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Posts tagged: Christian Thomas

Prospect Watch: Point Producing Juniors

The Rangers can watch their prospects in Canadian juniors with great satisfaction right now. Around a month in to the season and several prospects are scoring at an excellent rate headlined by Shane McColgan who has an impressive 17 points in 14 games for the struggling Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. With his side sitting second from bottom in their division with a 5-9-1 record, McColgan’s -6 rating is the only blot on his personal stat line this season.

A couple of other players are having great starts in junior. JT Miller continues to impress for Plymouth in the OHL and with 17 points in 15 games he’s showing an impressive offensive side. Leading his team offensively Miller has been at the forefront of Plymouth’s improved form as they have gone 5-3-2 in their past 10.

The third prospect scoring at a fast rate in juniors is Mike St Croix. St Croix has 15 points in 16 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings and is doing it on the power play as well as at even strength.  Of his 5 goals so far this season, 3 have been with the man advantage. The Kings, like the Whalers in the O, have been a team on the rise and have 6 wins in their past 10 to move 4 points behind Kootenay and Medicine Hat in their division.

All three prospects discussed above have something in common; they seem to be offensive go-to guys for their clubs. Scoring at impressive rates, all three seem to be impact players and that is something that bodes well for their professional futures. A few years ago it would have been difficult to find this many Rangers prospects making positive impressions at the same time. The prospect pipeline is certainly in a healthy state right now.

Quick hit time:

  • Chris Kreider continued his impressive season this past weekend. BC moved to a 6-1 record last weekend as first beat UMass 4-2 on Friday (Kreider was scoreless) and then thumped the same club 6-3 whereby Kreider was all over the scoreboard. Grabbing 2 goals and an assist, Kreider had 6 shots and went +2 as he had the game winner as well as a PP goal too. Kreider has 11 points in 8 games this season.
  • Scott Stajcer continues to improve as the season goes on. The rust seems to be gone as the goalie has improved to a 2-2-2 record but has a strong .920 save percentage and a much healthier 2.62 GAA. Stajcer stopped 39 of 40 shots on Sunday as Owen Sound beat Windsor 4-1.
  • Christian Thomas is sporting an ugly -8 rating in just 13 games as his Oshawa Generals continue to play mediocre hockey with a 7-8-0-2 record this season.
  • Sam Noreau is off to a nice start for Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL, going 1+7 in 11 games as well as sporting a strong +8 rating.
  • Despite being pointless in his last 2 games Jesper Fasth still has 14 points in 16 games for HV71 in the SEL.
  • Blueliner Mikhail Pashnin has 2 goals for CSKA in the KHL (in 19 games).

Christian Thomas is currently sitting through a ten game suspension in the OHL for high sticking. The ban began on 24th October. With high draft picks Boone Jenner and Niklas Jensen in the line-up, Oshawa should have – at least offensively – been able to cope without Thomas but they’ve been whipped 5-2 and 6-2 in their past two games. Neither player has managed to score in the defeats so Oshawa will want to get Thomas back as quickly as possible.

Prospect Watch: Consistency Abound

Rangers’ prospects are showing more offensive consistency this season than the players already donning red white and blue.

Mid round prospect Jesper Fasth continued his strong play over the past week and is averaging a point per game as we approach November. The Swedish youngster is now up to 14 points in 14 games for his HV71 side in the SEL and is second in the league in scoring. The SEL is a relatively low scoring league and is often veteran heavy in regard to the offensive leaders so it’s a great achievement for Fasth to be among the league’s best scorers.

Considering Fasth scored 16 points all of last season for HV71 it gives you a little more appreciation to quite how good his start has been. Indeed 16 points in 36 games was considered a solid year for a 19 year old in 09/10 so Fasth is really blossoming this season.

Another player impacting the box score on a consistent basis is Michael St Croix in the WHL. The Edmonton Oil King has 12 points in 13 games to go with a +1 rating and has notched a couple of PP goals as well. St Croix however will expect to kick on somewhat as the young center scored over a point/game last season with 75 in 68. With the Oil Kings sitting on an 8-3-1-1 record St Croix will hope to become the focal point of the in-form side.

Another player in the WHL is Shane McColgan and he’s another player that keeps troubling the scorers as he leads his Kelowna side with 14 points in 11 games. Unfortunately the -6 rating isn’t as impressive. McColgan looks like a good pick by the Rangers however, as he continues to produce despite his Rockets team struggling in 4th place in their division with a 4-7-1 record. McColgan will be looking to lead his side to a better record.

Quick Hit Time:

  • Dylan McIlrath has 3 points (1 goal) in 8 games for Moose Jaw the WHL to go with 18 PIMS and a -1 rating. Moose Jaw are hovering around the .500 mark so far this season. Rangers’ try-out Colin Bowman has 4 goals and an assist from the blueline for Mcilrath’s club.
  • Chris Kreider has 8 points (4+4) in 6 games as he continues his solid season for BC. Notoriously a slow starter it all bodes well for a very strong year from arguably the Rangers most important prospect. Hell, when available he may even slot straight into the top line LW spot in New York, such is the flux at the position.
  • He’s only played 3 games but uMass senior Danny Hobbs has 5 points in 3 games so far this season. Hobbs has made great strides offensively each season going from 2, to 9, to 28 total points. Given his start he could very well beat the 28 mark this year.
  • Despite an ugly -8 rating, Christian Thomas continues to pick up offensively and now has 10 points in 13 games. By all accounts Thomas is trying to do it all for his side and could benefit from stepping back slightly and concentrating on his own game. With a rookie goalie in net Oshawa appear to be building towards next season so don’t rule out Thomas becoming an appealing target for contenders in the OHL.
  • Scott Stajcer appears to be beginning to shake of the rust of the preseason as he has improved his personal stats for Owen Sound to a 1-2-0-1 record, with a 2.91GAA and a .901 save %. Given his first couple of starts those numbers aren’t bad. The problem for Stajcer is the three-headed monster that is the goaltending situation in Owen Sound whose 6-8-0-1 record is none too impressive.

Prospect Watch: Miller Time

He had a good camp and now he’s truly settling in to his OHL rookie campaign. JT Miller scored 2 goals against Sarnia on Saturday night as he played his most impressive game of the young season, offensively speaking. Miller has 9 points in 9 games to begin the year which is no mean feat for the youngster as his Plymouth team has begun the season winning just four of their first 10 games. You may have heard of the name sitting right behind Miller on team scoring: Andy Bathgate. If Miller can show offensive consistency all season Miller will keep his name in the immediate discussion for the professional ranks next season. It will be interesting to see whether Miller has any kind of college wall in junior as the OHL season is similar in length to the pros.

Miller may have left college for the junior circuit but two Ranger prospects are still making waves in college. While Chris Kreider is garnering a lot of attention for his solid start (rightly so) Danny Hobbs has kept pace with the BC winger as both players have 5 points in their first four games. Both players are among offensive leaders nationally. Hobbs’ numbers however may be more impressive on one hand as he has his 5 points in just 2 games however Kreider’s level of competition has been tougher. Kreider however seems to have a case of Rangeritis as he already has 10 penalty minutes on the season, a number he’d do well to keep as low as possible.

Prospect Quick Hits:

  • As we mentioned last week (before the bandwagon got rolling….) Jesper Fasth has been enjoying an exceptional start to his campaign in the SEL. How good? With his 11 points in 11 games to start the year Fasth (a 20 year old in the senior league) is 7th overall in league scoring. With a game winner and a power play goal to his credit, Fasth is getting goals in a variety of situations. America bound next year? At this rate, very likely.
  • Peter Čerešňák has had a solid start to the year for his OHL Petes side. With 5 points (1+4) and a +4 in his first 9 games the big defenseman seems to be settling in well to Canadian Junior. He’ll be an interesting one to follow throughout the year as he and Yogan look to lead the Petes.
  • Camp try outs doing well? He may not have been with the Rangers long but TJ Foster has been in great form for the WHL Oil Kings of Edmonton. He has 11 points in 11 games as he looks to earn another look from a big club. Maybe the Rangers will look at Foster again?
  • Scott Stajcer has had a rough start (rust?) back in the OHL. In his first two games Stajcer has two losses, an inflated GAA of 4.50 and a save percentage of just .859; Stajcer will be hoping to get back on track as he looks to stay relevant in the organisation. It’s hard not to think that Stajcer’s and Chad Johnson’s futures are closely entwined this season.
  • Boone Jenner is leading his club but Christian Thomas is slowly heating up. The Oshawa General has started scoring with more regularity and has now hit 7 points (4 goals) in 10 games. It’ll be hard to replicate last year given his start but as many people have said it’s not just about numbers for Thomas this season.

We’ll look in more detail throughout the next week or so at one or two of the prospects making some noise this season. The pipeline is still full folks.  

Prospect Watch – Crazy over Kreider

It’s the start of hockey season so it’s time to keep our regular check on the next wave of Rangers.

Chris Kreider has been guilty of slow starts in seasons past. Not this year. In the first two games of Boston College’s season, Kreider came up with big goals (and an assist) to help his side open the season in impressive fashion. Throw in a healthy +3 to boot and you have yourself, statistically a nice start to an important year.

Many expected/wanted Kreider to go pro and when he didn’t it raised eyebrows but Kreider needs to dominate and he appears to be heading towards that level of hockey. With his now well known speed still causing havoc, by all accounts Kreider appears a more rounded hockey player so far which only bodes well. Showing that he will be a core piece for BC this season, Kreider captured the MVP title in the ‘Ice Breaker’ tournament thanks to his offensive showing. If Kreider can have a dominating year, he’ll be a huge candidate to go straight to New York next season. Patience for now though.

A player that in part due to injury may have become slightly forgotten is Swedish draftee Jesper Fasth. After an impressive WJC last year, Fasth has made huge offensive strides in the SEL this season. With 10 points, 4 goals and a mighty +8 to begin the year with HV71 Fasth is showing he could become a great pick-up and add to the Rangers growing Swedish core. With a big season under his belt Fasth could pressure the likes of Thomas, Kreider and co. as the next wave of Rangers offense matures towards NYC.

Two players most Rangers fans are counting on are indeed Thomas, back in the OHL and joining him in Ontario, JT Miller. With an NHL contract under his belt and a new league to conquer, at least offensively Miller has started well with 5 points in 6 games. It will be interesting to see how Miller handles a much longer season – it will certainly stand him in good stead for professional play when the time comes. Thomas on the other hand has had a relatively muted start to his year when compared to his brilliant season, last time around. With 3 goals in 7 games Thomas is off to a decent but not hot start. Numbers aren’t the most critical part for Thomas this year – he needs to develop physically and get ready for his likely introduction to the pro ranks next season.

  • With a group of offensive kids like Kreider, Miller, Thomas and Fasth there is still a ton of skill on its way to New York. There may be plenty of players in New York looking over their shoulders if they have sub-par seasons this year thanks to the stream of prospects making their way through the system.

Selected Prospect Quick Hits:

  • Oscar Lindberg has started his SEL campaign going 1+2 in 9 games for AIK
  • Shane McColgan was goalless in 4 games but did have 5 helpers to open his season in the WHL
  • In the BCHL Steve Fogarty had 2+4 in 7 games for Penticton.
  • Scott Stajcer is still with Owen Sound after being returned to the OHL by the Rangers
  • Mikhail Pashnin was pointless in his first 10 for CSKA in the KHL

Each week we’ll focus on a few of the core prospects and provide some updates on other Rangers prospects doing good or bad as their year’s progress. Keep checking in. 

Thoughts on Rangers (Impressive) First Pre Season Roster

All the beat writers have announced the Rangers roster for the pre-season opener in Albany tomorrow against the basically bankrupt Devils. If you haven’t already seen it, here it is:

Goal: Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot

Defense: Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Brendan Bell, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath

Forwards: Sean Avery, Brandon Dubinsky, Dale Weise, Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell, Erik Christensen, Artem Anisimov, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque, Shane McColgan, Carl Hagelin

My first impression is one of excitement. The team going head to head with the Devils tomorrow has a ton of young talent on show with Christian Thomas, Carl Hagelin, JT Miller, Ryan Bourque and Tim Erixon. However, the young talent can relax because they’ll be playing in front of Henrik Lundqvist (at least to begin with) while there is also plenty of NHL experience among the skaters with Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery and Artem Anisimov leading the way for the veterans.

It’s when looking at the ‘veterans’ where it gets most exciting as even the veterans in this line-up (Bell, Eminger and Mitchell withstanding, to an extent) are some of the young Rangers core emphasising just how young and talented the Rangers franchise is from top to bottom.

Line’s would be hard to gauge and probably isn’t worth over analysing at this stage because the majority of the roster haven’t played together before. Dubinsky and Anisimov for example may be teamed together as they have been previously but may be split to provide some veteran leadership for some of the kids. Regardless though, there’s a ton of exciting possibilities to look forward to for tomorrow’s game.

A few players to watch: Watch out for Carl Hagelin and his skating ability while the clock really starts ticking for players such as Dale Weise, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen and Brendan Bell even though it ticks in different ways for each player. Weise and Christensen in particular are playing for their immediate NHL futures.

Quick note; as Andrew Gross acknowledges in his blog the first cuts from camp will be made after the Friday pre-season game in Newark, against the Devils once again. 

Musings: Busy Rangers Week Edition

It’s Thursday and that mean’s Musings. Following up on a pretty busy week in Ranger land, let’s get things going.

Ryan Callahan: New York Rangers captain. Sounds good doesn’t it? In another example of the organisation simply doing the right thing (they’ve been doing it for a while now) the Rangers have a home grown leader and one that is immensely easy to root for.

The most annoying part of Traverse City? I haven’t watched a single second of any game. I can’t get MSG coverage in the UK and for some odd reason highlight packages appear impossible to find. Anyone have any access to some?

Having said all that I have obviously followed the scores, the coverage on the blogs and have been impressed with what I have read. I love the fact this franchise of ours is blessed with serious talent and it’s now being seen in Rangers red, white and blue.

Christian Thomas – as good as advertised?

Tim Erixon I: is a great pick-up and is another example of the great work (in recent seasons) of Glen Sather. Yes, Mr Sather has a long way to go before being loved and it might take a Cup win in NY for him to get some fan-love but there’s no denying Sather has done well recently. Erixon Jr is further testament to the great foundation being set in New York.

Tim Erixon II: You just read the name of the Rangers rookie of the year 2011-2012.

Let’s play guess: How many players from the Traverse City roster do you all think will represent the Rangers this season? I think 3 will make their Rangers’ debuts this season with a possible fourth, dependant on how he starts his season with the Whale. The fourth? Blake Parlett. The three I’m confident of? Bourque, Hagelin and obviously Erixon.

Hate to say I told you so: I talked up Ryan Bourque a few weeks ago as a prospect that could sneak on to the Rangers roster despite not garnering the same attention as others. Well, he’s done nothing but impress thus far, going on reports. Another middle of the draft steal for NYR?

The Rangers kick off their regular season in 3 weeks and 1 day. Stockholm here we come!

2nd place is not bad. You have to learn how to lose as well as how to win. That may sound like I am rolling off clichés but it is a fact. The Rangers lost 5-2 in last night’s final game against Buffalo but it’s still a productive tournament for the Rangers who now know a lot more about many of their prospects. Bear in mind that the Sabres also had a lot of players dressed in the game that will be pro’s this season, including a few players that already played AHL last year. Indeed, one of their scorers had a 40 point AHL season last season.

Many, many positives to take but it’s tough to hear Andrew Yogan has injured his arm again. He was starting to cement his status as a solid prospect after recovering from his injury last season. Fingers crossed it won’t keep him out nearly as long this year.

Just a point on the Callahan captaincy: am I being cynical but do you think the Rangers held off stating the obvious because awarding Cally the captaincy before his new deal would have given him much more financial negotiating power? A bargaining chip like a captaincy is worth a lot if you ask me. Timing of the announcement was thought about a lot, clearly.

I have to say I agree with Jess Rubenstein over JT Miller. I think Miller will benefit from a bigger schedule in the OHL than playing half the amount of games in college. While North Dakota is well known for it’s hockey program Miller clearly will benefit from game after game after game.

I am unbelievably excited to see the Rangers in Stockholm next month. Not just because I’ll be there at the games (an obvious reason for the excitement) but because of the way this franchise approaches games whether it be the kids or the big boys stepping on to the ice. The work rate and the effort the team gives game in-game out is intoxicating. It’s hard not to love the way this team plays hockey.

I’m going to finish today’s Musings with a prediction. The Rangers play two games in Stockholm and I’m saying now, they come back to New York 2-0. They play two good teams but I really fancy the Rangers to win both games. Thoughts?

Musings: Return Of The King, Real Scouting Reports, & More

That title is my highly inflated ego talking, but all jest aside – I haven’t been around on the site much recently but I’m back now and it’s a Musings day! Time to throw my random thoughts at you before I throw the mike over to the Suit; yes – it’s a double barrelled Musings (gasp!).

So the Rangers apparently won’t be skating on to the ice via center-ice anymore? Is it that big a deal, I mean really?

I’m really excited at the organisational depth at the moment evidenced by my genuine excitement at following the CT Whale this coming season. There’s a lot to monitor down on the farm. Depending on the training camp shake down there could be some serious NHL potential starting the year in the AHL. Depth wins baby.

Random me: I’m probably going to a Wedding in California in November. If I do, I’m not even paying for my flight, which means there’s a good chance I’ll be in the US twice in 6 weeks. Check me out, the high flyer!

I’m sure, as an ambitious prospect he won’t like my theory but I really hope Scott Stajcer ends up back in the OHL this season. Why? The kid has legitimate talent and I’d rather not see him rot away in a three man rotation in the minors or be sent to the ECHL. Staying healthy and playing a full year with an OHL club surely is better than a handful of appearances as a minor pro.

Christian Thomas reported to his OHL Generals on Tuesday. Chance he starts the year there? Probably headed to the OHL due to numbers and age and if he does spend another year in the OHL, I expect another monster year from the blue chipper scorer.

Keeping on the prospect theme: Andrew Yogan was recently traded to the OHL Peterborough Petes. Like Thomas it’s not a given where he will play this season yet and could be a dark horse Rangers candidate but…very likely a candidate for the Whale. The kid has great size and good talent and is healthy. One to watch for sure.

More me: By the time you read this I’ll have picked up my new car! Went and got myself a shiny VW Golf. Definitely an upgrade.

So, Henrik Lundqvist is seventh on Yahoo’s top 100 fantasy hockey players? That’s high (and deserved) praise. I firmly believe the Rangers have the best goalie in the league and with more offense in front of him it’s hard not to love him as a fantasy pick this year.

That’s all for my ramblings today folks. Carry on down for some expert talk from The Suit.

********************************

Chris, until you learn how to correctly place commas, you need to take that ego down a notch…damn Brits

Just kidding bro. I love English Muffins. 

Dan David over at the Rangers Offiicial site had a great article on Christian Thomas, which included some excellent scouting/analysis by Adam Graves. Here’s one quote:

His (Thomas) shot is as good a shot as I have seen in a long, long time,” said Graves. “Inside the top of the circles, he has a special shot. He knows where it’s going and he can move it and he can change the angle on a goalie in a hurry. When the goalie is looking at him, he can change the angle because he drags the puck with equal amount of zip. I used to have to bring the puck in tight to my body where I had all my strength to change the angle like that, but by just movement of his stick and his sense of scoring, Christian is very good at changing the angle on the goalie.”

That’s analysis people! They need to get Adam Graves in the TV booth more often. You’ll never hear analysis in that detail from a TV commentator. Hell, you won’t even get that from “expert” prospect bloggers.

Chris mentioned that Lundqvist was ranked the seventh best overall player by Yahoo, which is refreshing to see. Yet ESPN has Hank ranked the 11th best goalie some reason beyond my comprehension. 

I know ESPN sucks at life, but really…11th?  Since the lockout, no goaltender has been more consistent than Henrik Lundqvist, save Vokoun. Miller has had bad seasons, as well as Bryz, Price, Fleury, etc. Year in and year out, Hank is up there in every goaltending category, yet the people around him keep changing.  It makes no sense to me how anyone could list Lundqvist outside of the top 5.

Anyway, last week I mentioned that we would be organizing  a Fantasy Hockey league between myself, Dave, Chris, and some of our readers. I haven’t set anything up yet, but expect an email shortly after Labor Day. If you are interested, and you haven’t yet dropped a comment, please do so here or shoot me an email.

Sin Bin Guest Post: Matt J (Again…Someone Else Win Please)

The title of this post is clearly a joke.  Matt J wins this week’s Sin Bin again, I think it’s his 38th win or something like that.  Luckily he writes pretty damn well.  Here is his guest post about which rookies are potentials for this year’s club.

Carl Hagelin- Just graduated out of Michigan and averaged over a point a game in his last two seasons as Michigan’s captain. I must say though it’s hard to compare NCAA players to OHL players. I think when Hagelin finally gets to the NHL he can be a Ruslan Fedotenko like player with more of a scoring touch. I don’t see Hagelin being more than a 3rd liner on the Rangers but I think he can be very effective in that role. Will he get playing time this year? He definitely will see the ice for the Rangers this year but how much ice he will see remains to be seen. If he’s playing well in the AHL, he could be a good injury call up. Does he make the opening night roster? Doubtful. He’s really going to have to outplay Fedotenko, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, and Mats Zuccarrello to have any chance of making it. But he can’t even let it be close in comparisons between him and other players because Torts is going to go with experience if it’s a tough call.

Christian Thomas- The 54 goal scorer finished second in scoring in the OHL last season in a very impressive season. Thomas has the potential to be a big scoring threat at the NHL level. It’s too bad he’s not eligible for the AHL because clearly he can outplay his opponents at the OHL level. Will he get playing time this year? I’m going to go with no because this all rides on whether or not he makes the team this year and survives cuts, and if does that he has to go back to the OHL and can’t come back. Does he make the opening night roster? He’s got to really outplay everyone in the pre-season and really show what he’s got in Traverse City this year. I’m gonna say no though because I don’t think the Rangers need to rush him to the NHL this year. I think though it’s important that when the Connecticut Whale’s playoffs start that he makes an impact.

Dylan McIlrath- The big heavy hitting McIlrath really got his game going last year and the Rangers staff say he looks a lot better this year. These tough defenseman really take a long time to mature into NHL players but when they do they are really effective. Take Zdeno Chara for example. Even after he got into the NHL he wasn’t at his best and it took 3 seasons for him to really dominate at the NHL level with the Senators. But he became a Norris winner, and one of the best defenseman in the NHL. Do I think or expect Mcilrath to do that? No. But he could be a Jeff Beukeboom, (I’m gonna say better than Beukeboom) and clear the crease, and fight anyone who gets in Hank’s or any other Rangers face. With him on the ice the days of running Rangers would be over. Gaborik would never try to drop the gloves again with McIlrath. Does he see the ice this year? No. Does he make the opening night roster his year? No.

You might ask why I would even bother to include him on the list then if I didn’t think he could make the roster but I think he could make the squad for 2012-2013. I think though it’s very important for him to have a great Traverse City, and a great camp with the Rangers, so the fans could get off his back. We can’t take our anger out on him just because some of us wanted Cam Fowler. And please get over the fact we didn’t take Fowler. Because if MDZ rebounds than him and Fowler are the same player.

Those are the big 3 this year, but I doubt that one of those 3 are on the opening night roster. But I do think those 3 crack the roster for the 2012-2013 season. There’s just too much of a log jam at the forwards position for Thomas and Hagelin to beat out, and Mcilrath definitely get another year at Moosejaw to reinforce his skills. But I do think those 3 players have a big future with the Rangers.

Other players getting an honorable mention to making the squad this year: Pavel Valentenko, John Mitchell (Who had a solid season and playoffs for the Whale in limited games), Dale Weise, and Tomas Kundratek. Also, had Pashnin not gone to the KHL I would have definitely included him on this list.

But the real chance for everyone in our pipeline to make the Rangers is in the 2012-2013 season where we would probably not bring back the following players pending a huge turnaround for them: Steve Eminger, Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, and Ruslan Fedotenko. Imagine the fight for the roster spots if all those people weren’t brought back? It would be fun to watch.

What to do With Mats Zuccarello?

There’s no doubting the talent the little Norwegian winger possesses, but there’s a legitimate question to be asked about Mats Zuccarello’s future with the Rangers. Does he even have one?

Last season Zuccarello made a pretty solid first impression, but the grind of the longest season of his young career clearly showed as the season progressed. He was deservedly sent back down to the Whale towards the end of the season. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a productive rookie season, as he made his presence felt at both the AHL and NHL levels. However, there’s a very good chance that Zuccarello could be one of the forwards lost in the shuffle during training camp and therefore he could find himself starting the season back with the Whale.

One trail of thought is this. Don’t forget hockey these days is not just a sport, but a business and the more effective general managers are in the business of asset management. If Zuccarello is in the AHL beyond October, should Glen Sather look to move the winger? After all, the longer the talented winger remains on the farm the more this particular asset diminishes. Also, Zuccarello is entering the final year of his first Rangers contract. If Zuccarello doesn’t see a legitimate future for himself in New York does he even consider re-upping with the Rangers? Maybe returning to the SEL becomes a realistic scenario?

Zuccarello is kind of in an awkward situation. Within the next 12 months the Rangers have a few very talented young wingers close to being ready. Chris Kreider and Christian Thomas to name just two could be very close to becoming Rangers this year, but they certainly will be close next year. There’s a legitimate risk for Zuccarello that he gets overtaken by the younger and cheaper options. Zuccarello needs to make an impact and stick in the NHL sooner rather than later.

The Zuke scenario is one that divides opinion. Is Zuccarello a better option for the current roster than Wolski, Christensen and/or Avery? Perhaps, but is a suitable spot open for him? Perhaps not. At what stage should/could the Rangers decide to move Zuccarello and can Zuccarello force himself into the Rangers plans permanently? I can’t imagine this situation ends with the Rangers letting the Norwegian simply walk away at the end of the season.

Another option, which The Suit brought up earlier this summer, is to try moving him to left wing. Doing so would likely help him along the boards, since he is currently playing “the off-wing,” which is often considered to be more difficult for undersized players. As Suit explained,

“Zukes is already at a disadvantage coming over from the larger rinks of the Swedish Elite League, where you have a week and a half to decide what to do with the puck. Here on North America rinks, no such luxury exists. So, not only is Zukes getting used to the pacing and physicality of NHL forechecking, but he also has to get used to receiving pucks along the board on his backhand, which is obviously more difficult than receiving pucks on your forehand. Add a 220-lb defensemen pressed up against you, and you’re talking a whole new skill set to learn.”

Interesting plan, but if it doesn’t work or if it’s not being considered, Zukes’ options might become very limited. It seems like it’s either Rangers or a trade for the little winger. We’ll know more in a few short weeks.

WJC Invite Makes Next Year Win-Win Scenario for Christian Thomas

With Friday’s announcement that Rangers blue chip prospect (yes, that’s what he has become since being drafted) Christian Thomas has been invited to Canada’s World Junior Championship camp should the winger make the cut, next season becomes a win-win scenario for both the Rangers and Thomas. All of this of course depends on the timing of the whole process, but one key thing to consider here is the level of competition.

With the way Thomas has scored, almost at will, over the past two years – no OHL player has more goals over the past 2 seasons – there are valid concerns that should he not make the Rangers out of camp Thomas would face another year in a league in which he nothing left to prove. Don’t forget it’s either juniors or the NHL for Thomas due to his age. Making the Canadian team however, changes the concerns about another season outside of the NHL. A new, higher level of competition provided by the WJC would give Thomas different pressures and levels of competition to take on, and a new challenge to face.

Then there is the other side of this whole scenario to consider. While Thomas would face better competition if he made the Canadian team (which aids his development, benefiting both the Rangers and the player) should he in fact make the NHL club out of training camp it will mean his development has come to the point where he is NHL ready. NHL ready means Thomas would be providing the Rangers with another offensive weapon while presenting the player with a unique opportunity and the Rangers need goal scorers so as you can see, it could be win-win.

Worst case scenario for the Rangers would probably be that Thomas is not yet NHL ready but thanks to the WJC camp, right from the get-go, he will be facing a much stronger level of competition in the August camp and sets him up for a strong season.