During my time covering Ranger prospects few have stood out like Ivan Baranka because Ivan is one of the nicest people you will ever get to meet. A big man who is very soft spoken, his play is tells his story about who he is which is best described as a gentle giant.
I knew back then that one day Ivan was going to be an NHL player. He has the talent, the desire and the work ethic to be the kind of player who Ranger fans will like.
I am glad that Ivan is getting even the chance to practice with the Rangers, a chance to give the Rangers a look at a player who if not for injuries would have been a part of this roster by now.
I totally disagree with those who question this call up because unlike the past the Rangers no longer just toss a rookie out there unless they believe the prospect can help the team. Tom Renney, Perry Pearn and Mike Pelino have long track records of coaching young players in at the CHL level and will if they choose to use Baranka will do so in situations that limit his weaknesses and promote his strengths.
As a writer I am supposed to remain neutral and objective about those who I cover. In the case of Ivan Baranka it is something I just can’t do because of the 8 players who I have covered in the WHL, Ivan is the one who in my book is the best NHL prospect the Rangers have in the WHL.
Don’t look at his statistics because they don’t come close to telling the story about Ivan’s potential as a player. He offers size (6’2 185) and skill on the blueline. Ivan is asked to do everything for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. He plays against the other teams best forward lines while also being the QB on the power play and penalty kill.
He is a very natural skater who glides up and down the ice with no wasted motion. He is a strong, very clean bodychecker who I don’t think knows his own strength. When he hits someone that player goes down to the ice breaking up the play. It is scary what might happen if Ivan ever develops a mean streak or gets angry.
Ivan rarely ever gets caught out of position on defense, which can be credited to playing for a former NHL coach in Kevin Constantine. Constantine was a defensive minded coach at the NHL level and remains that way in the WHL. A player according to Constantine can be creative with the puck on offense but he had best know his responsibilities when he is on defense. That describes Ivan to a tee.
On offense Ivan possesses a laser sharp accurate shot from the point. Of his 7 regular season goals 6 of them came on the power play and had he played on an offensive minded team he would have more than likely scored a lot more. As it is he has a solid vision on the ice and doesn’t panic under pressure.
Ivan is also a very likeable smart person whom once you get to know you develop an instant liking for. In his case it isn’t if he will develop into a NHL player but rather when.
BB: Ivan welcome to the Blueshirt Bulletin can we start by having you introduce yourself and tell us about yourself, your background, and your family back home?
Ivan Baranka: Hi My name is Ivan Baranka, I was born on May 19th 1985 in Ilava in Slovakia. I have already graduated from school. I have one brother who’s name is Michal and he is 23. He used to play hockey until he injured his shoulder and he now lives in Coventry, England. My dad, Milan is 48 and he works in factory (iron, steel), he used to play handball. My mom, Darina is 47 and she works for a computer company.
BB: Where is Dubnica, Slovakia and what kind of place is it? How does it compare to anything you have seen so far among the cities you have visited in North America?
IB: Slovakia is in the middle of the Europe and Dubnica is really close to the Czech borders. It is a small town with a population of about 25000. I can’t compare my hometown to the American cities because they are totally different. Dubnica is not very modern, but it is very historical.
BB: What got you involved with ice hockey?
IB: My father took me to the rink when I was like 4, put skates on my feet, and I liked it so that is how I started with ice hockey.
BB: Who were your role model/heroes as a youth?
IB: Every player who was playing in the NHL, because they made the show
BB: Ivan there is very little that known about you by Ranger fans so could you talk about the kind of hockey player you are?
IB: I think I’m a pretty good skater, passer and shooter, I like to jump into the rush as a defensemen, but there is always something to work on, always something for me to improve on with my game.
BB: When you was young did you ever think that you would find yourself drafted by a NHL team?
IB: I was dreaming about it and you got to first dream and imagine, then with hard work you can get it.
BB: How did you find out that the Rangers had drafted you?
IB: I was at the draft in Nashville. I was sitting in the stands waiting for their call
BB: What has been the biggest adjustment for you to make coming over from Europe and playing the North American style of hockey?
IB: The smaller rink, a more physical type of game and a little bit of a language barrier
BB: Last season was pretty good for you, you got to represent Slovakia at the World Junior Championships and then also got a chance to play for the WHL Championship. How did those events help your confidence that you could play hockey at such a high level?
IB: I’m proud to represent my country, and it also means, that they believe that I’m good hockey player who can play in the big tournaments.
BB: Tell us what life is like for you in your second season with the Silvertips?
IB: I have gotten more confident than I was a year ago. I know the players, coaching staff, fans, people around here a lot better.
BB: Do you feel more pressure this season after coming so close to winning the WHL championship last year?
IB: Yes, last year nobody even expected us to make the playoffs but we proved, that we can play hockey, this year we have gotten a little more respect in this league than we had last year.
BB: What kind of advice does your coach Kevin Constantine give you about where you need to improve in order to move up to the NHL level?
IB: It’s like play every game as hard as I can. For every shift on the ice play at 120%, make sure that my pre-game preparation is at a high level and to do every little detail right. Everything that he says I take as advice because he knows since he coached in NHL, but like I said, You got to always improve everything.
BB: Which is more fun for you as a player, scoring a goal or hitting a big bodycheck?
IB: I think scoring a goal, if you got enough goals, you gonna win. That is all that matters, to win a game, but I like bodychecking too
BB: Off the ice what do you do for fun and to help you relax?
IB: I watch TV or movies, I hang out with friends, I sleep and I play tennis
BB: The Rangers have said that once your season with the Silvertips ends they would like to see you join the Hartford Wolfpack so how excited are you about getting a chance to play in the AHL?
IB: I am so excited about it, but Ii can’t think about it too much because I got to still stay focused for playoffs here in WHL. But I can’t wait to get there.
BB: What areas of your game have the Rangers asked you to work on this season while playing with the Silvertips?
IB: To be more physical and to keep working hard every game.
BB: Who on the Rangers has remained in touch with you to help you work on those areas of your game the Rangers want to see improved?
IB: The scouts for the WHL (Ernie Gare and Shannon Sather), head coach (Renney) and the scout for Slovakia (Mr. Gajdosik), anybody, who is involved with the rangers
BB: You have gotten to play against fellow Ranger prospects/draft picks in the WHL so who impresses you the most with their game?
IB: The ones I play the most against are Dubinsky, Jonasen, and Dawes. I have a chance to see them more often than other guys who are playing in the other conference. That is why I’m gonna talk about them. All three of them are snipers, good skaters, passers, and playmakers; so it’s really hard to pick one.
BB: How will you be spending your summer this off-season
IB: Like I do every summer, I’m gonna work out and have off ice training to help me for next season. I might take a vacation, but I’m not sure.
BB: Here is your chance to say anything you would like to the Ranger fans about what kind of player you want to be for the Rangers.
IB: Well winning is much better than losing, so I wanna after every game feel like a winner, and I will do anything to win a game
BB: Anything else?
IB: I’m a kid who likes to win
(Ivan Baranka's picture courtesy of the Hartford Wolfpack)