Saturday, September 22, 2007

Got Those Draft Year Blues

Prospect Report

Once again we had a mixed bag of results and efforts from the Ranger prospects so let us get right to it.

Tomas Zaborsky (2006 5th) netted his 2nd goal of the season (14:47 2nd Even) as his Saginaw Spirit came from behind to defeat the Sarina Sting 5-4 in OHL action. Zaborsky stat wise was the goal, +1 with a 2 minute minor.

Ryan Hillier (2006 3rd) had his 2nd straight impressive game earning 2nd star of the game honors even though his Halifax Mooseheads lost 3-2 to the Moncton Wildcats. Hillier had his 2nd goal of the season (1:21 1st PPG) and his 3rd assist (12:59 2nd PPA Primary) in the losing effort.

Still a first and second star along with 5 points in 3 games is going to attract a lot of attention which means that now Hillier's test is to show how he will play when he does not score.

If you were wondering what was with the title of today's entry then now see how Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) did against the St. Johns Fog Devils. Lafleur and his Prince Edward Island Rocket got beaten 6-3 to bring Lafleur's record for the season to 1-3.

For the season, Lafleur gave up 4 goals on 28 shots against Halifax (lost), 4 goals on 23 shots (lost and pulled), 1 goal on 18 shots (win) and 6 goals on 35 shots (lost). If you were not doing the math it was 15 goals on 104 shots which translates to an 85.7 Save Percentage and a 4.35 goals against.

I bet there are people looking to say that the Rangers made a mistake taking Lafleur but I already know why Lafleur is struggling and think time will fix his game. Trust me this prospect is going to be alright and everyone will forget his struggles here.

Those Draft Year Blues

It is seems that each team has at least one player in every draft who struggles with his game the season right after being drafted. It is a maddening experience because no matter what you do nothing seems to work for you and you wind up so very frustrated.

Over the last 4 years it was Brandon Dubinsky (2004), Dalyn Flatt (2005), Ryan Hillier (2006) and this year it appears to be Antoine Lafleur who has caught the blues. It can strike a player whether he was a high draft pick or even a lower one but you will find one on every NHL team.

What causes these cases of DYB is subject to debate because there really is no one real cause. What I see as the one common factor is that each player came back to his junior team and tried way to hard to show he was worthy of his draft status.

Maybe it was because others want to show that they are just as good as "that draft pick", it could be because you the prospect think you can rest upon your rep now that you have been selected. It might be due to a change in how you train or perhaps trying to force the lessons you learned at your NHL camp to work all at once.

When you break it down no matter what the cause is that it is basically an extended slump that you are in. If you have played any sport and suffered a slump then you should really understand what Lafleur is going though.

It is maddening because you think you can fix things but one tiny mistake and the dam breaks. You question everything about yourself, your coaches and even your teammates. You do dumb things that you normally would never do or as one prospect once told me "it was like an out of body experience as I could see the screwup happening and there was nothing I could do to prevent it".

It is also just 5 games into the QJMHL regular season so if I was coaching Lafleur I would simply tell him to relax and realize that things will get better. I would preach patience and perhaps find some tapes of games he played well in last season for him to watch.

I would not bench him but might give his backup an extra game or two during the next week so Lafleur can watch the game and relax a bit. I do not want him taking extra practice, looking at current film (unless I can prove there is a mechanical flaw in his game) or dwelling too much on the losses.

We as fans tend to forget that for all their talent we are still dealing with teenagers and young adults. The pressure we place upon these prospects at times is sometimes way too much and can screw these kids up while damaging their development.

In each of the prospects I named their game started to return after about a month. Before you think that is too long I will point out that early in the season the players only play about7-9 games in a month's time so it is not as bad as you think.

Bobby Sanguinetti, David Skokan and Ryan Hillier will be in action on Sunday so if I remember I will add to the link section ways for you to listen (or in the case of the QMJHL) or watch the games for free online.

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