Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Learning Curve

People wanted to see goals from the Ranger Prospect team so they got 5 of them during the Ranger's 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Prospects. Now that they have gotten some goals can anyone say that they have really learned anything different about the prospects?

Yes a win was nice as was scoring 5 goals but can anyone say they know anything more about the potential of those Ranger prospects than they did in the previous 2 shutout losses? On the surface no there still is not real clear answers but we are starting to see a couple of patterns for this season.

The first one for us starts with 2005 3rd round pick Brodie Dupont as we have seen Dupont being used as the first line left wing in all 3 games so far at Traverse City. For Dupont, this has to be a nice show of confidence by his Hartford coach Ken Germander.

Dupont struggled for the most part though his rookie professional going 9-13-22 in 66 games as Dupont fought the rookie blues and some injuries including a concussion that might have done the most damage to Dupont's season along with perhaps his confidence.

Dupont is a player who we have followed very closely since the Rangers drafted him in the 2005 draft. A product of former Ranger captain Kelly Kisio's Calgary Hitmen program, we have felt that Dupont could develop into a badly needed power forward for the Rangers.

With Calgary, the 6'2 Dupont was a 2 time 30 goal scorer as well team captain which are 3 qualities that the Rangers can always use on the roster. Despite his rookie season struggles we believe that Dupont can still develop into a power forward.

Using the 6'2 Dupont with the 6'3 Artem Anisimov along with 6'3 Evgeny Grachev or 6'2 Dale Weise is something to dream about for the future. Add the bigger prospects to the Dubinsky's, Dawes, and Callahans will help give the Rangers the right mix of power and finesse for the future.

Another prospect who really struggled last season was 2005 4th round pick Tom Pyatt. Pyatt had it worse than Dupont as Pyatt wound up spending time in the ECHL

It was a tough year from the prospect who went from being the "Prime Time"in Saginaw to the 4th line with Hartford last season. It was a humbling and frustrating process for the 2nd generation hockey player.

If you did not know Pyatt is the son of former NHLer Nelson Pyatt and the younger brother of Vancouver Canuck Taylor. Pyatt is also a very good friend of current Ranger Marc Staal as both were 2 time gold medal winners with Team Canada's Under-20 teams.

If anything to hear that Pyatt lost his confidence was a shock to us as this was the last prospect we ever would have thought would have such a problem. The one thing though that we do know is that Pyatt has shown that he does learn from his mistakes and we expect him to be the player we called "Prime Time" this season.

So far we have seen Pyatt being used in roles that he was used to being used in with Saginaw and Team Canada from checking forward to penalty killer to as he was used against the Tampa Bay Prospects which is the 2nd line center. Those are the best ways to help Pyatt improve his self-confidence because the Rangers clearly never lost their confidence in Pyatt.

Pyatt can be viewed as a better built Ryan Callahan as the 5'11 Pyatt is one of the best Ranger prospects on the defensive end despite his small size. Nobody is going to outsmart Pyatt or out work him but the key is will Pyatt believe that he can play at this level?

We do and think like Dupont that Pyatt will have a bounce back season which is going to be good news for Wolf Pack fans. In fact between Dupont, Pyatt and even Justin Soryal that Hartford Wolfpack fans are going to enjoy this season.

At the Same Time

If you want to look at the score sheet and see that 2008 First Round Pick Michael Del Zotto has been -6 during Traverse City and think that Del Zotto is very bad defensively then we say not so fast.

Del Zotto does need to work on his defensive game but had Michael Sauer or Tomas Kundratek been healthy and playing in Traverse City then there is no doubt in our mind Del Zotto would have not been a -6.

No offense to those who have been Del Zotto's defensive partners in Traverse City but neither Lyon Messier or Nick Pageau are known as defensive stoppers like a Sauer is. We also know that Del Zotto has been working his butt off to improve his play on the defensive end and know that it will take some time for those improvements to show results.

By the way does anyone know who made the play to set up Dale Weise's power play goal against Tampa Bay? Yes that was Del Zotto who made a solid play to feed Weise which is what we hope people will remember why the Rangers used their first round pick on Del Zotto.

What is Next?

The Ranger prospects are going to try to finish Traverse City with a 2-2 record as they play the St. Louis Blues Prospects in the 5th place game. For some of those on the Traverse City roster it is also going to be their final chance to earn a trip to the main Ranger Training Camp.

We believe that all the draft picks are going to get to spend at least a few days at the Ranger training camp but of the "invitees" we only think that David Stich and Tysen Dowzak have worked hard enough to warrant a longer look.

Both would give the Rangers some size on the blueline which is always nice especially given that Michael Sauer is going to lose almost half a season as he recovers from his ACL. Not to mention that signing the 6'2 Stich and 6'5 Dowzak only costs Hartford money not salary cap of the Rangers.

Here is hoping that some hard work has paid some dividends at least for 2 young players.

(Dupont and Pyatt Pictures Courtesy of Chris Rutsch/Hartford Wolfpack, Del Zotto courtesy of the OHL)

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