Posts tagged: Brandon Prust

What is Brandon Prust’s True Level?

The feistiness Brandon Prust brings to the Rangers is well known. Every game Prust plays he leaves it all on the ice. What wasn’t expected prior to this season (despite flashes of it last season) was the offense he brought to the table earlier this year, as well as the brilliant chemistry he established with Brian Boyle.

Prust hasn’t done much recently (offensively speaking) going pointless in 6 and minus 5 in 6. Were we spoilt by the offense he brought earlier in the season or can we expect more? Can he elevate his game further and become a 30-40 point gritty third liner or is he an 8-10 goal, bottom 6 energy guy? Prust was never a prolific scorer at junior level so the answer may be somewhere in between. With London of the OHL he had a career high of 52 points and never had a 20 goal season although in his defence he was buried on some very talented teams featuring Robbie Shremp, Corey Perry and Dave Bolland up front. John Tortorella bemoaned some of the fights Prust gets into, even criticizing himself for not stopping the chippy winger scrapping. The coach moaned publicly because Prust has made himself into a valuable role player and the Rangers are better served with him on the ice rather than in the box.

The Rangers have already got far more out of Prust than they likely expected when he came over from Calgary. He’s a good team guy and represents good cap value when you look at his comparables around the league, however his start to the season, and subsequent slip in production, allows for the question of what is Prust’s true level. In my opinion, it was a mistake not to sit Prust during the spell earlier in the year where he picked up injury after injury. However in defence of the coaches it’s hard to sit a guy with such desire and dedication, especially when he comes out with quotes like ‘It’s Just Pain’. If the Rangers get to the playoffs they’ll be infinitely more dangerous with a fully fit, re-charged Prust flying all over the ice so regardless of what Prust’s true offensive level is, he needs to be fresh to do what he’s best at.

With Callahan Out, Prust Personifies The Rangers

When the Rangers lost Ryan Callahan to injury in December, there were many questions about how the Rangers were going to cope with the injury. Callahan was the prime example of the Rangers new mentality of grind it out. He hits, he forechecks, he scores, and he plays great defense. He also does it all against the oppositions top lines. It is very tough to replace all of that. Luckily for the Rangers, they got Brandon Prust from Calgary along with someone else, forgot his name, in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Prust has taken over where Callahan left off (minus the offense).

Prust has been one of the best finds in recent memory for the Rangers. He may not score as much as Callahan, but he does everything else just as much, and replaces the missing offense with a good record in fights. He has been someone the Rangers have looked to to invigorate a team decimated by injuries. He is nothing short of a warrior (as line mate Brian Boyle called him), and he does it all with more injuries than some NHL teams. He has been playing stellar hockey with a sore shoulder, a bruised ankle, and a sore hand. One of those is enough to most players out of the lineup.

When the Rangers need a spark, Prust drops the gloves, despite the shoulder and hand. When the Rangers need a good shift, it’s Prust out there to pressure the opposition. When the Rangers need solid defense, it’s Prust out there against the opposition’s top lines. He went from a borderline fourth line player last season to an integral piece of the Rangers core. And he did it in less than one season. The Rangers would be a completely different team without Prust. What a find he is turning out to be.

Del Zotto, Grachev Up; Weise Down

The Rangers made a few roster moves after last night’s win against Atlanta. With the injuries to Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust, the Rangers recalled Michael Del Zotto and Evgeny Grachev. To make room on the roster, the Rangers returned Dale Weise to the AHL. Weise was a healthy scratch in last night’s game, and had looked a little out of place in his second stint with the Rangers this season.

Grachev and MDZ had been lighting up the AHL, and both look prime for a call up to get a second chance with the club. Even if the call up is temporary, both have earned it. Both players look to have put their slow starts behind them, and appear to have found their game. Of course, this call up is dependent on the severity of the Girardi and Prust injuries. All signs point to both being back after the All Star Game, so this may be a quick two game cameo appearance for both players.

Relentless Rangers Fight Through More Injuries For Another Late Win

To say the Rangers keep finding a way is becoming an understatement of epic proportions at this point.  This team lost two more key players in Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust during the course of this game and somehow managed to battle back from another deficit heading into the third period.  This team is decimated by injuries and down on talent, but you can never question their heart and desire to fight.  Throw in a little Zuccarello magic and you get tonight’s 3-2 shootout win.

The Rangers opened the game with some energy and playing their system, at least for the first couple of shifts, and then they seemed to go to sleep for most of the first period.  The Thrashers would get the only goal of the period at 6:47 by former Ranger Nik Antropov.  The play was one where the Thrashers outworked the Rangers finally working the puck back to the point for a Tobias Enstrom shot that saw Antropov outmuscle Eminger for the deflection.

Early in the second period, Wojtek Wolski would convert to tie the game for the Rangers.  On the play Wolski would knock Hainsey off the puck, and Girardi would have a huge pinch to keep it alive, which allowed Stepan to get it along the wall and fire a perfect pass for an even better display of hands by Wolski for the goal.

Just before the middle of the period Andrew Ladd drove Marc Staal into the backboards head/neck/shoulder first and Girardi comes over and drops glove to protect his partner. I thought the hit was clean, but great for Girardi to stick up for his other half and take the fight with Ladd.  That should help erase some of the fans disdain for his lack of a reaction to the Gaborik/Carcillo incident last year.  During the fight, Ladd appeared to have busted Girardi’s nose and he would not return to the game.  After the game we learned that he pulled a ribcage muscle and is day-to-day.

Late in the second, Anthony Stewart would give the Thrashers the lead again.  Stewart would battle Ryan McDonagh for position in front when he was struck by Bryan Little’s wrister.  As luck would have it the puck would drop straight down at his feet leaving McDonagh on the wrong side of him and allowing Stewart to sweep it by Lundqvist.  For me McDonagh got unlucky on the play as he had beaten Stewart on the initial play for position in the slot, but the breaks went against him.

In the third, minus Prust and Girardi, the Rangers had a golden chance as they got a 5-on-3 power play.  In the end, they dropped the ball once again and did not even create any chances until late in the advantage when Marian Gaborik finally took a shot leading to two rebound chances for Wojtek Wolski that Pavelec turned away.

When they failed to score on that huge opportunity you had to think with their depleted lineup that they were going to come up short on the evening.  It was at that point Brian Boyle once again stepped to the forefront.  Boyle took the puck from the neutral zone drove by both Byfuglien and Enstrom and used a backhander off Pavelec’s glove to tie it with 5:19 left.

A quick overtime led to no goals and then the shootout.

In the shootout, as I tweeted, Mats Zuccarello worked his Hobbit magic again, going to the same move he did in Dallas, slow walking the play quick deke to the backhand drag to the forehand score move (video).

  • This team and their fight is something special that you cannot measure in terms of points.  You watch them fight through injuries to get comeback wins.  You watch Brandon Prust have to literally be forced off the bench by the coach cause he will not stop playing with an injured leg.  They just will not be denied.
  • On the injuries Prust’s x-rays came back negative while Girardi is day-to-day with a rib injury.  As a result the Rangers recalled Evgeny Grachev and Michael Del Zotto while sending down Dale Weise.
  • In terms of players Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer really stood out to me tonight.  McDonagh had a couple of huge open ice hits and played another excellent game as if he has been in the league nine years not nine games.  Sauer did what Sauer does and with Girardi out for the third he moved up to play top pair with Staal and did beautifully.

The Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust Show

Throughout the myriad of injuries the Rangers have sustained to their forward depth, there has been only one constant: the third line of Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle, and Brandon Prust. When Marian Gaborik, Erik Christensen, and Ryan Callahan went down with injuries, and the rest of the lines were jumbled to try and find something that worked, this line stayed the same. They have simply become the most consistent Ranger line this season, and it showed last night. Coach John Tortorella puts so much trust in the trio, that they were matched against the Sedin line for almost every single second they were out there. Not sure if you noticed, but they were damn successful too.

What may have escaped several people is that this third line led comprised three of the top four time-on-ice leaders from last night’s game. Only Brandon Dubinsky (second in TOI, with 18:50) cracked the top-four (Fedotenko – 19:30, Boyle – 18:35, Prust – 17:53). To put things in perspective, Gaborik finished with 17:06 TOI. That’s a big chunk of ice time to be giving a third line that consists of two journeymen and an underachieving first round draft pick from that epic 2003 class. All three have put in the effort required to not only make the team, but to get bumped to the third line and play significant minutes against the opponent’s best lines.

In fact, looking at the QUALCOMP numbers (quality of competition faced), this third line is right up there with the Callahan, Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov line in regards to quality of competition faced among forwards, which is the highest on the team*. They are 3rd (Fedotenko), 5th (Boyle), and 6th (Prust) in QUALCOMP, with the aforementioned “Pack Line” holding spots (1st, 4th, 2nd respectively). That speaks volumes to the trust put into this line, and the results given by what has become one of the best third lines in the NHL.

In past seasons, the Rangers third line was the last line of defense before the “dreaded fourth line” came out on the ice. It was generally a spot to place players that had a spot in the future of the organization, but weren’t ready to crack the top-six yet (Dubinsky, Callahan). This year, the third line is a weapon, and has at least two players that will (likely) continue to play with the team in the near future. The line can score (Boyle is 2nd on the team in goals), the line can play defense, they can grind, they control the puck, they play the boards, they kill penalties, they play on the powerplay. They have become a backbone for this Rangers club, and a lead-by-example group that leaves it all out on the ice. In short, this third line does it all.

*-Not including those who haven’t played a full season, like Jeremy Williams and Evgeny Grachev.

Drury Back, Decisions Ahead

Although he still has plenty (potentially) to give to the Rangers, with the news of Chris Drury’s pending return – a welcome return at that – Erik Christensen is starring down the barrel of a healthy scratch. Luckily for him, Derek Boogaard doesn’t like to stay healthy. It was telling that during the Rangers demolition of the Caps Christensen only received roughly 11 minutes of ice time even though the game was already won entering the 3rd period. When a game is won early on it’s often a chance for a coach to rest his core players, try and get struggling players going with extended playing time and we saw that to an extent as Frolov got good PP minutes and even Todd White got power play time. Unfortunately for EC, he still didn’t get a ton of minutes during this game.

Drury’s return is a welcome for everyone but Christensen and White, although even more players will be concerned when Vinnie Prospal gets back later this month. Drury is an excellent face off guy, a lead by example type and will naturally help the penalty kill and while his offensive skills are clearly diminished from his Buffalo days he can still be counted on to add skill to the bottom 6 or chip in on a scoring line to some degree. Drury is this team’s undoubted leader – as indicated by Torts – and he’ll play regardless. How much he plays depends on the next game or two as while he looks to get game fitness a lot will depend on the chemistry and success of other lines. The next few games are indeed very important to Drury’s season. We should know quickly where Tortorella wants to use him and it will be key for Drury to show that he can be more than a checking forward who leads the penalty kill. How quickly he gets back up to speed may define Drury’s season.

The next two games are critical for Erik Christensen and arguably his future as a Ranger and perhaps even as an NHL’er. It’s very likely that Todd White will be the first casualty but once Boogaard (and then Prospal) are available other bodies will need to be sacrificed. Looking around the roster the obvious next candidate is EC. Many players such as Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle have taken advantage of the early season absences of key forwards and have made themselves invaluable to the Blueshirt cause. In fact, Brandon Prust may have been the Rangers best forward through November and early December such has been his impact all over the ice. All of this brings us back to EC and his key run of upcoming games. The game against the Pens and the game against the Coyotes may be his last chances to convince as the Rangers will likely go with the most physical side at their disposal for the Flyers game thereafter. Should EC be scratched he need look no further than Matt Gilroy to see how hard it is to get back into the team on a regular basis, even though Gilroy’s play isn’t deserving of a seat in the press box.

With all this being considered EC’s position needs to be assessed. He has obvious ability and flashes it occasionally, to the point where he may be tempting as trade bait, especially when you consider his contract is relatively small. With his ability to play wing and center as well as his talent in the skills competition EC may in fact be playing the next few games as an audition such is his tenuous position on the roster. As Torts indicated, the kids are safe (as they should be) so EC clearly is in a numbers game that looks like one he cannot win. All that makes the next two games huge for Christensen and not just Chris Drury.

Injury Report: Prust OK, Gaborik Progressing

As per Steve Zipay, Brandon Prust’s eye is just fine, after being checked out by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary last night. Prust caught a high stick to the right eye from Gregory Campbell in the second period of last night’s 3-2 win over the Bruins. Jeremy Williams was recalled for tonight’s game against the Devils as a precaution, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Prust sit tonight as a precaution.

As for Marian Gaborik, who separated his left shoulder after a hit from behind by Colby Armstrong in the home opener, he is progressing nicely after receiving platelet-rich plasma treatment on Tuesday. The treatment was considered a success, and the Rangers do not anticipate Gaborik needing a second treatment.

Prust To Receive QO, Christensen Will Not

As per Steve Zipay, the Rangers will extend a qualifying offer to RFA Brandon Prust. Prust, who made $500,000 last season, would receive an offer of approximately $550,000-$600,000 for a one year deal. By extending a QO, the Rangers ensure that they will receive compensation if Prust signs an offer sheet. Compensation will vary based on amount of the deal (details here).

Meanwhile, the Rangers will not extend a QO to RFA Erik Christensen. Christensen, who made $850,000 last season, would receive a QO of approximately $900,000, probably a bit more, for one year. In doing so, the Rangers hope to sign Christensen to a deal for more years, and less money. It is risky, but considering that Christensen was claimed off waivers, it was unlikely he would receive a big offer from another team.

Weise vs. Prust vs. Byers

The Rangers, as they approach the 2010 offseason, will have a few difficult choices to make. One of those choices includes the curious case of Dale Weise, Brandon Prust, and Dane Byers. Each player brings a similar game to the table, but only one has seen significant NHL time to prove he belongs. With third/fourth line players Brian Boyle, Aaron Voros, and Donald Brashear already under contract for next season, and Chris Drury very quickly becoming a role player, the Rangers are looking at a few extra forwards. Unfortunately, none of these forwards belong on a team’s top-six. It appears there are only two spots available on these two lines. Those two spots are going to go to two of Weise, Prust and Byers. (For arguments sake, let’s assume that if Brashear isn’t back, that Jody Shelley will be, leaving the same number of open spots.)

Starting with Dale Weise, the only player of the trio under contract for next season, has never played an NHL game in his career. Still on his entry level contract at a $700k cap hit, Weise was called up briefly at the end of last season, only to sit in the press box watching the Rangers miss the playoffs. The 2008 fourth round pick put up 50 points (28-22) in 73 games with Hartford this past season, adding 114 PIMs to his point total. He is a prototypical power forward in the AHL. Those who watch him on a daily basis say that the winger is ready for the NHL. He may not put up 28 goals, but he would be able to skate with the pros and hold his own as a grinder. Weise, to the Rangers, represents a cheap, somewhat versatile bottom-six forward who may or may not succeed at the NHL level. What Weise has working for him is the fact that he is signed, a RW (which the Rangers severely lack), and that coach John Tortorella is on the record saying he wishes he could have found a spot for him to play. What he does not have going for him is that he does not have to pass through waivers, and he is unproven at the NHL level.

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Four Big Rangers Cap Bargains

If you follow me on Twitter, then you saw some tweets about the four players that currently are in the Rangers organization that will provide the team with some much needed cap bargains. Those four players are Corey Potter, Erik Christensen, Brandon Prust, and Jody Shelley. Each brings something unique to the table and can potentially fill a hole in the Rangers at a very cheap price. Let’s go ahead and look at these four players.

Corey Potter: The UFA defenseman has been a little overlooked in this organization because of the young, high-end depth and the old, crappy contracts. According to those who watch him daily, Potter is NHL ready as a steady defensive defenseman with solid positioning. He isn’t a big crease clearing guy, but he only made $600k last season. Even at a 20% raise, Potter comes in around $700k and would be a solid, cheap defenseman on a blue line that has $11.5 million tied into two third pairing defensemen.

Erik Christensen: The RFA winger, picked up off the waiver wire from Anaheim, played fairly well during his stint with the Rangers this year. He was a bit inconsistent, but on this team, it’s not at all surprising. In his 49 games, Christensen put up a line of 8-18-26 with a respectable 5.2 GVT. His 2009-2010 salary was $800k, so a modest raise puts Christensen at $900k for a 2nd-3rd line forward. Not too shabby.

Brandon Prust: The surprise (to some) of the Olli Jokinen trade, Prust is a high energy player who hits, fights, and even chips in a few goals here and there. Prust finished with a line of 4-5-9 and a 1.8 GVT in 26 games with the Rangers, with 65 PIMS. Prust showed he can put the puck in the net when playing on the surprising line with Artem Anisimov and Jody Shelley. The RFA was signed at the league minimum last season, and even with a modest raise of 20%, that puts him at $600k, which is just above the league minimum for a 4th line winger. On a team riddled with bad contracts for 3rd-4th line players, a cheap one is a welcomed sign.

Jody Shelley: The biggest surprise, in terms of results, from the 2010 Trade Deadline acquisitions was Shelley. The tough guy struggled at first, but really clicked with Anisimov and Prust at the end of the season. A seasoned veteran who is a strong locker room presence, Shelley would be a welcomed replacement to Donald Brashear, who has been banished to Hartford. The UFA made $700k last season, and will probably make the same this year on a one year deal. Considering this organization will still be paying Brashear next season too (unless he is traded), then Shelley is considered to be a bargain at half the price and double the playing time.

With the Rangers in dire straits regarding the salary cap, they will need significant cap bargains to field a competitive team for the 2010-2011 season. Re-signing the likes of Potter, Prust, Shelley and Christensen give the Rangers much needed cheap flexibility on the forward corps, and a much needed cheap defensive defenseman on the blue line. Whether the Rangers re-sign all four is up to Glen Sather, but when it comes to bargains, you aren’t going to find many better ones from within the organization.