Thursday, November 22, 2007

Listen Up willya?

Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have and in the case of Prospect Park it means getting to know so many great prospects like Ryan Hillier of the Halifax Mooseheads.

Hillier when I first met him was almost in awe of being selected by the Rangers in the 2006 draft. See Hillier has always had to fight off a lot of criticism, some of it fair but the greatest majority of it not at all deserving.

The one area that Prospect Park has always liked about Hillier's game is how he rises to challenges. Whether it is being asked to step up his game when the bigger named players were away last year playing in the World Junior Championships or this year stepping up to put points on the board for Team QMJHL.

Hillier had an assist in Wednesday night's 3-2 shoot out win for Team QMJHL over the Russian Selects. Hillier finished the 2 game QMJHL portion of the challenge with a goal and 2 assists in what Prospect Park is hoping is a strong audtion for Hillier to represent Team Canada in the World Junior Championships.

Hillier gets overlooked because he plays on the Moosehead's second line but we are thankful for Hillier's 17-16-33 +10 numbers. Hillier is making a very strong case for a Ranger contract and at this rate it will be very hard for the Rangers not to sign him.

Prospect Park is happy when it gets to see hard work pay off and for Hillier this season has been all about his hard work and overall improvement.

Listen up please

From an ego standpoint there is nothing more awesome than to see people saying how right I was when I projected a prospect's ascent to the NHL. I am of course human so when I see someone posting that "Wow you was so right about so and so" I do feel good about what I am doing.

What I like to believe sets me apart from others who do the same thing is in my eyes just one thing. See I listen to these prospects and I am not talking about to just their words but rather the meanings behind those words.

When I see a gleam in a Brandon Dubinsky's eyes when he talks about how cool it was to paint the Ranger logo on the Garden ice, when I listen to Micheal Sauer talk about what his faith means to him or when I see an Ivan Baranka almost in another world as he is describing a play of his. Those are what I mean by listening to them.

Any Ranger fan will be able to tell you about a prospect or a player who had all the talent in the world but yet never became the player everyone thought he would be. The road to the NHL is paved with those who had all the skills but just did not have perhaps the one thing that others who made it had.

I am talking about determination, about drive, about the one thing that nobody really can truly measure which is the heart inside a person. To truly evaluate a prospect you have to look inside their heart and see what you can find.

When we first started this ride of covering the prospects, it was those very prospects who taught me how best to evaluate them. Truth be told it is not about how smart I am or how much experience I have with hockey but rather all I am is just a messenger.

See all these prospects are the ones who are telling you that they will make it or not, I just pass their message along. Seriously look between the lines when you see a Sanguinetti interview and realize that when he talks about becoming a Ranger, about wearing the uniform and playing in front of you it is because he has been in those stands sitting right next to you.

When you see those prospects who are the last ones off the ice after practice then you know. When you see them spending their summers working out, attending specialized schools or just skating then you know.

When you see these prospects taking what is said to them not as criticism but rather as means to improvement then you know. That is the difference between why an Ivan Baranka is playing in the NHL and a Brendl is not.

It is about how badly you want it, about how hard you are willing to work at it. I have told the story about telling Brandon Dubinsky (as a joke) that he was just the 5th best center prospect the Rangers had.

Dubinsky used it to motivate himself, going out and busting his butt to prove just how wrong I was about him. He proves how right he is about himself these days being the center for Jagr.

We can go on and on citing examples of how a prospect can make it but really all you have to do is listen to these young men yourself talking about their dream of scoring that Cup winning goal for the Rangers and you too will become that "expert" that many think I supposedly am.

All I am is a listener as the prospects, they do all the work themselves.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

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