Posts tagged: Artem Anisimov

So Where Does Stepan Start the Season?

Amid all the publicity Brad Richards has received and the analysis he has caused on the internet, the Rangers possess quite a collection of quality young centres behind him. That’s no secret. However, even with multiple (quality) years of Richards to look forward to, it is obviously in the Rangers’ long term interest to develop Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov as much as possible.

It seems natural to expect the Rangers to begin the year keeping the effective, home grown trio of Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan together to form an exciting second line; even though Dubinsky at this stage is very much a candidate for the top line left wing spot. That being said, if the trio does stay together it means Derek Stepan either slots on to the left (where some see his future anyway) or if his face off skills develop, Stepan becomes the third line centre. This is where some concern should lie. Is a talent like Stepan being wasted with third line duty? If he received the bulk of his playing time there, he may be the prime candidate for Dave’s previous discussion of potential sophomore slumps.

I don’t think it is ideal to have such a young player, an intelligent player, being bumped down on to the third line. Stepan is ready for a bigger role, in my opinion, and the fact that the Rangers have such quality down the middle is obviously a good problem to have. That said I’d rather see Stepan play out of his natural position and try and play left wing on the top line. Forget your Wolski’s and the like. Has Wolski got a long term future with the Rangers? Barring a spectacular season, no he hasn’t. The pending arrivals of Kreider, Thomas and the like will see to that. However Stepan very much has a future with the organisation.

It’s in the Rangers interest to give Step a key role and let him develop in it. Seriously, how much harm can the young (mature) centre cause alongside Richards and Gaborik anyway? Couldn’t Gaborik in particular, benefit from having not one but two impressive playmakers on his line? Of course he could. Stepan’s role at this stage of the preseason is in flux. There are a lot of potential landing spots for him but in terms of long term development (as an asset as much as, as an individual) Stepan should be a priority this coming season.

PS: I hope everyone was safe over in the US this past weekend. My thoughts were with you all. We don’t get things like Irene in dull, old UK. 

 

From a Weakness to a Strength

Hoards of experts, fans and hockey people looked at the Rangers roster last season and decided that the Rangers were weak down the middle. In all honesty that wasn’t the case whatsoever, but with the addition of Brad Richards what was considered a weakness is now very much a genuine (and widely acknowledged) strength. The difference last year was that the Rangers didn’t have a game breaker at center, they were absent from having an established, elite presence. What the Rangers did have however was depth, youth and upside; three appealing qualities.

The Rangers should be able to count on a few things this season that should allow them to stand eye to eye with almost every club regarding the center position. They should be able to count on an elite presence in Richards; a guy that can handle the tough assignments, they should be able to count on further development from the young centers (Stepan and Anisimov) and they should be able to take advantage of their depth by creating mismatches against other teams’ lesser lines.

However what makes the Rangers’ depth at center the envy of many organisations is the likelihood of more to come in the coming seasons. The Rangers may well be set for many years at the NHL level thanks to Richards/Stepan/Anisimov but the next wave looks promising too. Listed as centers, the Rangers can boast top pick JT Miller, Steven Fogarty, Oscar Lindberg, Andrew Yogan, Ryan Bourque, Mike St Croix and Max Campbell in the pipeline. Naturally not every one of these prospects will make it and not all of them will end up at center but many of these kids have tasted significant success in their young careers already.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect for the Rangers is the staggered development/timeline among their array of centers. With many jobs at the minor pro level up for grabs (and very few veterans blocking the paths of the kids) there are legitimate chances for centers to make their way up the system and motivation is a great aid to development. With some prospects about to begin their pro careers (such as Bourque) and others such as Miller or Fogarty just at the beginning of their careers the Rangers have the talent spread out.

Throw in to the mix the presence of a guy like Lindberg in Sweden and you have players at different stages of their development, not to mention differing contractual obligations to the Rangers. With players based in college, junior and Europe the Rangers shouldn’t have to make too many contractual decisions in any one summer. Having such a spread will allow the Rangers time to assess what they have in each player while hopefully enjoying continued development from the likes of Stepan and Anisimov at the NHL level.

The Rangers have centers right throughout the system. They have a nice young, skilled mix at the NHL level and should boast a similar blend at the AHL level this season. While it all starts with the marquee acquisition in Brad Richards there is a huge amount of talent making its way through the organisation behind him so there’s no reason that the Blueshirts new found strength should be anything but that for a few years.

Whether it’s in the big league, the minor league or at the amateur level the Rangers have depth and skill at center. It just takes one or two of the Rangers stack of centers to develop well and the Rangers could be the envy of the league, and all this without a lottery pick. Now, let’s just hope Brad Richards is more Messier than Gomez, hey?

Musings Day

It’s Musings day and it’s truly the middle of the hockey low season. Little bits of Rangers’ related news comes out – on occasion – but not exactly over flowing with news. We’ll try our best though. Let’s get in to it.

JT Miller made the US evaluation camp then. There’s a camp to get to a camp to get to the team? Leave no stone unturned I guess. Good for him though. He’s clearly a good prospect who is positionally flexible. His flexibility may see him in NY sooner rather than later.

Partners in Crime: My friend who came to NY with me in January has paid up and decided to join me in Sweden for the Rangers weekend. That mean’s two things: We’re guaranteed horrible hangovers and the two of us are truly trying to conquer the world. It’ll be our fourth different continent together.

Brendan Bell, eh? He has some offensive upside and can score at both the AHL and NHL level and is a solid depth addition that cannot hurt the club. Almost certainly one for the AHL, but he could help the power play down there. I guess someone on the blue line may well start the year in the ECHL?

I think Brandon Prust breaks the 30 point barrier next season. Why? Because special teams will be better and I think the PK will be even more lethal. He’s also looking for a pay day.

End of an Era: When Alexi Kovalev finally signed on in the KHL, the last active Rangers cup winner left the NHL. Time for a new set yeah?

(Another) draft Bust: Even though he was only just inside the first round, when ex Islander Rob Schremp signed for MODO this week it was another huge talent that failed to make an NHL impact. Kid had unreal skill and is another in the line of draft disappointments like Patrick O’Sullivan.

NFL rant: I’m a Giants fan. After this pre-season I’m seriously considering switching allegiances. (No, not to the Jets, Becky…) Seriously, could the Giants have a worse off season? Did Sather use up all the management skill in NY this summer? Didn’t think the Giants were penny pinchers. Apparently they are. Urgh

Sean Avery I am disappointed in you. That is all.

Having recently read that Wojtek Wolski is ‘working hard’ this summer, does it mean that he has read the memo that he needs to give a consistent effort to crack the line up? If Wolski can match his skill level with desire then he can still be a huge asset to the Rangers. Yes, huge.

Mikhail Pashnin. If I’m the Russian defenseman I’d also stay in Russia, for the time being. Though I’d have only signed a one year deal. He needs to remain as contractually flexible as he can until his NHL chance either comes or finally goes.

I read that the Rangers window to win is now open? No. It is opening. 2012-13 it’ll hopefully be wide open for a few years, but we’re still one year away from legitimate playoff expectation. Some more patience folks…

Me: I’ve had a bizarre 7 days. I’ve been invited to a wedding in California the week of my 30th. Seems too good to be true! I’ve also had 3 job offers in 4 days, one of them in Germany. Needless to say I’ve had a lot to think about this week!

Marian Gaborik CAN score 100 points next season. I’m being deadly serious when I say that. A good Rangers’ power play, sustained health and instant chemistry with Mr Richards and it could happen. Emphasis on could.

Insta poll: Who will be the Rangers highest scoring defenseman next season?

My answer: Del Zotto.

Current Ranger that won’t be a Ranger on October 7th: Erik Christensen.

I’m surprised Bryan McCabe is still homeless. He didn’t fit well in NY, but is likely cheap and can help as a depth guy. There’s certainly a lot worse under contract in the league.

Final poser: Who will score more points this season; Derek Stepan or Artem Anisimov?

Happy Thursday peeps. GO RANGERS (no go Giants. Urgh.)

First Bad Rangers Contract of the Summer?

With impressive organisational depth at his position the new contract Brian Boyle received from the Rangers concerned me. Two things before I discuss this ‘issue’ though; first of all I love Boyle as a player and the way he turned his NHL career around last season and secondly l I think Glen Sather has had another excellent offseason for the Rangers. However, I’m a little uncomfortable with the Boyle contract.

The Rangers likely have Brad Richards in place as first line center for a very long time. Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky are all young, promising natural centers firmly part of the Rangers core. The club have Ryan Bourque, Andrew Yogan and Oscar Lindberg (don’t forget that guy) all as prospects-in-waiting while they also just drafted two centers in Steve Fogarty and Michael St. Croix (although I’ll grant you that they are highly unlikely to be pro’s during the life of Boyle’s new contract). That’s not even naming all the centers within the organisation but you get the point.

The Rangers did not need to reward Brian Boyle has handsomely as they did. He deserved a raise following his excellent year but what do you expect from Boyle next season? Given the depth on the roster, offensively he’s probably not going to go any higher (I hope I’m wrong). Defensively he has proved he is a physical presence that will hit, block shots and is an effective penalty killer but do you a pay a bottom 6 forward 1.7m a year for 3 years when the organisation is blessed with depth and developing prospects?

Boyle got too much dollar for too long. Given that dollars need to be carefully spent in the cap era and with a potential lockout (and more specifically) reduced cap ceiling looming, Boyle simply got too much. There’s a legitimate chance that in 2 years (perhaps even sooner) he may not even be assured a roster spot. I may be wrong but I think this is Sather’s first mistake – of sorts – of the off season. Many Rangers fans will disagree with me on this, but as I said on twitter (for those of you that follow me) one 20 goal season should not result in the contract it got especially when you  consider how much Boyle faded offensively in the last third of the season.

With wingers Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello (to name just a few) all likely on the Rangers roster sooner rather than later the Rangers may be forced to get creative and move several centers around the roster, perhaps on lines lower than ideally intended (obviously, depth is a good thing). If the Rangers intend on sticking with Richards, Dubinsky, Stepan and Anisimov for the foreseeable future Boyle becomes at best, an expensive 4th liner. Good player, awkward contract. That said, let’s finish this post on a positive note: If a somewhat generous contract to a non essential player is the biggest issue of the Rangers off season we’d all be pretty happy wouldn’t we?

Artem Anisimov Press Release

Here is the press release for the Artem Anisimov signing:

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH FORWARD ARTEM ANISIMOV

New York, July 8, 2011 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with forward Artem Anisimov on a new contract.

Anisimov, 23, skated in 82 games with the Rangers last season, registering 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points, along with 20 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in goals, assists, points, and shots on goal (190). He also tallied career-highs in power play goals (three), power play assists (five) and power play points (eight). Anisimov tied for third on the team in assists, ranked fifth in points, sixth in goals, fourth in shots, and tied for the team lead with 21 even strength assists, and ranked second with 36 even strength points. He is one of four Rangers to have skated in all 82 games, and has now appeared in 164 consecutive contests. Anisimov ranked third on the Rangers with a career-high, 10 multi-point performances, including a career best, four assists on January 19 vs. Toronto. The Rangers posted a record of 14-2-1 when he tallied a goal and were 24-6-2 when he registered a point. Anisimov reached the 40-point plateau for the first time in his career with a goal on March 20 at Pittsburgh, and skated in his 100th career NHL contest on November 14 vs. Edmonton. In addition, Anisimov tallied his first career playoff point with a goal on April 20 vs. Washington.

The 6-4, 200-pounder has skated in 165 career games with the Rangers, registering 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points, along with 52 penalty minutes. In 2009-10, Anisimov ranked among the NHL rookie leaders in several statistical categories, including ninth in goals (12), 10th in points (28) and tied for 15th in assists (16). He was also one of four rookies in the league to appear in all 82 games that season. Anisimov recorded his first NHL point with an assist on October 8, 2009 at Washington, and made his NHL debut on February 3, 2009 vs. Atlanta.

Internationally, Anisimov has represented Russia in several tournaments, most recently at the 2010 World Championship in Germany. He registered one goal and two assists, along with six penalty minutes and a plus-three rating in nine contests to help Russia capture a silver medal. Anisimov has also won a bronze medal with Russia at the 2008 World Junior Championship, and a silver medal at the 2007 World Junior Championship.

The Yaroslavl, Russia native was originally selected as the Rangers’ second round choice, 54th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Rangers Re-Sign Artem Anisimov

Glen Sather has been very busy today.  Just minutes after locking up Mike Sauer for two years, the Rangers have locked up Artem Anisimov for two years as well (per Andrew Gross).  Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but I’d expect around a $1.85 million cap hit for Anisimov, similar to the Brandon Dubinsky deal for his first RFA years.  This was a big signing, considering Anisimov was the only Ranger eligible for offer sheets.

Update: Anisimov’s deal is two years at $1.875 million per year.  I believe I hit this one right on the nose.

So, Where Do We Go From Here Artie?

A visitor on the site recently bemoaned the lack of consideration Anisimov has been getting when people discuss the Rangers core. Everyone acknowledges the Callahan’s, Dubinsky’s, Lundqvist’s, Staal’s and McDonagh’s just to name a few. Those players as well as Gaborik, Richards etc are obvious, important parts of the Rangers future. Even this summer, where people have been fretting about other teams poaching the likes of Callahan and co. with offer sheets (prior today of course) not much air time was given to the status of Anisimov. So why no (read: not enough) love for Anisimov?

This is just my personal opinion but it’s not that Anisimov doesn’t get love. Far from it, but he is a frustrating player. Before we get on to why he doesn’t get enough love let’s acknowledge what he has accomplished. Touted as a first round talent the young Russian slipped to the grateful Rangers in the second round. Since then, the young center has developed via Hartford to play a solid role on the Rangers. A solid rookie year in the AHL was followed up by an explosive second year before two solid seasons in the NHL as a Ranger led us to this off season. He has indeed, made a lot of progress for a young man.

But here’s my personal gripe regarding Anisimov. The following scouting report is a selection of scout’s comments with commentary from the report writer. It’s from an article back in Anisimov’s draft year, a few months before the talented Russian was taken in the 2006 draft;

“He dominated and I know a lot of scouts left the game saying, now I know what he can do. There’s a lot to like there but why don’t you see it every night?”…… Anisimov has loads of potential and it is easy to get seduced by his combination of skill and size…..“He is skinny and weak but he has some ability with the puck.” I’ve seen him be average and the next night he is so far above everybody else”

What is the first thing that you notice about that report? The first thing that stood out for me was the accuracy of it while the second thing was that Anisimov really hasn’t changed a great deal from that report. He is still prone to inconsistency; disappearing for stretches then wowing you with his natural talent. He is still weak on the puck and still needs to add weight/muscle to his frame to maximise his talent.

So how long is too long? At what point will Anisimov kick on and take it to another level? Do you wait and hope he becomes a genuinely top end player? Make no mistake; ‘Artie’ is already a good NHL player but there’s room for more. That’s the frustrating thing, there is room for so much more but given the time elapsed between that telling scouting report and where we are today, will we ever see more? That’s why Anisimov faces a relatively uncertain future. Derek Stepan has overtaken him in one year, Brad Richards is on the scene as the clear number one pivot and there’s plenty of young talent elsewhere in the system. Clocks ticking Artie.

Grachev, RFA, Qualifying Offer Notes

After the draft ended yesterday, Glen Sather was pretty candid about the RFA situations, qualifying offers given, and the Evgeny Grachev trade. Regarding Grachev, it appears he asked out of NY over a year ago, and that the Rangers had been shopping him all year. St. Louis was the only team interested, which severely limits his trade value. That surely explains not only the trade, but the lack of return for a kid with that much potential. It does make you wonder why he wanted out though.

As for the RFAs, Slats stated that all RFAs have been given qualifying offers except for Matt Gilroy. Gilroy QO of $2.3 million was too much for the Rangers, who offered him a separate deal, which he rejected. Gilroy will now hit the open market on July 1. As for the remaining QO’s, the dollar value is as follows:

Artem Anisimov – $803,250
Brian Boyle – $605,000
Ryan Callahan – $2.4 million
Brandon Dubinsky – $2.0 million
Mike Sauer – $550,000

Slats does not expect the Rangers to sign any pending RFAs prior to July 1, which gives them flexibility to go after UFAs, particularly Brad Richards.

The Prospect and Whale Low-down (part 3)

Over the last week we have posted the first two parts of the great Q &A we had between Brian Ring and Bob Crawford from the Connecticut Whale. Check them out here and here. Bob and Brian discussed everything from the best players during their time with the CT organisation to the current crop of promising Rangers prospects. Today is the final part of the series. Enjoy the read, I know I enjoyed it.

Regarding Evgeny Grachev; has his development come on between his first and second years as a pro and how?

Bob: I think Grachev made real good progress last season.  I think he’s a perfect example of that dominant Junior player who found that in the AHL his size, hands and shot would not by themselves let him control games.  He did a much better job this past year of picking up the pace of his game, using his size to protect the puck and disciplining himself to bring a consistent effort every night.  He’ll be a third-year pro next year, and as big as he is, I think he is still in the process of refining his strength from that of a teenager to that of a man.  If he can make some big strides in that area, I think he’ll be a quality NHLer for sure.

Brian: I think he definitely has improved and his scoring totals reflect that, and his plus/minus showed a +34 shift from last year to this year, for whatever that’s really worth. This past year, he definitely adopted a more physical style at times and started to use his frame to drive the net. I think in that regard, he is pretty similar to Anisimov, as once Artie started to use his size his production really started to pick up. Grachev has great size and talent, and once he puts it all together every night he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

So many high scoring players in juniors come to the AHL and struggle offensively. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for forwards making the jump?

Bob: I think, more than anything, it’s the speed of the game and the strength of the players.  Guys find themselves with much less time to make a play, much less room, and up against stronger and smarter players, than they were used to in Junior or college.  Some have another level to take it to, and adjust very quickly, some take a year or two, or several years, to figure out how to change their games and achieve success in the AHL, and some, unfortunately, never can make that adjustment, or never can find the will to do so.

Brian: I think it definitely boils down to size and speed. Not exactly ground-breaking analysis, but when you enter this league after playing against teenagers or guys that may not go pro, it can be tough when you run into grown men that have played several years of professional hockey. You aren’t going to have as much time to make a play, or as much space to operate in. Not to mention you probably aren’t playing with players you know or are comfortable with. So factor in all those things and you can understand why there could be an adjustment period.

What are the immediate Rangers chances of the young defensemen that didn’t make the big club last year?

Bob: Tomas Kundratek, to me, has the look of a young colt who is only just figuring out how good he can be.  His skating, size and effort level have me thinking that he is not far away from pushing the NHL.  Pavel Valentenko, if he makes similar strides to last year, will definitely be ready for a look, and it will be interesting to see if Blake Parlett can continue his upward trajectory.

Brian: I think Valentenko could probably step in right now if they needed him to. Yes, I am pretty high on “Tank”. Blake Parlett is probably not far away, I know he’s drawn some comps to Dan Girardi, which would be great. Tomas Kundratek I think is probably a little farther, but another year of development will be great for him, because he did make big strides this year. It will be interesting to see how Michael Del Zotto fits in this year as well, I guess that depends on what happens with New York’s roster and in camp.

Do you think the nucleus of these prospects that start in CT through 11/12 can provide CT with a playoff appearance – and why?

Bob: I definitely think the Whale can be a playoff team again, based on the organization’s overall skill level up front and a young group of D-men having another year of experience.  Hopefully one of the goaltenders will take charge as a 50-60-game dependable backstop…if that happens, I really like how the team could look for the ’11-’12 season.

Brian: Definitely. It’s a skilled bunch and GM Jim Schoenfeld, along with coaches Ken Gernander, J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller, have done a phenomenal job running this team. I’m very excited to see this years’ team, I think it’s going to be a great crop of prospects and they have as good a chance to make the playoffs and contend as any team does.

Again, a final thanks to Bob Crawford and Brian Ring of the Connecticut Whale for taking their time to provide their unique insight into the Whale and the Rangers prospects. Check back throughout season (and off season) for regular looks at the CT Whale and how the Rangers prospects are doing ‘down on the farm’! Make sure you follow Brian and the Whale on twitter at @brianring and @CTWhale!

 

Why the Rangers Can Replicate the Bruins (Part one)

It all starts with a simple formula. Be difficult to beat. Have a world class goaltender and a deep defensive corps. Be a gritty team and forecheck well. Don’t lose games on special teams. Then every now and again flash some offensive depth. The only significant difference between the Rangers and the Bruins appears to be the absence of a Zdeno Chara type defenseman (Dylan McIlrath has the potential to be similar down the road) and to the naked eye, the two teams seem similar in composition.

So what is it that makes the Bruins the new reigning Stanley Cup champions and the Rangers a young up and coming team that still has to battle just to make the playoffs? There are a few reasons for the difference in status even though there are many similarities. Let’s start by looking at the similarities.

Home Grown Core

The Bruins won the Cup on the back of a drafted core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Taylor Seguin and Milan Lucic amongst the forwards. Their top three playoff scorers were Bruin draftees. Then look at the styles of some of these players. Marchand is the gritty, energetic two way presence (think Ryan Callahan), Milan Lucic is the power forward with skill (Brandon Dubinsky possesses some similar qualities), Krejci is the playmaking center (Derek Stepan?) and Tyler Seguin is the skilled young center making his way up the depth chart (Anisimov anyone?).

World Class Goaltending

Henrik Lundqvist meet Tim Thomas. If there was a better goaltender in the league than Tim Thomas from game 1 in October to game 7 in June I didn’t see him, but boy was Lundqvist close. Thomas benefitted from a healthier team, a more experienced team, and the presence of a Norris trophy monster on the blue line, but both clubs had the ability to steal games they had no right winning because of the guy in net. If you discuss the top goalies in the world right now, there’s no way these two aren’t at the forefront of the discussion.

Defensive Depth

This is an area where the teams are similar, but the Bruins are slightly more advanced. It all starts with Zdeno Chara for the Bruins and rightly so. No player in the league (on the blue line) possesses the same blend of size, skill and leadership as the Norris trophy winner. The only person that comes close to the same mix (at the same level of performance) is Shea Weber. Marc Staal is not at this level, but he could get there. Physical, big and absolutely core to the Rangers, Staal does a bit of everything for his team with perhaps even better shut down ability.

The main reason the Rangers defense lags behind right now, is Mike Del Zotto and Tomas Kaberle. The Bruins possess good puck moving ability with Kaberle (despite at times being maligned in the playoffs, he was still a solid addition), Dennis Seidenberg and of course Chara. The Rangers need an improved Del Zotto to compete in this area, but the Rangers defense does possess puck moving ability throughout the top 6. Both teams placed in the top 5 in goals against this year during the regular season.

Special Teams

It might surprise some people, but the Bruins were only 16th in the league on the penalty kill while the Rangers were 10th. The year before, the Bruins were 3rd and the Rangers 8th. Both teams have good defensive depth and it usually is reflected on the kill. Both teams can score on the PK (as the Bruins showed in game 7 of the Finals). Both teams were very similar on the PP, though neither would like to boast about their units. Despite both teams having depth at forward, the Rangers’ 16.9% and the Bruins 16.2% placed them 18th and 20th respectively. Not great at all. The Bruins would have benefited from a full year from Marc Savard while the Rangers are going to pursue Brad Richards in part for his powerplay prowess.

You want more similarities?

Both teams have placed recent emphasis on young players. The Bruins have recently integrated Seguin, Marchand and Adam McQuaid while they have solid additions on their way with Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner and Toronto’s high pick from this year’s draft to name a few. The Rangers have benefitted greatly this year from the integration of Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer and can look forward to Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas and Carl Hagelin to name a few. The Bruins are more advanced because they moved prospects/picks for help (think Kaberle, Kelly, etc) and it paid off with the ultimate prize. However, in terms of future talent there is no doubt the Rangers have a lot to look forward to.

We’ve had a look at the similarities between the two sides and this list isn’t exhaustive; for example if you consider the actual depth of the forward groups beyond just the home grown cores. There was no need to spell out the obvious; original six franchises, droughts before each team’s recent cup wins etc. Check back to see what the key differences are, and why the Rangers can replicate the Bruins with a few changes.