Archive for Michael St. Croix
Before Friday’s draft it’s a good idea to take stock of what the Rangers already have in the system. If New York follows suit, then the Blueshirts will pick the best player available regardless of position. However, it’s worth evaluating where the team’s strengths lie, starting with a status update for the organization’s forwards.
J.A.M. burst onto the scene in 2011-2012 with a surprisingly strong showing at the Traverse City Tournament in September and he was only just getting started. Ryan Bourque’s old teammate with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts earned a one-year contract with the Whale and made the most of the opportunity. He battled for the team points lead all season and finished with 64 (24 goals, 40 assists), tied for the team lead and good for third among AHL rookies. Audy-Marchessault still faces an uphill climb to the NHL thanks to his (listed) 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame, but he is much closer to achieving his dream than he was a year ago. The bad news is that J.A.M. may not even be Rangers’ property come July; the 21-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and may prefer to sign with a club that could better use his services. It’s hard to see exactly where Audy-Marchessault fits in the prospect depth chart and he’d likely garner several other offers following his banner year. GM Glen Sather will surely offer J.A.M. a contract, but the rest is up to him.
Bourque was one of the last cuts at training camp but disappeared for the first chunk of the season with Connecticut after suffering a concussion in his third game. He drew little attention the rest of the way because of his irrelevant offensive production (six goals and eight assists in 69 games), but suddenly Bourque was in the spotlight again as the Whale began its playoff run. Bourque was one player that noticeably raised his game in the postseason and even contributed a bit more offensively with two goals and an assist in nine postseason games. It’s tough to imagine Bourque being much of a scorer at the NHL level, but he has a very well-rounded game, is a terrific skater and is a major pest on the forecheck, qualities that could endear him to the Rangers’ coaching staff sooner than some of the organization’s more touted prospects. Bourque’s confidence is surely higher after a strong late season push and since he was one of the last cuts last year, it stands to reason that he could push very hard for a bottom-six role in New York next year.
When we last checked in on Rangers prospect Michael St. Croix, he was on his way to the WHL Finals. He and his Edmonton Oil Kings were to face the offensive juggernaut Portland Winterhawks in the Finals, and what an epic series it was. Seven games later, St. Croix and the Oil Kings were crowned the WHL champions, following a 4-1 victory over Portland in the final game. St. Croix had a goal and an assist in the game.
St. Croix had one amazing postseason for the Oil Kings, finishing tied for the team lead in scoring with a line of 7-12-19 in 20 playoff contests. In the WHL Finals, St. Croix played at a point-per-game pace, finishing with two goals and five assists.
Edmonton advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament, along with the host city Shawinigan Cataractes (QHJHL), the OHL champion London Knights, and the QMJHL champion St. John Sea Dogs. Action begins tonight when Edmonton takes on Shawinigan. Edmonton will also face St. John on Monday, and London on Tuesday.
When we last checked in with the Rangers prospects, two of their highest ranking prospects were squaring off in the WHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. Michael St. Croix (4th-2011) of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Dylan McIlrath (1st-2010) of the Moose Jaw Warriors were about to match up in a series that definitely caught the attention of some Ranger fans. St. Croix lit up the WHL this year, finishing in the top ten in scoring, while McIlrath is a noted bruiser who plays a shut down game.
In the end, the scoring of St. Croix’s Oil Kings was too much for McIlrath’s Warriors, winning the series in five games. St. Croix had two goals and two assists in the five games, upping his playoff total to a line of 5-7-12 in 13 games.
As for McIlrath, he had one assist in the series. Even though scoring isn’t really McIlrath’s style, he still managed to rack up six assists in the 14 games he played in the postseason. He also finished with 12 PIMs and a +3 rating (although he was -4 in the Edmonton series).
In the immediate future, McIlrath might wind up joining the Connecticut Whale on an ATO, much like he did last season. As for St. Croix, he will be headed to the WHL Finals against Portland, with the winner advancing to the Memorial Cup.
With the playoffs in full gear for both the Rangers and the Whale –and with the Whale adding a large number of CHL prospects for the playoff push– we have been neglecting the prospect coverage a bit here. But, good friend of the blog Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park has noted that two of the Rangers top prospects are about to square off in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals.
Dylan McIlrath (1st-2010) and his Moose Jaw Warriors will be facing Michael St. Croix (4th – 2011) and his Edmonton Oil Kings. McIlrath is a well noted bruiser and dominating physical presence that the Rangers drafted despite some more offensively talented players available. McIlrath started to prove doubters wrong this past preseason as he impressed almost every fan with a great few preseason games.
As for St. Croix, all he did was put up 105 points (45-60-105) this year with Edmonton. The WHL is a notoriously high scoring league, so his numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s rare that 18 year olds put up those numbers in the WHL. Usually those numbers are reserved for the older players in their age 20 or overage (21) season.
This is a great matchup for the Rangers prospects. It will give McIlrath an opportunity to show what he can do against top scorers. It will give St. Croix an opportunity to see what he can do against a top defender. It will also give the fans an opportunity to see if St. Croix is the real deal, or if his numbers are inflated.
It’s rare that the Rangers have two top prospects squaring off so deep in the playoffs. This is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
When the Rangers took small but skilled Michael St. Croix in the fourth round of this past draft, he went by without much fanfare. In my post draft recap, I noted that the diminutive winger had first round potential, but questions surrounding his play in all three zones made him drop to the fourth round. I did mention he could be a potential steal, and it looks like he could be just that, even though his lofty numbers aren’t as impressive as you might think.
In 66 games in the very high scoring WHL, St. Croix has a whopping 98 points (41-57-98) and is an amazing +39. While those numbers are very impressive, even by WHL standards, the more impressive part is that St. Croix’s numbers have been improving like clockwork. His first full season –as a 16 year old– he produced 46 points, followed by 75 points in his sophomore season. Now with 98 points, St. Croix is approaching a level where he can completely dominate the WHL. Still, he may not be at that level quite yet.
Point in case, despite having 98 points, St. Croix barely cracks the top ten in scoring in the league, where he sits at eighth in the league. Seven players cracked 100 points this season as well.
This furthers the idea that the WHL can be incredibly misleading with its stats. Even the league’s top scorer, Brendan Shinnimin (54-66-120) went undrafted. In fact, he didn’t catch on with any franchise until five days ago when Phoenix signed him. Shinnimin was actually in camp with the Rangers in 2010, after an 86 point season in the WHL. So let’s take these WHL numbers with a grain of salt.
Prospects are prospects for a reason. St. Croix seemed a little lost at the Traverse City Tournament this past September, but he followed it up with a very strong WHL campaign thus far. The rule of thumb for a prospect is to let him dominate the current level before moving him up a level. Domination is more than numbers. Domination is when the other players in the league can’t keep up anymore.
St. Croix, despite his numbers, hasn’t dominated yet. Yes, he has gaudy stats, but it’s the WHL. He still has the potential to be a steal, as the kid definitely possesses talent that could have made him a first round pick in 2011. Tempering expectations a bit would be wise here.
Kreider Doing His Thing
As the Nash rumours continue to circulate, Chris Kreider continues to go about his ‘job’. There’s been a lot of turbulence in college hockey recently. Amid the news of Paul Kelly leaving his post at College Hockey Inc., there has been racist chanting at NCAA games so all is not well at the college level. With prospects such as Nash being touted as trade deadline assets, it can’t be an easy time for the young college kids to deal with.
Despite all that, Kreider managed to stay focussed on his game and grab an assist during Boston College’s 2-1 win over Merrimack, a game in which the division leading Eagles were outshot and suffered through an ineffective powerplay. Despite going 1 for 5 on the PP, Kreider’s assist did come on the special team’s unit as he had the primary assist on Brian Dumoulin’s tally.
For the season, Kreider has moved on to 36 points in 32 games with 19 goals. Some people in Rangers-fan-land are throwing out numbers of former college stars that were borderline NHL’ers and pointing out the negative and indeed, they all (people can bend statistics to cater for their arguments) had better, more dominant numbers than Kreider.
That said, that was a long time ago and the focus these days is very much bigger on the better college scorers. Pressures to be the next big thing are simply bigger, media coverage of college hockey is much wider and team’s expectancies of these college kids are much more intense than even just 15, 20 years ago (at times due to draft status, financial necessity, dependency on prospects). It’s not comparable to say “Jay Pandolfo scored this and Kreider only scored that”. Oranges and Apples folks.
Barring a stunning turn of events Kreider will be a Ranger prospect next season, he may even be a Ranger. He’s physically ready, he made the sensible decision to stay in college this year (kid seems to have a sensible head on his shoulders) and he has always seemed to handle the pressure of being a much anticipated prospect well. Assuming he’s not packaged for Wayne Gretzky Rick Nash, the Kreider talk should settle down and the winger should be left to play out a solid season with the Eagles.
St Croix Approaching Milestone
There’s still a lot of hockey left to play yet Michael St Croix (of the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL) is approaching a fine milestone, and once again making the Rangers draft team look good. St Croix is just 8 points off the magic 100 mark as he continues to have a great season in the WHL. Good for 6th in the league, he only trails blue chip prospects such as Emerson Etem (an insane 52 goals in 54 games), Ty Rattie and Jordan Weal in the league scoring race.
St Croix is showing he can do it all. With 38 goals and 54 assists St Croix appears equally at home dishing off the puck as well as looking to score himself. St Croix is leading his club in scoring by a wide 17 point margin, has an excellent +34 rating and has scored 16 PP goals as well. Thanks, in part to St Croix, the Oil Kings lead the Eastern Conference by 4 points and have an excellent 39 wins in 60 games. Drafted 106th overall (fourth round) by the Rangers in 2011, St Croix has seen his performances improve every year (from 46 – 75 – 92 points so far) and appears a solid prospect. The WHL is notoriously the hardest junior league to score heavily in, yet St Croix is doing it impressively.
Fasth Still on Sidelines
It’s hard to find a timetable for Jesper Fasth’s return from a foot injury as the young winger has still not hit the ice over in Sweden. He was expected to be out approximately three months following injury in late November which has derailed a hugely promising start to his year.
The young winger had matched his previous SEL career high of 16 points in just 21 games and at one stage was among the leading scores of the SEL – no mean feat for such a young player in a veteran heavy league. Fasth had previously reached 16 points in 26 games which also was a solid return as a teenager in Sweden. Hopefully Fasth can get some games in before his season comes to a conclusion and get back on track in his development. An organisation can never have enough promising scorers.
Let’s have a look at some of the Rangers draft picks and future hopes and how they’ve been doing recently. It’s been a while since we checked in around the junior circuits.
Michael St Croix is a plus 30 for the season. Yes, you read that right. It’s because he’s flat out scoring for fun. A mid round pick of the Rangers in 2011, its unlikely many people saw this level of scoring from St Croix. The skilled center has grabbed 77 points in just 48 games in the WHL this season, which given the stingier nature of the WHL (as opposed to other junior leagues) is an exceptional return.
You want progress? St Croix’s offensive return is the two points better than his total points from last season in 20 games less. Clearly, the Rangers have another talented center on their hands. Oh and he’s now been crowned player of the week twice. One to keep your eyes on folks.
Back in Scoring Mode
The Rangers seem to have offensive potential springing up everywhere right now. Joining St Croix in quality offensive production is JT Miller who has recently got back to his scoring ways and now boasts 43 points in 39 games for the Whalers of the OHL.
Miller has learnt a lot this season. From his time with the Rangers to the world Juniors, Miller has been exposed to a variety of levels of hockey this season as well as the exposure to more hockey than he’s been used to. Miller’s another player that looks a great draft pick so far.
Best of the Rest
Honourable mentions in the offensive stakes have to go to Shane McColgan, Andrew Yogan, Christian Thomas and Steven Fogarty who are all close to or above the point per game threshold in their respective leagues. Naturally, each player has a different level of expectancy placed on their shoulders and is in different stages of their development but so long as each one can continue to produce as their respective leagues head to the critical time in their seasons, it bodes well for their immediate futures. With Christian Thomas turning 20 in May, he’s almost certainly one that’s headed for pro hockey next season.
In need of a change of scenery all season has been Scott Stajcer. The Owen Sound goalie has put up solid numbers when called upon but has split the crease with Jordan Binnington. Wins aside, Stajcer has put up the far superior numbers (924% to .890, 2.53 GAA to JB’s 3.38) but it has to be a concern that as an over-ager Stajcer hasn’t had anywhere near the playing time his development needs.
Given the still murky goalie situation behind Lundqvist and Biron, Stajcer still has a shot with the organisation as no goalie with the Whale has shown to have full time NHL potential this season. Stajcer’s destination next season will be an interesting development over the coming months.
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.
The Rangers entered today with three picks, but wound up making five, as they made two trades to acquire additional picks in this draft. The first trade saw Evgeny Grachev pack his bags for St. Louis in exchange for a third round pick (#72). The second trade was a swap of sixth round picks with Nashville, as the Rangers sent their 2012 sixth rounder for Nashville’s 2011 sixth rounder (#172). Let’s go round by round:
Third round (#72) – Steven Fogarty (C, Edina High School)
This is the pick that is going to get a lot of scrutiny because the Rangers traded Evgeny Grachev to acquire this pick. So in evaluating just Fogarty (go to the Grachev post for commentary on the trade), the Rangers got themselves a skilled center who, according to Kirk Luedeke, is a bit underrated. but has some serious long term potential. Fogarty is definitely a project pick, but the work ethic is second to none. This kid lives to play the game, and will do everything in his power to make it professionally. He competed in the USHL this year after finishing high school, where he was a little over matched against kids much bigger and more mature than him. Standing at 6’1″, 195 lbs, Fogarty is no small kid, but needs time to mature and develop. Although he appears to be a project pick, he has some high potential.
Fourth Round (#106) – Michael St. Croix (C, Edmonton Oil Kings – WHL)
St. Croix is another guy who is a great skater with terrific hands. He has a great release on his shot as well, making him a great offensive threat. The knock on St. Croix is that he sometimes lacks concentration and desire in the defensive end, which caused him to slide in the eyes of scouts. St. Croix is very small (5’11”. 163 lbs), but that didn’t scare people away. There were initially rumblings of him potentially sneaking into the first round, so this may be a potential steal of a pick for the Rangers. That is, if St. Croix continues to show he actually cares about playing in all three zones.
Fifth Round (#134) – Shane McColgan (RW, Kelowna Rockets – WHL)
This is a great pick by the Rangers. McColgan is like lightning on ice, and has hands that can keep up with his speed. The kid was initially thought to be a potential top-ten pick, but a slow start and worries about his size (5’8″, 168 lbs) saw his stock drop drastically. He didn’t really increase his production in the WHL form his rookie season (where he scored 25 goals), which is a trait you like to see from kids playing Canadian Juniors. McColgan is a pick with serious potential and serious offensive flair. He reminds me of a smaller Scott Glennie.
Fifth Round (#136) – Samuel Noreau (D, Baie-Comeau Drakkar – QMJHL)
This kid is big and tough. Standing at 6’5″ and 215 lbs, Noreau is just plain old mean. The kid doesn’t have much, if any, offensive skill, but he is big, tough, nasty, and could be a potential bottom pairing defensive defenseman if he works on his skating. Skating is generally an issue with big defensemen, so that isn’t as much of a surprise or a detriment as some might think.
Sixth Round (#172) – Peter Ceresnak (D, Dukla Trencin – Slovakia)
Another big, stay at home type defenseman, Ceresnak is a bit more tame than Noreau, but equally as physical. Ceresnak plays his game “like a freight train”, lining up players for hits all over the ice. Like most big guys (6’2″, 200 lbs), he needs to work on his skating. Also, like most physical guys, he gets caught out of position looking for the big hit.