Amid the hullabaloo of the President’s trophy race and the playoff shake down was the fact two Rangers draft picks played their first pro games this past weekend for the CT Whale. Christian Thomas, fresh from the Oshawa Generals, and Shane McColgan from the Kelowna Rockets both debuted in the 3-0 loss to Wilkes-Barre and will likely play out the AHL season dressed as members of the Whale.
While both players should benefit from the experience it (the end of this season, playoffs inclusive) could become a pivotal period for Christian Thomas. McColgan, drafted in 2011 has more time on his side. Thomas however, will have seen guys like Carl Hagelin establish themselves quickly in New York and won’t have missed the way the Rangers have pursued Chris Kreider for his contract signature.
Thomas who was drafted in 2010, a year earlier than McColgan, needs to make an impact sooner rather than later to avoid possibly being the forgotten prospect. Many believe Thomas was a victim of the rulebook and that his year spent in the OHL last season slowed up his development. Due to league rules Thomas wasn’t able to go to Connecticut as hoped.
Thomas was considered ready for the AHL last year and the momentum he would have carried from his 50 goal junior season back then has surely gone. While he produced a solid year (just gone) for a middling Oshawa side he didn’t nearly have the same kind of success or impact.
Thomas could still be a quality player and a success for the Rangers. His main issue may be those prospects around him making the Rangers before him and reducing his chance to land in New York, making him expendable. It may already have happened. His perhaps tenuous position in the franchise is more likely a result of quality depth among prospects than it is about him personally.
Thomas has been held scoreless and registered one shot in his first two games as a Whale member. McColgan was -1 and hasn’t registered a shot and both players have another three regular season games to try and make an immediate impact for the Whale. It will be interesting to monitor the kids in the minors even when the big club is trying to make playoff noise themselves.