Photo: Mark Conrad / Connecticut Post Freelance
Over the past few months, you’ve surely noticed that the Connecticut Whale –the Rangers AHL affiliate– has been struggling all year. They have battled inconsistent scoring, Swiss cheese defense, and inconsistent goaltending. While many are pointing to this being a sign of poor drafting and development, it is actually the exact opposite. Good friend of the blog Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park noted this in the comments of yesterday’s Around The Farm, and it got me thinking about the development of past prospects.
This year’s Whale club was supposed to have more than just Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and Dylan McIlrath on it. Very few people predicted the kind of year Carl Hagelin would have last season. Most expected him to spend a full year in the AHL last season, which would have made him eligible for the AHL this season (as he wouldn’t have passed his waiver threshold). The same can be said for Stu Bickel. Those are two key pieces.
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Connecticut has recalled defenseman Steven Delisle from Greenville of the ECHL. Delisle, who was the throw-in in the Rick Nash trade, has a line of 2-8-10 with a +19 rating in 29 games with the Road Warriors. His +19 rating was tops in the league.
Delisle will likely look to help a weak blue line for the Whale, which has struggled mightily all season long.
The Whale made a pair of roster moves to help shore up the goaltender position. Whale goaltender Jason Missiaen was sent to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL, while the Whale “recalled” Bryan Hince from Greenville. Recalled is in quotes because Hince himself had to be signed to an AHL PTO. For all intents and purposes it’s a recall, but there was some additional paperwork required for Hince to play in the AHL.
In three games with Greenville, Hince has a 1-2-0 record with a 3.36 GAA and a .912 SV%. In his professional career at the ECHL level, Hince is 12-3-0 with a 2.91 GAA and .910 SV%.
Missiaen struggled with the Whale this year and has ugly numbers to match his struggles. His 4.94 GAA and .850 SV% were among the worst in the league, although the Whale managed to go 2-3-0 in his games.
For those of you in the Hartford area, here is the press release for this year’s Hockey in the Streets program:
HARTFORD, CT, December 10, 2012 – Cigna and the Connecticut Whale are continuing their partnership to bring hockey to boys and girls ages 6 to 12 years in the Greater Hartford area.
The Cigna Hockey in the Streets program starts its second year with a series of one-hour clinics, beginning at six p.m., Monday, December 10, at The Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center on 444 Albany Ave., Hartford. This program is available to groups and venues throughout the region.
Chuck Steedman, AEG Connecticut Senior Vice President & General Manager said, “AEG Connecticut is excited to carry on this tremendous program that significantly impacts the community. We strongly believe these type of programs are key to injecting excitement and energy into young hockey fans across the state. The Cigna Hockey in the Streets program had a very successful first year and we are eager to grow it in 2013. We are grateful to have committed partners in Cigna and The YMCA of Greater Hartford to help make this program a reality.”
“Both I and our players really enjoyed the Hockey in the Streets program last year,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “The chance to go out and meet so many local kids, and to introduce the great game of hockey to many who had never played it before, was a great experience, and we feel like the youngsters and the players all got a lot out of it. We are very much looking forward to doing it again.”
Cigna, a global health service company headquartered in Bloomfield, Conn., is a proud sponsor of the Connecticut Whale. Cigna is also a primary supporter of the YMCA of Greater Hartford, and its programs to develop the health and fitness of local youths.
“Part of what we do as a company is to help people in our communities improve their health and well-being. Teaming up with The Whale to bring hockey to children who may not otherwise learn the sport is a great way to help them develop lifelong healthy habits,” said Mark Boxer, Cigna’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer. “With professional athletes teaching them, the children will learn not just the game, but teamwork, leadership, and the determination needed to achieve their dreams. We’re excited to continue our support of the Cigna Hockey in the Streets program and look forward to seeing the children shoot for the net.”
“The YMCA of Greater Hartford is delighted to once again collaborate with CIGNA and the Connecticut Whale. When community organizations work together, the opportunities for the development of our youth are endless,” said James Morton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of Greater Hartford. “The Hockey in the Streets program not only teaches our kids the fundamentals of hockey, but emphasizes life skills such as team-building, leadership, personal responsibility, healthy living and the importance of giving back.”
In addition to fun and healthy competition, the Cigna Hockey in the Streets will offer greater Hartford kids a Healthy Hat Trick of goals:
1. Live Healthy. Eat right, stay active, and avoid dangerous activity.
2. Be Me. Study hard, respect yourself, and do everything you can to achieve your personal best.
3. Help Others. Spread your healthy outlook to your family, friends, and your community.
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The Connecticut Whale made one small roster move today, signing forward Shayne Wiebe to a PTO. The 6’0 190 lb forward actually played one game with the Whale this year before being released and sent to the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors. In 12 games with Greenville, Wiebe put together a line of 7-5-12 and a team leading +9 rating.
You can view the press release after the jump.
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(Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
No matter how much we choose to ignore it, injuries happen to every NHL club. Players get banged up, nicked up, and bruised just like everyone else. It is one of the reasons why teams spend some time and money building their depth in the AHL, as these players can come to define a season. Some players, like Ryan McDonagh, can even make veterans expendable (see: Rozsival, Michal). Others enter in an attempt to shake things up (Carl Hagelin) or due to large numbers of injuries (Stu Bickel). Either way, AHL depth is often an overlooked quality for perennial contenders.
As the Rangers call up more players, their depth in the AHL diminishes slightly. Gone are the big effects of Hagelin and McDonagh. Even Bickel has parlayed his call up into a two-year deal. The Rangers already have a spare forward (Michael Haley) and a spare defenseman (Steve Eminger) on the roster, but the injury bug isn’t always that friendly. As multiple players go down, others will need to be brought up.
Naturally, the role the injured player has will affect the player called up, so let’s look at the strong possibilities to fill these important roles:
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Are the Whale doing right by the prospects?
Andrew Yogan has one point in 10 games. Marek Hrivik has no goals and five points in 10 games. Key prospects JT Miller and Chris Kreider have a combined 3 goals in 12 and 11 games played, respectively. Alternatively, Brandon Segal (29 years old, 102 NHL games) has eight points in 12 games and Michael Haley (26 years old, 43 NHL games played) has five points in 12 games. The statistics you just read were intended to be a little thought provoking.
Clearly, outside of the odd game here and there or the odd exception (like Christian Thomas’s recent upswing in form, or, for the most part, Kyle Jean) it is the veterans and players with little realistic NHL future that are being counted on to produce for the Connecticut Whale so far this season. All of this begs the question; what should be the priority for the Whale: on ice success or prospect development?
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It’s fair to say that when Kyle Jean tried out for the Rangers almost every Ranger fan didn’t have an idea about the young try-out nor were expectations particularly high. After all, try outs come and go in their dozens and rarely does one stick with a club let alone make some noise. So its fair to say that despite a promising pre-season its come as a surprise to many that Jean has exploded into the AHL season with the Whale grabbing 9 points in 7 games while leading several more eagerly anticipated prospects in scoring a long the way.
Prior to making the Whale, Jean played college hockey and while his numbers for the CCHA’s Lake Superior were solid (38 points in 77 games), they were certainly not stand out from the crowd worthy. Indeed, Jean at 22 is not even particularly young for a prospect. So what is there to like about him at first glance? Physically, Jean has great size at 6’3 and 205 lbs and is a left-handed shot. He is also more than willing to put the puck on net at any given opportunity and looks to finish. You can never have enough goal scoring and it’s certainly something the Rangers want more of – hence Mr R. Nash’s acquisition.
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Some AHL kids aren’t putting up points yet.
If you’ve been following the Connecticut Whale, then you’ve noticed that some of the highly touted prospects, including Chris Kreider, aren’t scoring at a pace that some would like to see. Kreider, who is NHL ready, has a line or 1-3-4 through six games, and isn’t even in the top five in scoring on the club. Meanwhile, Kris Newbury is leading the team in scoring (as per usual).
It’s important to note that it’s not about the point totals. It’s about how players look on the ice. It’s why a lot of folks are very happy about the way Kyle Jean is progressing, as he is putting up points and looking like a possible NHL forward in the process. It’s also why you shouldn’t necessarily be worried about the point totals of Kreider and J.T. Miller.
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It’s fair to say that the Connecticut Whale have had an indifferent start to the season, stumbling to a 1-3-1 record to open the year. What the Whale’s start also suggests is that when you dig a little deeper there may be a need for patience in regard to prospect development.
With two points in his first five games Chris Kreider has hardly set the world alight. Christian Thomas has a single goal in five games, while JT Miller had three assists in his opening four games of the regular season before displaying all his potential with a breathtaking individual effort against Albany midweek.
Miller and Kreider in particular raised levels of expectation with their strong play in the preseason, however it’s fair to say only Miller is delivering at present. With regard to the prospects Rangers’ fans have possibly been guilty of getting ahead of themselves when thinking how ready Kreider and co were. Being NHL ready can take time.
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