The Rangers were not the only ones to generate some serious excitement Friday night as we had 8 Ranger prospects in action and to be honest if tonight is any idea of what we will be seeing this season then the Ranger future is getting brighter each day.
If we have this much trouble trying to figure out who our stars of the evening when the season really gets going then this is going to be a lot of fun for us this season.
First Star Max Campbell Western Michigan Broncos (NCAA)
Really this was a tough call as 4 players deserved this honor but in the end it was the player who's play had the most impact that decided this and that mean Max Campbell (2005 5th) earned tonight's first star.
Campbell's first goal of the season at 12:25 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and was the game winner as the Western Michigan Broncos came from behind to win their season opener 4-2 over the Niagara Eagles. It was a power play goal for "Soup" as he deflected a point shot from the crease past Golden Eagle goalie Juliano Pagliero to send Bronco fans happy.
While other Ranger prospects are going to get most of the notice, this is the kind of play that WMU is going to need from Campbell almost every night if they are going to defy the predictions of a last place finish in the CCHA this season.
We have a feeling that we are going to see more big time goals from Campbell this season.
Second Star Antoine Lafleur Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
At the start of Traverse City, Antoine Lafleur was basically in hockey exile, his team from last season the Prince Edward Island Rocket of the QMJHL had been trying to trade him all summer long. The 6'5 Lafleur did not even attend the Rocket's training camp since he had no future with the Rocket.
Lafleur instead worked on his game at the Ranger's training center and it did pay off in our eyes as the Lafleur who started for Rouyn-Noranda looked more comfortable than he did at any time last season. Lafleur got his fresh start off to a good beginning with a 3-2 win over the Shawinigan Cataractes.
Lafleur faced 26 shots (of which 8 were credited as "dangerous") over a Cataractes team that came into the game with the 4 best record overall in the QMJHL. The win helped Rouyn-Noranda even their record at 4-4 and while we are not ready to say Lafleur is "Comeback Player" just yet; we are glad to see that at least for one night the change of scenery helped.
Third Star Carl Hagelin Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)
Seeing a star by Carl Hagelin's name is going to be an almost common occurrence this season judging by the way Hagelin has gotten his regular season started. Hagelin had a goal and an assist as Hagelin's second ranked Michigan Wolverines escaped a major upset with a 4-3 win over the St. Lawrence Saints.
Hagelin got the start as the first line left wing and his goal erased a 2-0 Saint lead in the first period. The goal was what we have come to expect from Hagelin as he attacked from the slot and was able to convert to tie the score at 2-2.
In the second period Hagelin got a secondary assist as his line for the game accounts for 2 goals and 4 assists on the evening. It was a solid performance from the sophomore from Sweden and as we said we will almost expecting this when Hagelin plays.
Michael Del Zotto had 2 assists and was a +3 as his Oshawa Generals had little trouble with the Erie Otters winning 6-2. Del Zotto got the Generals going as he set up John Tavares for General's first goal at 6:57 of the first period which was the start of 5 straight goals for the Generals.
Del Zotto had a secondary assist on the General's 5th goal (also scored by Tavares) as the Generals rebounded from their 5-2 loss to the Belleville Bulls. The Generals believe they are better than a 5-4 record but it is clear that unless Tavares and Del Zotto are on the scoreboard then it will be a struggle for them.
Chris Doyle's prospect leading 5th goal of the season tied the game at 1-1 as the Prince Edward Island Rocket came back with 3 goals in the third period to earn 3-1 win over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in QMJHL action.
Doyle also went 9-10 for the second straight game on his faceoffs as Doyle appears more comfortable as the second line center than he was on the first line. We do not think Doyle will remain a center all season as the younger Rockets mature.
For the season, Doyle is now 5-5-10 which is 3 points better than Michael Del Zotto's 1-6-7
The Rest of the Prospects
2008 second round pick Derek Stepan had a secondary assist in his NCAA debut as his Wisconsin Badgers came close to pulling off a major upset of their own as they lost to defending NCAA Champions and current Top Ranked Boston College 5-4 on BC's home ice.
It was a very impressive performance for the young Badgers as they did not show any signs of awe going up against one of the favorites to win the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship. Stepan looked comfortable on the ice tonight and it is going to be interesting to see how fast he matures this season.
Stepan is going to become a factor for Wisconsin a lot sooner than many will expect.
Evgeny Grachev and his Brampton Battalion got themselves smoked in the second of their 3 straight road games 7-1 by the Saute Ste. Marie Greyhounds. This one was ugly as the Greyhounds got their 7 goals on just 25 shots.
The less said about this game the better as Grachev was quiet and should be happy that he was only a -1 as compared to some of his teammates.
Danny Hobbs had a quiet debut as his UMass Minutemen dropped a 3-1 decision to Michigan State at home. Hobbs did not bad in his debut but did not stand out either.
Before we end tonight's prospect report, we just have to do the old "Pat Ourselves On the Back" after checking out the efforts of Brandon Dubinsky and Nickolai Zherdev in the Ranger's home opener. Yes it was just one home game but actually after 3 games we can say that this duo is everything we said over the summer and perhaps even more.
So here we are 3 games into the season and already Brandon Dubinsky has 2 game winners, has been in the middle of game changing plays and is perhaps been the most consistent Ranger since day one of training camp. This is the player who Tom Renney was thinking was going to be his 3rd line center, how wrong he was.
As for Nickolai Zherdev, we said that the biggest problem was that his development was badly mismanaged by the Columbus Bluejackets. That at 23 we said that if he was not asked to be the first line player that it would help fix his development. So far so good eh?
We agree but we want to point out 2 stats that may escape your attention from the home opener. 11 and 10 as in 11 hits and 10 shots on goal from this line. If not for the play of this line then the real storyline from the Ranger game would have been the even higher number of turnovers the Rangers as a team had.
Against a young inexperienced team one can hide that fact but turn the puck over against the best in the NHL and the outcome of the games will be different. Not trying to be negative but just some food for thought.
(Pictures- Campbell- Western Michigan, Lafleur-Dubi Silverstein, Hagelin- Michigan Wolverines)
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