How about we start with the numbers? 3 games, 3 goals, 4 games, 4 Brampton wins, 5 games, 5 points and that has been the last 8 days for 2008 3rd round pick Evgeny Grachev of the Brampton Battalion. Given all that has happened in the world of Ranger prospects, the play of Grachev has to be some very welcome news.
Nobody is going to say that Evgeny Grachev is a replacement for Alexi Cherepanov but in his own way, Grachev has the potential to be much more than your average 3rd round pick. As with the case with most Russian prospects, Grachev's draft status had more to do with the difficulties that the NHL and Russian Federation are having with each other these days.
On Sunday, Grachev scored his 3rd goal of the season in as many games as the Brampton Battalion earned their 4th straight win taking both games of a home and home with the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors 5-3. With the win, the Battalion evened their season record at 6-6.
Grachev's goal was more of the kind of goal we have been expecting to see from the 6'3 power forward. Grachev set himself up in the slot, took a pass from linemate Matt Duchene and muscled a backhander over Mississauga goalie JP Anderson. The goal scored at 11:26 of the first period tied the game at 1-1.
However it was more than just the goal that was solid for Grachev as his overall game at both ends of the ice was rock solid and earned Grachev the game's 3rd star. Grachev also was a +3 on the night as Grachev's numbers for the season are now 3-3-6, +5 in 9 overall games.
Chris Doyle on the other hand had a very quiet evening as his Prince Edward Island Rocket lost the second half of their own "home and home" series with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 4-1 at home. Neither team was able to win on their home ice and that had to frustrate the coaching staff of the Rocket.
Doyle's days at center we can say are now over as he took all of 1 face off during this game (which he lost) but the difference we are seeing is that Doyle is looking to step up his offensive attack by following Saturday's 7 shots on goal with 5 more today.
Despite the loss, we think moving Doyle back to the wing helps both player and team get the best use out of him. Since the day the Rangers used their 2008 5th round pick, we have been steadfast in our belief that Doyle's best shot at the pros would be on the wing.
In our eyes, Doyle is more of a grinder on the boards type than he is good on the open ice. Even though we want to see more body use from Doyle, we believe in time that his future is as an energy player IF Doyle realizes that he has to work hard on every shift in every game.
If we could talk directly to him, we would tell Doyle to step forward and now let others be his leader. Time will tell which direction Doyle will tell but you can see there is a player inside wanting to get out.
Use him or Send him back
It feels strange being critical of the Rangers prospect development these days given the development of several of the younger players on the current Ranger roster. However in watching the first 4 games of the Wolfpack we are wondering if a couple of players would be better off elsewhere in order to improve their game.
The first is Tysen Dowzak who has been a healthy scratch in 3 of the 4 Wolfpack games this season. As we have said repeatedly that Dowzak is a project player and needs to get work in order to get better.
That means getting him on the ice and playing as much as possible and being a health scratch is not the way to go in our eyes. If he is not going to be played on a regular basis then return him to the Kelowna Rocket's of the WHL where he would get tons of ice time working on the areas that the Rangers would want to see improvement.
One has no doubts that the Rockets would not love to get Dowzak back into their lineup if the Rangers were to send him back. They would jump at a chance to get this version of Dowzak as the player who attended Traverse City and the Ranger training camp is not the one they knew.
As we noted last week, Rocket announcer Regan Bartel gave his idea why Dowzak earned his contract when he said "he likely went out of his comfort zone to play physical - not once in a while - but consistently."
If you want to keep that consistent play up then use him consistently so he knows that is what he has to do in order to remain in the lineup. Scratching him like he has been just damages Dowzak's confidence so use him or send him someplace where they will.
Upcoming in the Blueshirt Bulletin
I spent close to a half hour talking with 2008 2nd round draft pick Derek Stepan today and I have to say how impressed I was with how he handled himself during our interview. Because of the NCAA rules, Ranger access to Derek is limited and since he had not attended training camp or Traverse City this was a good time for us to get to know him.
Derek came across as a grounded, well spoken young man who thought out his answers before responding to the questions. That he at 18 is able to laugh at himself with a stranger is a good sign of maturity.
It is clear that Derek has a plan not only for his hockey future but his life in general and clearly the Rangers have themselves a solid good citizen joining the pipeline that Ranger fans will like seeing Broadway Blue.
(pictures: Grachev-Brampton (OHL), Doyle- PEI (QMJHL), Dowzak- Hartford (AHL/Chris Rousch), Derek Stepan-New York Rangers)
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