The Ranger's first of two 3rd round picks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is doing everything to make our prediction about Grachev come true. When the Brampton Battalion selected Grachev in the CHL Import Draft, we said that putting him with Battalion Coach/GM Stan Butler was going to great for both player and team.
For the young man from Khabarovsk in Russia, the season has started to heat up in a huge way. Besides the 4 goals on Sunday, Grachev also has had 10 game scoring streak on the season as well as being the leading goal scorer among first year OHL players with 12.
We have discovered in tracking Grachev's goals that if you put the puck on his stick anywhere near the left offensive face off circle then consider it a goal. His shot from that area is lethal as Grachev has this uncanny ability to score from that spot.
Pick a shot and Grachev can score on it as the 4 goals on Sunday will demonstrate. The first goal was a shorthanded tally off the rush, the second goal (even strength) a left face off circle special. Goal number 3 (also even strength) was a thinking man's goal as Grachev banked it off the Ottawa goalie and finally the finisher which was a power play goal a power shot from the deep slot.
4 goals, 4 different ways of scoring them and the best part is that Grachev is very much still learning how to play at the North American level of hockey. This is a player who we can say it right here is heading to the Rangers within the next 2 seasons.
Bigger and stronger than both Artem Anisimov and Nikolai Zherdev, able to adapt between a finesse as well as a power game, and with room still for improvement then the Rangers very much have gotten themselves a steal with Grachev. If not for the lack of a Player Transfer Agreement then there is no way that Grachev lasts until the 3rd round.
If we were to tag Grachev with a nickname then it has to be Godzilla as this 6'3 212 lb forward is a monster once he gets going on the ice. The weak spot on his game prior to being sent to Brampton was supposed to be his skating and judging from the reports we have seen on Grachev, it is an area that Grachev is addressing with better than expected results.
Even better is that the results we have been seeing is exactly what we were expecting when the Brampton Battalion selected Grachev in the CHL Import Draft. One area that was not well known is that Stan Butler and Tom Renney have known each other for a very long time.
Butler did his homework on Grachev in talking to the Rangers and it is doubtful that the Rangers did not mention what kind of areas they were looking for improvement from Grachev as well. If there is any coach at the CHL level who knows how to develop NHL talent it is Stan Butler as his resume of current NHL players who played for him is an impressive.
One name stands out as our very first thought was that Evgeny Grachev reminded us of the Colorado Avalanche's Wojtek Wolski. Both are 6'3, both needed work on their skating when they got to Brampton and both have Stan Butler in common.
Wolski holds the all-time single season goal scoring record for Brampton with 47 during 2005-06 season. We are not ready to call Grachev a threat forthat record but we also remember that Wolski did most of his damage in the second half of his 2005-06 season, heating up just like Grachev is starting to do.
For Grachev, this season is going to get better for him as Grachev will be joining the Russian Selects when they play against the OHL All-Stars next week as part of the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge. From there we expect that Grachev will be named to Russia's World Under 20 team to play in Ottawa during the annual championships.
The Men's College Polls came out and sadly we really have to wonder what the voters are seeing that we are not. Don't get us wrong as we do like Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and his Michigan Wolverines but their play this season would not get a Top Ten vote out of us in either poll.
The Wolverines dropped to 9th in both the USA Today/USA Hockey and USCHO.com/CBS Sports polls after splitting a weekend series with Western Michigan. We have seen Michigan struggle against good teams as well as bad this season so at best we would have them at 14-15.
On the other hand, there is Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) and his UMass Minutemen who are 16th in both polls. Fresh off the upset of last week's number 1 Boston University, the Minutemen would have climbed higher had they not lost the next night to UMass/Lowell.
What we like about the Minutemen is that they have played well all season going up against several top teams and holding their own. Next up is going to be another major challenge going up against this week's number 4 (and defending NCAA champs) Boston College in a home and home series.
Then quietly Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) and his Wisconsin Badgers are starting to gain notice as they received voted in both polls as the Badgers have a 5 game unbeaten streak going after starting the season 0-6-1.
(Grachev picture courtesy of the Brampton Battalion)