There is one area where most tend to overlook when trying to gauge the progress of a Ranger prospect; the person who is currently coaching him as that prospect works his way towards what Ranger fans hope is a future career as a Ranger.
To us it is a very important factor because if a prospect has a great teacher then it can speed up the prospect's development. And of course a poor teacher can also damage it as well, something we have sadly also seen
As we get ready for the upcoming season, we thought it was important to introduce you to three coaches who we believe will lead to break out seasons for the Rangers prospects entrusted to them.
The efforts of these 2 coaches are also going to be huge factors in why we will also be expecting breakout seasons from those who play for them. Down the road Ranger fans may not care where these players came from but we will because the efforts of these coaches are the foundations for a prospect's professional career.
Stan Butler Brampton Battalion (Evgeny Grachev)
For us starting here was a no brainer as when it comes to developing NHL players from the Canadian Juniors then few can match Stan Butler. This is a coach who produces NHL players at every position and has been doing so since the 1994-95 season.
We have listed several times the names of those who Butler has helped develop into NHL players as well as his record 10 players drafted off the 1995 Oshawa team Butler coached.
Thanks in part to Butler, few people are talking about Bobby Sanguinetti as a major defensive liability as he was in 2006 when the Rangers drafted Sanguinetti. Not taking anything away from Bobby Sanguinetti's own efforts but Butler helped Sanguinetti become a more responsible player in his own defensive zone.
That Sanguinetti was able to improve on defense while not losing anything off his offensive game is also a statement about Butler as a teacher. Typically one expects a prospect to lose a part of his game while trying to improve weak areas but that did not happen with Sanguinetti.
Now Butler has a new project from the Rangers named Evgeny Grachev. The last time Butler had a 6'3 202 lb center from Europe his name was Wojtek Wolski. Wolski at 22 is becoming a big part of the Avalanche's future and the similarities with Grachev as scary.
One thing that Rangers fans may not know is that Butler also has a history working with Tom Renney going back to working together with Hockey Canada (Butler was an assistant under Renney on the 1999 WJC Canadian team). Butler will take Grachev's natural talents and fine tune them but not by forcefeeding them to Grachev.
Butler is a teacher first (masters in education which few coaches at any level have) and that is what we believe will help Grachev with his transition to North America. Grachev has a lot of solid offensive weapons, great skating skills and an already made NHL body so Butler, we believe is going to turn Grachev into a power forward who's size will allow him to quarterback a power play from any spot in the offensive zone.
Red Berenson Michigan Wolverines Carl Hagelin
If you want to read Berenson's bio then click on the link as we would be here all night writing it up for you. To put it bluntly this is a coaching legend at any level of hockey and the job that Berenson did last season might have been his best.
If you did not read us last season then all Berenson did during a supposed rebuilding year was take a roster that had just 2 seniors and playing as many as 10 freshmen every night to the NCAA Frozen Four.
Carl Hagelin was one of those freshmen and what can you say about a coach who takes an unproven freshman and uses him on his first penalty kill unit? What can you say about a coach who uses that same freshman as a left wing on the second line when the freshmen had only been a center in his career.
What we impressed us about how Berenson brought along Hagelin was that it was subtle with next to no pressure or hype. Hagelin flew under most people's radar even though he was a member of Sweden's silver medal team at the 2008 WJC.
So many called Hagelin "invisible" but in every game we watched of him get better and better as the season progressed. Hagelin was a huge reason why the Michigan penalty kill was as good as it was and that starts with a coach willing to trust a freshman playing a new position.
Another area we saw out of Berenson was how Hagelin never suffered from the "European Wall" that many a European prospect suffers in his first season. Hagelin despite a trip to the WJC during the season was the opposite of most European prospects getting better as the season wore on.
If you missed the Michigan/Notre Dame game in the Frozen Four then shame on you as it was a thriller of a game. It was also Hagelin's best game of his freshman season (1-1-2 +1) as Hagelin scored one heck of a clutch goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Hagelin's goal, his overall performance have raised the bar of expectations on Hagelin for this season. However we are not worried that Hagelin might not reach those expectations because of Berenson who we think will continue the progression path that he has started with Hagelin.
With Berenson as a player gets older so does his responsibilities on the team which we believe is going to help Hagelin in the long run as he develops as a player. Keep an eye on Michigan this season like we will as this is a scary good program.
So does anyone care to guess which 2 Ranger prospects are going to become our "Prospects To Watch" for the 2008-2009 season?
As so many get credit for the development of Ranger prospects, we think some credit to all of the coaches who have led to the Ranger kids developing into the players they are is overdue and very deserving.
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