Sunday, August 31, 2008

Let the Games Begin

The exhibition season got underway this weekend and as one can expect there were mixed results. We are going to for now include those prospects invited to Traverse City even though the Rangers do not own the rights to them.

So what we are going to do is start looking at those who will be a part of the Traverse City roster for the Rangers. For those who have already started game play we are going to update their performance and then some introductions for those undrafted invitees.

We are going to start out west in the WHL as they have more players in action at the moment.

Dale Wiese (Swift Current)

Wiese had a goal and an assist as his Swift Current Broncos defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-3 in the opening game for both teams in the Edmonton Oil King's tournament on Saturday evening. According to sources Wiese looked very solid at both ends of the ice and appears to be very ready for the Ranger's Traverse City camp.

On Sunday, the Broncos lost 3-1 to Prince George and we are still awaiting the wrapup on the game.

As for Wiese, despite what the folks in Swift Current are thinking we expect him to be returned to Swift Current where he is the odds on favorite to become the Bronco Captain.

Tomas Kundratek (Medicine Hat Tigers)

Kundratek remains in limbo as issues regarding his transfer card remain unresolved. On a side note that it is our understanding that Kundratek will not be allowed to play in Traverse City if the issue of his transfer rights are not settled.

Those in the know are saying that Kundratek is going to move directly into the first unit power play for the Tigers. Kundratek will have an impact on Medicine Hat's fortunes as he learns how to adapt to the North American style of play (an adjustment we are told will not be all that hard).

Kundratek according to those we have talked to actually is more suited for the North American game than he is the European game. Despite just being a shade over 6', Kundratek does not shy away from physical contact no matter what the size player he is going up against.

Matt Meropoulis (Chilliwack Bruins)

Meropoulis is one of the invitees to the Traverse City camp and before we report on his efforts this weekend, we would like to clear 2 things up. The first being the reasoning behind Meropoulis's invite has very little to do with Glen Sather's ownership of the Bruins.

We believe that Meropoulis was invited in part because he has been an attendee of Ranger assistant coach Perry Pearn's hockey camp. Not to mention that the Rangers maintain a strong scouting presence out west.

Meropoulis is being invited to the Ranger's Traverse Camp because the Ranger scouting staff feels his is worth taking a look at and Meropoulis earned this invite. Sometimes people misread too much about Glen Sather and give him way too much credit as in this case little is deserved.

The other item is that Meropoulis is a center not a right wing as some among the Ranger media have reported. The feeling out west about Meropoulis is that he is about to have a breakout season offensively this year. As it is "Mero" as he is known is a lot like Ryan Callahan in terms of a willingness to get his hands dirty.

Mero is popular with both the Bruin fans as his willingness to drop the gloves despite giving up size to those he faces will endear him to Ranger fans. If someone can get Mero to improve his upper body they just might get a serviceable player who will be able to handle several roles on a team.

Perhaps the best comment about this kid was that one person told us that if Mero was a baseball player that his uniform would always be the dirtiest on the field. Always working hard whether the score is 1-1 or 11-1 is what will stand out.

As for his play, Meropoulis has been lining up as the Bruin's first line center in 2 of the 3 exhibition games that they played this weekend. Meropoulis did not score in either of the 2 games but that he was the first line center says that the Bruins have big hopes for him.

Tysen Dowzak (Kelowna Rockets)

The first thing people are going to see when they look at Dowzak is how huge he is at 6'5 225. Dowzak it is safe to say is not being invited to the Traverse City camp because of his offensive skills.

Right off the bat the first thing that will stand out is how well conditioned that Dowzak is as we expect him to master the conditioning tests that the Ranger staff will be putting the prospect though.

What really stood out about Dowzak was the turn around that he had with his plus/minus as Dowzak was -24 during the 2006-07 season to a +29 last season.

We are hoping to have someone from the Kelowna area talk to us this week about Dowzak as the Rockets do not begin exhibition play until Friday.

Other Prospect Notes

Evgeny Grachev had a quiet debut for the Brampton Battalion (5-3 winners over the Kitchner Rangers) Saturday evening. Grachev was used with Cody Hodgson (Vancouver 1oth overall pick 2008) and promising winger Sam Carrick.

2008 First Round Pick Michael Del Zotto did not play in the Oshawa General exhibition opener (a 6-3 loss to Niagara) but word out of Oshawa is that Del Zotto is expected to have a monster season.

Chris Doyle went 2-5 as a center as his PEI Rocket dropped a 5-2 decision to the Saint Johns Sea Dogs in the exhibition opener for both teams. TC invitee David Stich did not dress for the Sea Dogs but is expected to play on Monday when the teams meet in a rematch.

Next Up will be the prospects playing out of the OHL

(Picture credits: Grachev-NHL/CSB, Dowzak-Kelowna (WHL), Meropoulis-Chilliwack (WHL), Wiese-Swift Current (WHL), Kundratek-New York Rangers)

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