Thursday, July 31, 2008

His Royal Pain In the Rear Has Arrived

At first glance when we heard that 2007 7th Round Draft Pick David Skokan had signed a contract with Hartford, we were a tad shocked.

This was a signing that we did not think the Rangers were going to do this season. The recent trend of the Rangers is to have prospects spend 2 seasons in the juniors before bringing them into the professional ranks.

Then we have to admit that there is the selfish side of not wanting to see Skokan signed now mainly because Skokan was so very entertaining for us to watch. The good news for Wolfpack fans is that you will get to see why we loved this kid last season.

There are very few clips of Skokan in action but this is perhaps the best one to give you a small idea about Skokan. Skokan wears number 91 and is in red in this clip

Put it this way, if you liked the antics of Sean Avery then you are going to just love this kid. Skokan is very much like Avery a player who knows how to get under the skin of the other team.

It is more than just the Avery like antics that will get Skokan the support of Ranger and Wolfpack fans. What we saw last season was a player who in the second half was more than just an entertainer.

When we did the first half report, this is what we wrote about him: First goal is while we believe Skokan plays better against better competition, we want to see him now do that against the rest of the QMJHL. At just 8-14-22, those are not going to get him an invite to Hartford.

We believe Skokan needs at least 20 goals to get a ticket to Hartford but IF he gets that ticket he will surprise a lot of people with his play.

Skokan finished 19-21-40 for the regular season and then added 5 more assists to help Rimouski upset Baie-Comeau in the first round. But what we also noticed was that the better Skokan played on the offensive end the better he was on his face offs on the defensive end.

In tracking him over the second half of last season, Skokan rarely was below 50% in winning his face offs and it seemed that the better the quality of the opposition the better Skokan played.

Something else that stood out about Skokan was that whether it was in Traverse City (championship game setting up the game winner), helping Slovakia to remain in the Top Division of the World Under-20 (2 goals, 1 assist) or his performance during March when Skokan either set up or scored game winners to help Rimouski make the QMJHL playoffs.

No offense to any other Ranger prospect but when it came to the biggest of games none matched Skokan's knack for coming though like Skokan did. Clearly Skokan was the best clutch performer last season and that is saying a lot when you consider the offensive talents of Bobby Sanguinetti, Ryan Hillier and Tomas Zaborsky.

Those 3 had more points overall but none elevated themselves like Skokan did. While we do believe that Skokan would have gained by another season in the QMJHL; the decision appears to have been taken out of Skokan's hands.

Skokan is not currently listed on any training camp roster in the QMJHL which left Skokan the option of Hartford or returning to Europe. Skokan despite being European is better suited to play in North America then in Europe because of his willingness to play a physical game.

Skokan has proven in the past that if need be that Skokan will drop the gloves as seen by 297 PIMs in 158 QMJHL games. Skokan will need some work on his fighting skills as while he is game at the same time; Skokan lost more fights than he won.

Skokan already has an NHL sized body so we are not concerned about his needing to grow more to survive in the pros. If we are going to have a concern then it has to do with perhaps maturity issues.

Skokan wears his heart on his uniform and that might get him into trouble in the AHL. Last season Skokan got a 1 game suspension for "an inappropriate gesture" (read that as Skokan flipped the Quebec Remparts "the finger"). Skokan also has a tendency to showboat his goal scoring (IE our favorite is "Riding the Skokan Stick Pony") celebrations.

They may be popular with teammates but at the higher levels could lead to someone running him. So when we breakdown how we see Skokan next season then it goes like this.

On offense keep an eye on a quick release for a shot. When Skokan is looking for offense then he will be accurate with the shot and a good rebound generator since he can keep the shot low. Skokan does not receive enough credit for being creative but it is there and it will sneak up on you.

Skating wise, Skokan could improve his first step as it is not a fast start, it does take Skokan time to gain speed but when he does it is not bad. The Rangers tend to work on a player's skating skills in their development camps so Skokan should be better this season.

On defense, we are not worried as Skokan does have the good hockey sense to read plays and it is rare for him to get caught out of position. Not a heavy hitter but will finish checks to take out players.

Skokan due to his youth will be a 4th liner, playing the role of penalty killer and pest. Skokan does not lack for confidence so expect him to show no fear when going up against some of the AHL goons as Skokan will not back down. Hopefully Skokan will have some backup to cut down on the number of fights he does get into.

We believe that as Skokan gets more comfortable as a professional that he will look more for his shot. IF Skokan gains some confidence in his shot then look for him possibly wind up on a line with fellow Slovak Tomas Zaborsky to take advantage of both players strong 2 way skills.

In fact a line of Skokan/Zaborsky/Soryal really has some serious appeal to us as you have to goal scorer in Zaborsky, the pest/playmaker in Skokan and the protector/crease dweller in Soryal.

We predicted last winter that Skokan had the ability to earn this contract which Skokan has done. We think if the learning curve remains the same that Skokan despite his 7th round status could develop into a pretty decent checker at the NHL.

At just 19 we would give him 2-3 seasons in the AHL before expecting the possible jump up.

If he does jump then Ranger fans will love this kid just like we did.

(Skokan picture courtesy of the Rimouski Oceanic)

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