more year in the AHL to work on his skating.  His raw talent is nice, but hockey is more than that.  Kundratek appears to be the complete package, and can be a dark horse to make this roster should Del Zotto or Erixon falter.

10 Responses to “Tomas Kundratek: The Dark Horse”

  1. mhurley says:

    Thanks Dave. Great analysis. I’ll be looking under the radar for Kundratek.

  2. The Suit says:

    Erixon played the right side over in Europe, so I don’t think that’s a major issue. My money is still on him and MDZ making the team.

    Great read though. Haven’t heard a whole lot about this kid.

  3. Matt J says:

    Does Kundratek or V-Tank have any trade value?

    • The Suit says:

      Ehh…maybe if packaged with someone else. Alone, I can’t see them garnering much more than mid round picks.

  4. Scully says:

    I’m so excited for the start of this season. I’d say I watch about 70 games a year… with maybe missing 6 to obligations and another six to flipping back and forth to a Knicks game. I read the blogs every day and have been a die-hard since 1992-1993 when I was 6 years old. This is the first time since 96-97 (when the Rangers signed Gretzky and then stunk out of the gate) that I have been this excited about the season. Part of which is because of all the excellent players coming down the pipeline.

    Sather, although they haven’t gotten out of the second round of the playoffs since the lockout, has turned around his legacy as the GM in my opinion. The free agent signings of Richards and Rupp make sense. Torts could roll 4 lines for 82 games and we as fans would only really be picking nits if we don’t like the Wolskis, Averys and Christensons of the world. We have the best (read most consistent) goalie in the NHL between the pipes and a backup who would start on most teams. The farm system is stocked with NHL or almost NHL ready talent. I think the Rangers could shape to be a cup contender this year, but the next 3 – 5 years we might become serious contenders consistently for the first time since the days of Bun and Bill Cook.

    • The Suit says:

      That was a breath of fresh air. Thank you Scully. Good to hear from the hopefuls.

  5. paulronty says:

    If V-Tank needs to work on skating, the Rangers should have him working with Barb Underhill. Otherwise, he’s tough, blocks shots and I think more ready than Kundratek.

    • scrangersfan says:

      I read it somewhere that V-tank was in fact working with Barb.Underhill this off season.
      I hope its true because I reall like this guy.His big and tough the kind of D-man we need.

  6. Richter1994 says:

    Kundratek is by far and away the best Ranger prospect no one talks about. I could have seen him up this year if not for the trade for McD and Valtank. Very steady and a fluid skater. While Kundratek does not have the shot that Valtank does and if Valtank gets traded because he is more marketable than Kundratek then it is because of Kundratek’s ability to play with the big club. Very underrated and never talked about (except for me on Zipay’s blog, lol).

  7. Marc Weissman says:

    Not necessarily. I think Eminger is still in the 5th or 6th D equation. :)