Saturday, September 15, 2007

What to Look For

Even though the Rangers are going to be a veteran driven team this season, there will be opportunities for some of the younger players to work their way into the Ranger roster/lineup. It will not be easy but as both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi showed last season when your chance comes, you had better grab it.

I bring up the names of both Callahan and Girardi mainly because they flew under everyone's radar to find themselves as regular players who contributed both down the stretch of the season but in the playoffs as well. The lesson we all should learn here is that one should not count anyone out.

Girardi was an undrafted free agent and Callahan a 4th round pick from the 2004 Entry draft. Neither were expected to help the Rangers last season; heck nobody even thought they would earn a callup but by season's end yet there they were as Rangers playing key roles as the Rangers almost upset Buffalo in the playoffs.

While everyone is pointing at Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky as the prospects with the best chance at making the Ranger roster right out of camp, there are a couple of other prospects who Ranger fans should keep their eyes on. Each of these could be a part of the Ranger team at one point of the season.

The first one has to be Micheal Sauer (2005 second round) mainly because he is not your average second round pick. Had Sauer not been injured during his draft year, Sauer would have been a first round pick in 2005 instead of dropping into the Ranger's lap in the second round.

Sauer is the best pure defensive defender among the Ranger defensive prospects. But that is not to say that Sauer lacks offense as you will see Sauer score the clutch goal when you need it the most. Sauer is going to quietly develop into a solid NHL defenseman who Ranger fans will love because of his hard work ethic and willingness to drop the gloves to protect his teammates.

Sauer is so strong defensively that whoever his partner is, he will be able to pinch more often than most because of the protection Sauer can give the more offensive minded partner. Sauer you will rarely ever see get caught out of position or outsmarted.

Sauer will simply quietly sneak up on you and give you the kind of blueline play you need. Sauer making the Rangers in his first season will not come as a shock to me because this is a prospect who does everything you ask of him and is one of the most coachable prospects I have seen in a long time.

The other prospect who might sneak up on people could be Tom Pyatt (2005 4th round). Pyatt like Ryan Callahan is someone who few people thought much of. Like Callahan, Pyatt is looked upon as a smallish forward (like Cally can play both center and wing) who the NHL will be too big for.

All Pyatt has done over the last 4 years in the OHL is win and improve every season. Do not tell Pyatt that he can not do something because he will prove you to be wrong very quickly.

Pyatt has 2 gold and 1 silver medals as a 3 time member of the Canadian Under 20 team. Last season with Saginaw, Pyatt broke though with 43-38-81 in just 58 games. I gave Pyatt the nickname "Prime Time" because no other Ranger prospect scored more game winning or game tying goals last year.

Pyatt also comes from an NHL family just like Sauer and Marc Staal (who also is his long time friend) so he knows exactly what it is going to take for him to make the NHL. Nobody is going to expect Pyatt to make the NHL in his first season BUT I have learned never to discount Tom Pyatt who has had a career of making the "experts" look bad.

So go ahead and write down these 2 names as the "dark horse" picks to wear the Ranger Blue this season.

The 3 Ranger prospects playing in the QMJHL will be back in action Sunday night so I will update on how they did after their games are done.

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