Archive for Prospects
Rangers prospect Ryan Graves has been elected to the AHL All Star Game, the lone representative from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Graves, in his rookie season with the Pack, has a line of 3-11-14 in 34 games with the Pack. The 6’4″, 220-lb defenseman was selected in the 4th round of the 2013 NHL Draft, and has made excellent strides the past few seasons.
Brady Skjei did not make the All Star team, but has the same number of points (2-12-14) in fewer games.
The New York Rangers will have four prospects playing in this year’s World Junior Championships, held this year in Helsinki, Finland.
- USA: Brandon Halverson (2nd round, 2014)
- Finland: Aleksi Saarela (3rd, 2015)
- Russia: Sergei Zborovsky (3rd, 2015)
- Slovakia: Adam Huska (7th, 2015)
Saarela is definitely the most talented prospect the Rangers have going, with a line of 10-15-25 in just 27 games in the Finnish Liiga. Zborovsky, whom many thought was a bit of a reach in the third round, has been showing why the Rangers drafted him this high. He’s improved this season, and this will be our first real look at him on a big stage.
As for the goalies, Halverson played for the USA last year, but his use was limited. He will be fighting for the starting gig this year. Huska has been having a stellar year in the USHL, and it shows why Gordie Clarke was so happy to get him in the seventh round. It will be interesting to get a look at him against the next level of competition.
On the heels of a disastrous trip to western Canada that represents the low point of a troubling first quarter, it appears the Blueshirts have reached an impasse wherein they are in danger of taking a clear step back in the contender pecking order. The growing warts in the lineup have deteriorated the team’s quality of play and the Rangers have come crashing down to earth where it appears they’ll stay unless changes are made.
The biggest issues are defenders Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who for so long ably handled critical roles as stalwarts in the rearguard. But there are also team-wide problems including a less effective forecheck in part due to the loss of Carl Hagelin, frustrating mental mistakes defensively up and down the lineup and nonexistent production offensively from some of the team’s most talented players.
There are always cycles in prospect development. An organisation’s pipeline can’t always be flowing with NHL ready prospects and it seems that the Rangers pipeline has hit such a ‘lull’ in terms of readily available NHL forward talent and it may be starting to have an impact.
Up front, the Rangers don’t have much to fall back on (or call up) and the injury up front to Derek Stepan and the illness to Emerson Etem has highlighted the lack of available NHL ready resources. Hence you see Tanner Glass back in New York this week. However this lack of talent isn’t unexpected. The asset stripping trades, lack of early round draft picks and the multiple prospect ‘graduations’ over the recent seasons has left the Rangers system thin on the ground.
Looking at the Wolf Pack’s depth up front this year and it makes grim reading. Unless you get excited by the idea of Travis Oleksuk, the neigh on thirty year old Chad Nehring or the NHL career flatlining Marek Hrivik then there really isn’t much on the way from the ‘Pack in terms of forward talent any time soon. This is the way it’s going to be for a little while folks. The Rangers’ can’t really afford many injuries because there’s little help on the way.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to attend a Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) game in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. Their opponent that night was none other than the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who happen to roster one of the Rangers’ better goaltending prospects. Brandon Halverson, the Rangers 2nd round pick in 2014 has been a darling of scouts the past few years, and many have tapped him as the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist. Expect to see him in net for Team USA at the World Junior Championships this year.
After getting an up close look at the Traverse City, Michigan native, I wanted to share my impressions and dig a little deeper into Halverson’s game. I’m not going to use my normal scouting format, as this is really a one game snapshot and not intended to be a comprehensive scouting report. I would need to see much more of him to feel confident painting broad assumptions on his skill set.
Kevin Klein left the game early against Carolina on Monday, with an announcement coming later that the defenseman would miss 2-3 weeks with a strained oblique muscle. While Klein’s injury is a serious blow to the Rangers’ struggling defensive group, crises often beget opportunity in strange ways. The absence of Klein will almost certainly mean significant playing time for Dylan McIlrath, but I’d like to suggest that the conditions might be right for Brady Skjei to receive an extended look in New York.
First, it’s important to sketch out clearly what losing Kevin Klein means for the team. Among Rangers defensemen (not counting Dylan McIlrath because of the small sample size issue), Klein has the highest even strength CF%, at 49.37%, just slightly above Keith Yandle’s 49.27%. Boyle is the next highest, at 46.97%, followed by Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, and Dan Girardi logging average CF percentages of 44.32%, 43.53%, and 38.74% respectively. Suffice to say that this defensive group is struggling both individually (Ryan McDonagh’s issues have been noted before by Chris, for example) and collectively, with no Rangers defenseman coming in above 50%. Despite these grim defensive numbers across the board, Kevin Klein has still been one of the most effective defensemen the Rangers have lately.
Hartford Wolf Pack 3, Utica Comets 2
Utica, NY, November 20, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack snapped an 0-6-1-0 drought with a 3-2 win over the Utica Comets Friday night, in the Wolf Pack’s first-ever visit to the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Luke Adam had a goal and an assist for the Wolf Pack, and Travis Oleksuk’s second-period goal was the game-winner. Mat Bodie opened the scoring with an early first-period power-play goal. Magnus Hellberg got the win in goal, but had to leave the game in the second period due to an apparent injury.
Brendan Gaunce scored both Utica goals, and Richard Bachman made 21 saves in the Comet net.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7, Hartford Wolf Pack 6 (OT)
By Phil Oxnard
Hartford, CT, November 15, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack broke out to a 5-1 first period lead over the AHL-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Sunday at the XL Center, only to give up five goals in the second period in what would turn out to be a 7-6 overtime loss.
Scott Wilson’s second goal of the game won it for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 34 seconds into overtime, after former Penguin Jayson Megna had scored with 1:09 remaining in regulation to tie the contest at six. The Wolf Pack are now 0-6-1-0 in their last seven games, but snapped a franchise-record streak of six straight regulation defeats.
Ryan Bourque had two goals for the Wolf Pack, and Chad Nehring added a goal and two assists. Kevin Porter also scored twice for the Penguins, who also got four assists from Conor Sheary.
Portland Pirates 3, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
Portland, ME, November 13, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack suffered its franchise-record sixth straight regulation loss Friday night at the Cross Insurance Arena, falling 3-2 to the Portland Pirates in the second of back-to-back games between the two teams.
The Pirates defeated the Wolf Pack 6-2 on Wednesday night in Portland.
Wolf Pack goal-scoring leader Adam Tambellini tallied his fifth of the season, and captain Ryan Bourque also scored, but John McFarland had a goal and an assist to lead the Pirates, who also got scores from Sena Acolatse and Logan Shaw.
Mackenzie Skapski saw his first Wolf Pack action of the season in net and stopped 25 shots.
Portland Pirates 6, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
Portland, ME, November 11, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack snapped a franchise-record streak of three straight shutouts-against Wednesday night at the Cross Insurance Arena, but couldn’t avoid a fifth consecutive loss, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Portland Pirates.
Logan Shaw scored twice for Portland, and Kyle Rau had a goal and two assists. Tanner Glass and Luke Adam both scored their first Wolf Pack goals, in the first of back-to-back games between the Wolf Pack and Pirates.
“As a group we’re working hard right now, but you can talk about bounces, obviously those aren’t coming across very often for us right now,” Wolf Pack captain Ryan Bourque said. “But ultimately we’ve just got to continue to grow each day and we’ve got to fight through this. It’s definitely a tough time for us as a team, but I think from this you can almost look at it as a positive and learn from it, so that down the road, if we do face adversity like this, we know how to handle it.”