As we travel from the west to the east as we take a closer look at those Ranger prospects scheduled to take part in the Traverse City Camp, today we look at those who are scheduled to play in the OHL.
Normally we would start with a first round pick but since we are still awaiting for Michael Del Zotto to make his exhibition debut so we will start with:
Evgeny Grachev (Brampton Battalion)
There are very few 3rd round picks who will get us really excited about watching him develop but Grachev is not your average 3rd round pick. The only reason Grachev was a 3rd round selection and not taken earlier was the annual NHL worries about whether a Russian was interested or able to come over to North America.
How one can miss a kid who is 6'3 saying how badly he wants to come over to the NHL and North America is the Ranger's gain. This prospect could become the cornerstone for the Ranger's power forward position that has been missing for over a decade.
Grachev is a strong player at either end of the ice, on defense his ability to make game changing plays is going get people's attention in a hurry. Grachev can make either the physical play or the finesse play as he adapts to the situation with a wisdom beyond age of just 19.
On offense, Grachev is going to be a rare combination of a big man who can create his own offense or set up and be the goal scorer. With Brampton, Grachev could be used as a winger with Cody Hodgson (who was Sanguinetti's set up player last season) or as a center for the very talented Matt Duchene.
Both Battalion players have played against Grachev in international competitions and are very happy to have Grachev as a teammate instead of opposition.
In his second game with the Battalion (6-2 winners over Kitchener) on Monday evening, Grachev was used as a center with younger players Sam Carrick (2nd game with Grachev) and Stephon Thorne.
Grachev did not score but his line did play well against the defending OHL champions.
Micheal Del Zotto (Oshawa Generals)
The Ranger's used their first round pick on the talented defenseman and there is going to be a lot of pressure on Del Zotto this season. For starters both he and John Taveres are going to be called upon to play like superstars if their Generals are going to have any hope of having a good season.
We have to admit we have a few concerns about the Oshawa Generals and how it might affect the development of Del Zotto. The biggest has to be playing under an experienced head coach/GM at the OHL level.
Second on our list is that the Generals have a lot of holes on their roster to fill with the biggest being in goal. See while we are hoping to see Del Zotto improve on his defensive game and if his offense is not mind blowing we will not freak out.
Because the Generals are so inexperienced we are worried that Del Zotto might have to play perhaps too much time every game. In our eyes ideally during the regular season, a defenseman at his age and development should only play 20-22 minutes a night.
We watched Michael Sauer's development struggle big time when he was asked to play 30 minutes a night. Too much ice time can sometimes lead to fatigue which in the domino effect could lead to serious injury.
If we could advise Del Zotto we would tell him to work hard, continue to do the things that made him a first round pick and to not try to carry the world on his shoulders. We say that because already the hype being hyped upon him by both the Rangers and Generals is getting a tad out of hand.
Labeled a "superstar" by his coach is a bit much as yes Del Zotto is a talented player but can we temper those labels while Del Zotto develops? We have all read the scouting reports on Del Zotto and offensively they are true.
We are not ready to believe that his defensive game is as suspect as it has been described as due to Del Zotto was asked to play a role by his previous coach and that is exactly what Del Zotto did. If you are not used in defensive situations then you can be labeled as a defensive liability.
Nick Pageau (Belleville Bulls)
The Rangers in the Tom Renney era have looked specifically for players who come from winning programs. Defenseman Nick Pageau is the latest in undrafted finds.
While the NYC media was impressed by Pageau's play during the Prospect Development Camp in June, we were not as we expected Pageau to shine based upon his play during the OHL season.
Pageau is never going to be an offensive whiz, he is never going to be a heavyweight fighter and he is never going to be pretty at what he does. What he offers is the possibility of a very dependable shut down defender.
The Rangers say that Pageau has finished his junior career but that may be incorrect as Pageau is listed as a player on the 2008 training camp roster.
People viewed him as an undersized defender and at 6'1 that may be the case but in today's NHL, size is not as big a factor as it used to be. What does matter is can a player make the smart plays, can he show that he is responsible in his own defensive zone and can he keep skating.
In our eyes Pageau can do of those things and is still developing as a player. Remember nobody had any idea who Dan Girardi was as he too was an undrafted free agent and look what he has done.
Pageau went undrafted because he was too busy covering for PK Suppan who while a talented offensive player tended to leave his defensive partner all by himself. That how we got to watch Pageau because being hung out to dry as often as he was, Pageau did a pretty solid job.
The only concern has to be that he missed 15 games last season and then only played 6 games in the OHL/Memorial Cup run. We think he might steal himself a AHL/ECHL contract because of his work ethic.
Chris Doyle played his second game at center for the Prince Edward Island Rocket and while he improved on his faceoffs (5-6), he went scoreless again and we seriously question why he is being used at center. PEI lost once again to the Saint Johns Sea Dogs 3-1.
Traverse City Invitee David Stich sat this game out again for the Sea Dogs
No word on any trade of Antoine Lafleur as he remains without a team and in limbo.
Also in limbo is Tomas Kundratek who sat out his Medicine Hat Tiger's 6-4 loss to the Regina Pats in the Tiger's exhibition season opener.
(Pic credits: Grachev: Brampton Battalion, Del Zotto: Oshawa Generals, Pageau: Belleville)
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