Monday, October 15, 2007

Prospect Park Prospects to Watch

Due to a miscommunication, the normal monthly Prospect Park feature is not going to be in the next issue of the Blueshirt Bulletin. What is bad news for my bank account can be your good news.

The Prospect Park feature is part of what you get when you subscribe to the Blueshirt Bulletin so if you have not subscribed yet then here enjoy this gift and hopefully a reason to get you to subscribe.

As the 2007-08 season gets underway even for the prospects, there are a select few who we like to point out as those we expect to have huge seasons.

For this season we have three players who Prospect Park thinks are going to have such a season. The first two prospects are ones who most Ranger fans should know by now: Bobby Sanguinetti (2006 1st) and Ryan Hillier (2006 3rd).

So far both Sanguinetti and Hillier have jumped out to extremely fast starts to their season. Sanguinetti is the leading scorer among OHL defensemen at 7-10-17 while Hillier was the first QMJHL player to reach 10 goals this season.

Both players are on a pace to score over 100 points which once upon a time for Ranger prospects was only a pipe dream. Sanguinetti already has a Ranger contract signed and if Hillier keeps up his pace his Ranger contract will be coming soon.

Now the scary part which is there is a player who just might slip under a lot of people's radar and be just as dangerous a player as Hillier and Sanguinetti. Allow me to introduce to you Billy Ryan.

Ryan was the Ranger's 3rd round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft. The 6'1 center has been playing for Tim Whitehead's Maine Black Bear program. If you know anything about college hockey then you know that the Black Bears under Coach Whitehead are one of the best programs there is.

Ryan is an interesting story, he is the leading returning scorer for Maine coming off career highs in both goals (13) and points (33). Of his 13 goals, Ryan had 6 power play and 2 game winners last season.

Last season when we exchanged emails with Coach Whitehead, the coach pointed out that Ryan had lost his previous off-seasons to injury and was unable to train. Whitehead said that IF Ryan had a healthy off-season where he could train and work on his game then Ryan had the ability to become an elite player. Guess who had that off-season including getting to spend some time with the Rangers?

One thing we have learned when it comes to Tim Whitehead is not to disagree with him as he is right a lot more often than most people. That being said we do agree that Ryan has a chance to be an elite play and here is why:

For starters Ryan has been biding his time watching how the Maine seniors in previous years would lead the Black Bears to the NCAA's each season. Ryan is a smart player who learns fast (not to mention earning a a spot on the Hockey East All-Academic last season) and rarely will make mistakes.

When Maine was struggling with their game at the end of last season it was Ryan who was the only one scoring. He notched 3 goals in 3 straight games against UMass (including in the Hockey East quarterfinals).

Ryan at 6'1 180 may look a tad small but he actually plays bigger. He was used on both the Maine Penalty Kill (one of the best in the NCAAs) and the Power Play. This season it is expected that Ryan will be one player who Coach Whitehead counts on a lot.

We like how Ryan does not panic when under pressure, his smooth stride when skating and because he plays for Tim Whitehead we know Ryan already plays a solid defense. Ryan can be used as both center and forward.

Ryan has an accurate shot that he can control very well. It is an accurate shot that we have seen Ryan use to set up others along with trying for deflections. His passing skills are on the under rated side as witnessed by his averaging 19 assists the last 2 seasons.

Even better is that Ryan can score the pretty goal creating it himself or show his fighting side scoring the garbage goal off a scrum in front of the net. In either case Ryan looks and plays like he is just as comfortable in either a finesse or power game.

Unlike so many prospects who at times you want to scream at to shoot the puck, Ryan has no such problem. You get the feeling that Ryan wants the puck on his stick in crunch time and that is something you have to like.

We do however think Ryan is going to need to build up his upper body, adding some muscle to push his weight closer to 200. Ryan also could use a bit of a nasty side to his game as some snarl would perhaps convince others that he is a force to respect.

And we would be remiss if we did mention that just like Michael Sauer and Marc Staal that Billy Ryan also comes from a hockey/sports family. Father John played for UMass and his brother Mike plays for the Sabres

For the season we are going to project 18 goals and 24 assists for Ryan, in the college game those are healthy numbers. Stay with us as we also plan on interviewing him for the Blueshirt Bulletin this season.

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