No matter what your views about the Rangers management or coaching staffs there is one area where Ranger fans really should have no complaints about and that is the changes in the developmental process. Over the last 5 years we have watched as the Rangers have made great strides in improving the development of their draft picks and free agents.
The first thing the Rangers have done is hold this "Summer School" where they get the prospect started on a program designed to help the prospect improve in areas like diet, workout program and skill development.
It is a program that is specifically designed for each individual but it is also their first introduction for them to Tom Renney's system and life as a professional. We have seen first hand the differences these programs can make over a single summer.
In the time we have covered the Ranger prospects we have watched them make jumps in skills, improving on weaknesses, in hockey sense and last but most importantly in personal maturity.
Yes we know one can make a case that the prospect themselves play the biggest roles in their own development but the program that the Rangers design for each prospect is a difference maker. You have seen it yourself when you see Dubinsky, Staal, and every other young Rangers on the ice as Rangers sooner that most expect.
You will continue to see the benefits of this program as prospects work their way though the system. The side effect of this program is that it also will weed out those who will not fit in as we saw by the trading away of Alex Bourret this past weekend.
For most prospects, they are used to being the stars on their team so the toughest lesson for some is the humbling one where they got from being the "big man" to a role player. Teaching teenagers to become true team players is a tough lesson but as we have said it is something we have watched the Ranger prospects do over the last few years.
The 2008 "Summer School" Class list is an interesting one to look over as some of the invitees are not only informative but message sending to other prospects.
Jean-Christopher Blanchard is someone we are very familiar with as he played for Rimouski with David Skokan. We like this invitation as Blanchard is a player who knows what it is like to play with no offensive support.
Blanchard was the reason why Rimouski upset Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL playoffs 4-1. In the 4 wins, Blanchard gave up 0,1,1,and 2 goals while the one loss 5 goals. In the second round the Oceanic were out matched talent wise but Blancard was a star there despite being swept.
Antoine Lafleur was the Ranger's 2nd round pick in 2007 and struggled big time last season. Lafleur whether it was lack of confidence or not totally messed up his game as every part of his game was messed up. Lafleur should be thanking the Rangers for not giving up on him as it is not even a sure thing that Lafleur will be a starter for Prince Edward Island next season.
Andrew Perugini went from struggling big time with Barrie to going 16-8 with the Sarina Sting. If there was one word to describe him it would be inconsistent as one game he was lights out and then next he was beer league bench warmer.
Chad Greenan is someone we have watched the last few years as a member of the Kootenay Ice. We wonder what the Rangers are seeing because Greenan did nothing to stand out with the Ice.
David Urguhart played for McGill in the Canadian Hockey league so our information is limited to the shared database we have with others. The one report we have read says that Urguhart is a solid offensive defenseman who can score and create.
Nick Pageau played for Belleville missing the first 2 series due to a high ankle sprain. Smallish defender who was in the 3rd pair for the Bulls. Not much offense but responsible defensively. Nothing special about him other than he "takes a licking and keeps on ticking"
Joe Ryan is a good gamble as this might be a super sleeper. The Joe Ryan we know played for Gatineau during their playoff run but he was supposedly under contract to the Los Angeles Kings unless they let him out of it. Ryan was sent back to then Quebec because he was not interested in playing in the ECHL which is an understandable decision for a kid in his shoes.
Ryan is a winner and a good story as well from being a winner of a Memorial Cup with Quebec and overcoming learning disabilities as a child. Ryan is heart and soul but always to be the one last player in need of a break.
Justin Wallingford had a misleading season as the overager playing on a team that was pretending to rebuild (Front fans are not a happy bunch). Those fans like Wallingford when he was just a fighter but several we have seen made Wallingford into a symbol of what was wrong with their franchise.
We guess part of our being down on Wallingford is because we heard he was part of the OHL players who fought against wearing neckguards. The other part is because we seriously doubt that on a decent team that Wallingford would be anything more than a 7th defenseman.
Micheal Del Zotto and Mitch Gaulton were just drafted, you guys already know about Bobby Sanguinetti. Michael Busto struggled as a rookie free agent last season and was a teammate of Greenan.
Oren Eizenman is someone we have not seen play but the network says he was a college player at RPI and had a pretty decent rookie season with Fresno of the ECHL as a free agent going 27-39-66. Some of the interesting stuff we found about a kid who was Rookie of the month one month then player of the month in the next was also that Eizenman also has played in the first World Jewish Hockey Championships as a member of Team Israel (where he was named the best forward in the games)
Eizenman is a hard worker who has had several teams interested in his services that the Ranger beat out. We will be rooting a bit harder for him to do well.
Radek Meidel is someone we remember from his days with Seattle of the WHL 2 seasons ago. A Czech with size but somewhat of an enigma as you can see the talent there and when he wants to play hard he can be effective. When he plays he stands out but otherwise the 6'3 forward turns into the invisible man
If you look at his numbers with Tri-City you see 8-8-16 in 26 games which on the surface looks good. Then you look closer and see he had a 4 game stretch where he netted 5 of those goals but he also had an 8 game and 6 game goalless streak. He put up most of his points in bunches but was MIA when he did not score.
Nothing is more frustrating than to see a talented player not put the package together and realize that they were given a gift that any of us would kill for. If the Rangers can find a way to put the package together then they will have a power forward PLUS.
The other forwards in the camp are the newly drafted David Stepan, Dale Wiese (who we are going to be talking to Swift Current folks about this week) and Chris Doyle. Last year Wolfpack players Artem Anisimov, Brodie Dupont and Tom Pyatt and PTO prospect Mike Taylor.
Now toss in Ryan Hiller and Tomas Zaborsky who just signed their Entry Level contracts as well as free agent signee Justin Soryal. We hope someone has a video camera as we would kill to see a Soryal/Wiese matchup as both players are very much alike.
The most interesting names on the roster are Max Campbell, David Kveton, David Skokan and Danny Hobbs but for different reasons. Campbell because of NCAA rules has to pay his way to this camp but we are very happy to see him there because of the message Campbell is sending us.
We covered Campbell's freshmen season with Western Michigan and while his offense is pretty good, his defense needs a lot of work. Campbell was the 2nd line center for the Broncos and will be counted on for a ton next season.
Danny Hobbs we are glad to see there because the soon to be freshman at UMass/Amherst we believe got a wake up call during the 2nd half of his season with Columbus of the USHL. Hobbs has potential but really is very raw and this kind of camp will do a lot to help mold him. Glad to see attending because he has 4 more years to develop.
One of our favorites attending is David Skokan who if he is still with Rimouski next season will be heading to the Memorial Cup. Skokan is in our eyes the future pest of the Rangers as he knows exactly how to get under someone's skin. He is not afraid to drop the gloves either so we are projecting him as the checking forward/center.
The last member of the roster David Kveton is a name we really did not expect to see. Kveton in our eyes is the result of what happens when good kids get very bad advice. Had Kveton returned to Gatineau this past season he would have shown us a lot. We know he has playmaker inside of him which could be harnessed.
In our eyes Kveton (or his advisors) hurt this kid's career big time first leaving Gatineau in the middle of the season, then not coming back thinking he would play against better competition in the Czech League.
Sorry that did not happen and Kveton actually missed out on playing against some of Canada's best in the Memorial Cup. Unless Kveton performs a miracle we think the losing of 2 years of development catches up to him and costs him.
As for those who are not attending, Carl Hagelin we are excusing for more than the cost of a plane ticket as we believe he is in the US attending school at Michigan. Hagelin actually played hockey all over the world from August until the Frozen Four in March that takes a toll on a prospect.
Not to mention the "fun" trying to be a college student at one of the bigger US schools so we will cut him slack this camp but hope he attends Traverse City since it is in Michigan.
Has anyone seen Alexi Cherepanov? You know the very same prospect who Omsk GM Anatoly Bardin said was going to be attending all the Ranger camps this summer? We are not angry with Cherepanov but rather all those statements about the "cooperation" that was supposedly going to happen between the Rangers and Omsk.
It will be interesting to see the explanation as to "Where in the World is Alexi Cherepanov?"
We are working out the details but we hope to have an interview with Swift Current Bronco Broadcaster Jon Keen (check out his blog here) as he is our kind of guy who despite his role still calls it as it is. We can not wait to talk to him.
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