Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More than Just the New Kid on the Block

Rimouski 3 Chicoutimi 2 SO

Before we get to the signing of Justin Soryal, we want to talk about our star of the night to first and that is David Skokan of the Rimouski Oceanic.

Remember what we said about not looking at the score sheet yesterday? Once again that is the case as Skokan played an inspired game against the Chicoutimi Saguenéens that really does not show up on the score sheet.

If anything if you look at the score sheet and see these numbers: 2 PIMs, -1 and 7-14 on face offs then you think he struggled. In the 3rd period we watched as Skokan repeatedly was throwing his body around (5 good hits) and taking 4 shots (3 were legit scoring chances). It was yet another in a series of solid strong performances from Skokan.,

Oh and before we forget the player who scored the Shoot Out Winner was also David Skokan as his shot had eyes and dribbled though the Sangueneen goalie. Skokan also wins our award for the best celebration for scoring that you have to see to enjoy except odds are if Skokan ever tried it in the NHL, he would start one heck of a brawl (but we still loved watching it).

Brampton 4 Peterborough 3

You really have to give the Rangers some serious credit for timing as the signing of Justin Soryal could not have come at a better time. Soryal and his Peterborough Petes were hosting Bobby Sanguinetti and his Brampton Battalion. We think that this is a solid signing and we will break it down later.

As for the game itself, it was the newly signed Soryal who outscored the current prospect leader Sanguinetti with a goal and +1 in the loss. Soryal gave the Petes an early 1-0 lead when he scored at 1:39 of the first period. It was Soryal's 16th goal of the season and it actually gives a great reason as to why the Rangers signed him.

Soryal cashed in a rebound right in front of the net which is why the Rangers signed him not just because he has a ton of PIMs. Bobby Sanguinetti was scoreless in this game but will gladly take the win since it ended a 2 game losing streak for the Battalion. The Troop also reduced their magic number for clinching the number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference to just 2 points.

Prince Edward Island 5, Saint John 4 OT

As we expected Antoine Lafleur got the start in net for the Prince Edward Island Rocket and gave 3 different performances. The first performance was in the first period where Lafleur stopped all 11 shots that he faced as his Rocket jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

The second performance was in the 2nd and 3rd periods where Lafleur gave up 4 goals on 28 shots as his Rocket blew a 4-1 lead and forced overtime. In the overtime, Lafleur only made 2 saves but they were key as the Rocket scored the winning goal and upset Saint Johns.

The Rocket moved ahead of Val-d'Or for the 7th seed in the QMJHL's Eastern Division with 2 games left in the regular season. They also helped Ryan Hillier's Halifax Mooseheads who are locked in a battle for the 1st seed in the division as speaking of the Mooseheads.

Lewiston 3, Halifax 2

With the Saint John loss the Mooseheads had a golden opportunity to open 4 point lead on their rivals for the division championship but failed. Ryan Hillier tried his best by continuing his scoring streak with an assist to bring that streak to 5 games (5-3-8).

If anything this loss is symbolic of the inconsistency that the Mooseheads have been playing with over the last couple of months. The Mooseheads should have walked away with the Eastern Division title a month ago but their play has allowed Saint Johns to stay in the divisional race.

It appears that this race just might wind up coming down to the final game of the season on Sunday (a national telecast no less) between the 2 teams.

Hillier thought moved into a tie with Bobby Sanguinetti for the prospect scoring title with each having 68 points. Right now Hillier owns the tiebreaker based on more goals as Hillier has 33 to Sanguinetti's 29 with each player having 2 games left in the regular season.

Penticton 4 Vernon 3 OT

It was one of those "could have, should have, didn't have" type of games for Greg Beller's Vernon Vipers as they looked to even their best of seven series with the Pentiction Vees. The "could have" was the tying up of the series, the "should have" was only going 1 for 7 on the power play as even 1 more goal on the power play would have been the difference.

The "didn't have" was that game winning goal and now the series shifts back to Penticton for game 5 with Beller's Vipers trailing 3-1 and going to need a huge win on the road to send the series back to Vernon for a game 6.

The New Kid on the Block

While Ranger fans are enjoying watching the various fighting video clips being shown on the internet, this is going to come as a shock but we believe that Justin Soryal could actually offer more than just a goon to the Rangers.

First we will start with Mike Davis of The Peterborough Examiner and the scouting report he was so kind to send us and then break it down:

Justin Soryal was a 10th-round draft pick of the Peterborough Petes from Georgina Ice of the OHA Central Junior C league. Not many players make the jump from junior C to major junior hockey at the OHL level but Justin overcome those long odds with some hard work and toughness.

To help understand what this means is like the Rangers taking someone directly from Charlotte of the ECHL and bringing him to NYC. What Soryal did was very rare and more than anything it screams volumes about his work ethic and willingness to be coached.

The past two seasons Soryal has been almost everybody's choice as the toughest player in the OHL. Last season, playing with current Philadelphia Flyer Steve Downie and former Calgary Flames draft pick Daniel Ryder, Justin began to show some more facets to his game putting up a career high 26 goals.

Ranger fans know all about Downie and his antics but let us make sure it is understood that unlike Downie, Soryal has never taken liberties or cheap shots against those he played against. Some might consider Soryal as a throwback to the days of Joey Kocur and Nick Fotiu

He's played two years on the Petes' top line and is an honest player who will work hard in the corners and pot the odd goal. I remember former Petes' coach Dick Todd, who Rangers' fans will remember as an assistant coach on the 1994 Stanley Cup team, telling me that Soryal showed signs in practice during his first two years that if given the chance Soryal had good enough hands to contribute as more than a tough guy. He's shown the last two years that is the case.

If Dick Todd is one of the most respected names in the junior ranks thinks Soryal offers a bigger potential than just as a goon who are we to argue. As we mentioned earlier, the goal that Soryal scored against the Battalion is what we believe the Rangers are thinking as well.

The Rangers have plenty of smallish forwards all over the system, what the Rangers lack is someone who will set up shop in the crease, take the abuse to set up screens and score those garbage goals.

At 6'2 and growing into his body, Soryal is looking more and more like a late bloomer. When you realize that all Soryal is costing is some money then this is a smart move by the Rangers. At worse is that Soryal will give the Hartford Wolfpack someone who will protect their teammates.

We also realize that because the Rangers used 3 of their 2007 draft picks on prospects who are going to be in college for the next 3-4 years (and one on a goalie) that there is a bit of a gap in the prospect pipeline that will need to be filled.

Soryal is the kind of player Ranger fans will like even if he did not drop the gloves like he does. His hard work and higher energy on the ice is the blue collar type that Ranger fans have always loved.

We very much thank Mike Davis for his help here as he wrote what he did right before covering tonight's Peterborough game. He did not have to do that and we recognize that he wanted to tell the Ranger fans about Soryal.

(Skokan Picture courtesy of the Rimouski Oceanic)


Nat said...

What do we know of Soryal's skating a checking prowess?

Jess Rubenstein said...


Everyone I have talked with says Soryal finishes his checks, is a hard hitter and is a good skater but like all young players could use some polish