It may still be just the exhibition season among the CHL leagues but we enjoyed the action from Saturday night that we felt there were some people deserving of stars being award so without any further ado congrats to our first stars of the year.
First Star- David Stich Saint Johns Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
The undrafted invitee to the Ranger's Traverse City Camp had a great game in helping his Sea Dogs to a 3-1 win over the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Saturday.
Stich got his night off to a good start with his first goal of the exhibition season at 14:26 of the first period and then got better. The line on Stich was 1-0-1, 7 PIM +1, 3 shots on goal, 1-1 on faceoffs and 2 good hits.
Stich came one assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick but more importantly is that if Stich is going to play like the Stich of last season's playoffs then the Rangers just might have found themselves a player.
Stich was the 4th player selected in the 2006 CHL import draft and has not lived up to his potential until we hoped now. A very good skating physical defender who had 14 assists last season so we know he can pass.
It was a strong effort from Stich who according to reports understands he is a long shot to earn a Ranger contract. We are going to root for him because you can never have enough physical defenders in the system who will drop the gloves.
Second Star Tomas Kundratek Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
With his transfer card in place and getting his chance to finally play then Tomas Kundratek introduced himself to North American Hockey with a goal in his very first game. Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers just blew out the Saskatoon Blades 10-2 on Saturday evening.
Kundratek, the Ranger's second pick of the 3rd round in the 2008 Entry Draft finally gave a glimpse of why the Rangers wanted him to come over to North America.
Kundratek had the typical first game rust to shake out but it is clear that if he even returns to Medicine Hat after the Ranger training camp that it will be one season there and gone to the Rangers.
It is going to be very interesting to see how Kundratek plays once he gets his stamina up to speed as there is no doubt that Kundratek is more mature than the average 18 year old. We want to see more weight on him especially in the upper body if he wants to play the physical game Kundratek says he enjoys.
Third Star Matt Meropoulis Chilliwack Bruins (WHL)
Another of the invitees to the Ranger's Traverse City/Training Camp earned our 3rd star for a shorthanded assist as his Chilliwack Bruins fell 6-4 to the Kamloops Blazers. Meroupoulis showed that he may not be the biggest player on the ice but few will out work him.
Meropoulis was used by the Bruins as the first line center, on the power play and penalty kill and we can see why. Smart prospect who makes up for his lack of size with a bulldog mindset as it looks as if on each shift Meropoulis wants to show that nobody is going to out work him.
He needs to gain some more confidence in his offense though which might hurt him at the upcoming camps. As a smaller player who has solid defensive skils along with a ton of grit, Meropoulis needs to be well rounded at all areas of his game.
The Bruin coaching staff believe that Meropoulis has the offense in him so we will hope they are right about him.
It seems that one of the Ranger training camp invitees is involved in a soap opera like drama over where he will be playing this season. The player's name is Evan Pighin who spent last season with Chilliwack of the WHL along with time with Salmon Arm of the BCHL.
Forward Evan Pighin does not want to play for the Chilliwack this season as instead he wants to drop back down to the Vancouver Grizzlies of the BCHL. Now you might want to take notes because this is where the drama gets going.
Pighin believes that playing for the Grizzlies would do more to improve his chances of getting a professional contract after this season since the Grizzlies are hosting the RBC Cup (Junior A championships). The problem though is that Pighin is under contract to play for the Bruins who have zero intention of releasing his rights to the Grizzlies.
To do that, Chilliwack would have to first place Pighin on WHL waivers and they have said that is not going to happen. They would trade Pighin but Pighin's rep for team jumping makes his trade value less than nothing.
And making things even better is that the Vancouver Grizzlies are owned by new Tampa Bay Lightning owner Len Barrie while the Bruins are owned in part by Anaheim GM Brian Burke and Ranger GM/President Glen Sather.
So now the question is was the Ranger invite part of a lure to get Pighin back with Chilliwack or does he deserve it? The next question is what will happen if Chilliwack and Vancouver fail to resolve this?
In any case this is a player who despite his talent might not be the kind of prospect the Rangers should go after. Too many suspect issues about his character makes us question his effort.
We know that the Belleville Bulls defeated the Ottawa 67's 2-1 in OHL action but we do not know if invitee Nick Pageau played in the game.
The same can be said of fellow invitee Tysen Dowzak who plays for Kelowna in the WHL. His Rockets did come back from 0-3 to win 4-3 in the shoot out.
We got to admit covering the CHL exhibition season is harder than any other time of the season because few teams want to issue scoresheets to confirm lineups.
Sunday looks quiet as we would like to talk about today's IIHF meeting in Switzerland which the NHL boycotted. Nice going NHL there is how you resolve issues like adults.
We also do not think one should place a whole lot of merit in the story out of Russia that Alexi Cherepanov was demoted to the Avangard Omsk farm team. Cherepanov goes from a groin injury to a demotion go figure which story is accurate.
(pic credits: Stich- Saint Johns, Kundratek- New York Rangers/NHL, Meropoulis- Chilliwack)
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