Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Whole Lot of Fun

The First Star

Chris Doyle (2008, 5th) remained red hot as the leading scorer among Ranger prospects netted his 10th goal and 16th assist to help lead his Prince Edward Island Rocket to a 5-3 win over the Gatineau Olympiques in QMJHL action.

Doyle -- named the game's second star -- continued his scoring streak which has now reached six games. In that span the centerman has gone 5-7-12. Last week's Prospect Park Player of the Week is doing a great job in his bid to become the first Ranger prospect to earn back-to-back honors.

Doyle got his evening started by helping to set up the Rocket's first goal. At 3:58 of the first period Doyle fed Mathieu Tousignant who in turn moved the puck over to Matthew Lachaine who tallied his 5th goal of the season and gave PEI a 1-0 lead.

Just 44 seconds into the second, Doyle scored his 10th goal (7th on the power play) which gave PEI a 3-1 lead. On the evening, Doyle went 1-1-2, -1, 2-2 on face-offs, recorded three shots and landed one good hit. With the two points, Doyle moved up to 8th in QMJHL scoring at 10-16-26


Second Star

When we talked to Derek Stepan (2008, 2nd) of the Wisconsin Badgers last Sunday, he was asked when he thought he would finally get his first NCAA goal. His response was "I have a really good feeling about this (upcoming) weekend".

Turns out that Stepan knew exactly what he was talking about. Saturday night Derek helped his Badgers earn their first win of the 2008-09 season with a goal and an assist as Wisconsin scored five third-period goals to earn a 5-2 win over North Dakota.

With Wisconsin trailing 2-0 entering the third, Stepan's skate is actually what got his team going. The goal that he was credited with deflected off his boot just 56 seconds into the period and cut the North Dakota lead to 2-1. The goal -- reviewed and ruled a good goal -- gives Stepan goals in consecutive games.

Fifty-two seconds later, Stepan fed teammate Jake Gardiner for a point shot that Blake Geoffrion -- grandson of the late Ranger great Boom-Boom -- deflected into the net to tie the game at two. The assist gave Stepan his 3rd point of the weekend, bringing his totals on the season to 2-2-4. We believe this effort is just the beginning and Derek is about to break out.


Third Star (tie)

When a prospect has gotten his first taste of life as a professional, there is a legit concern as to how he will react when he gets returned to the juniors. Followers of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets had just that concern as Tysen Dowzak--who was sent back to the junior club by the Rangers---made his season debut on Saturday.

The Rockets didn't hide the fact that they wanted Dowzak back from the Rangers and in their lineup. This was something we had agreed with but for different reasons. The Rockets saw Dowzak as a top-four defender who would help stabilize their defense but, in addition to his being a top-four guy who'd eat up 20 minutes a night, we also saw the prospect of Dowzak working with the Rockets'

Dowzak's play on Saturday showed both of us were right about his return to the Rockets as he picked up an assist and was named as the game's 3rd star. Tysen's efforts helped push the Rockets to a 4-3 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

All along we have felt that Dowzak is a project who needs some serious work in areas like skating and consistency. Had he remained up with the Checkers in the ECHL then he would have been nothing more than a extra player moved in and out of the lineup.

With the Rockets, Dowzak will not only get the ice time but he will also be expected to be a leader for his younger teammates on and off the ice.

Our belief is that giving Dowzak the responsibility of being a team role model will lead to more performances like his solid defensive effort Saturday evening. ne major factor that earned him our third star was his reaction to being sent back to the Rockets. Our reports said that while Dowzak was disappointed, as anyone would be, he wanted to do whatever it took to help the Rockets win.

Another good thing that stood out in our reports was the fact that the lessons Dowzak learned with the Rangers have stuck with him. He didn't try to win the game by himself nor did he try to play outside of his abilities but instead stayed focused and in position.


Third Star (tie)

Prospect Park has been around since 2004 and during that time we have gotten to see some pretty impressive performances like Ryan Callahan's 52 goals, Nigel Dawes putting up 50 and Brandon Dubinsky calling a goal in a playoff game off a draw.

Until this season, we have had the pleasure of seeing several Ranger prospects score in consecutive games but for some reason nobody had ever gone higher than seven straight games until Saturday.

The scoresheet will show it as a secondary assist on a goal that tied the game between the Brampton Battalion and the Peterborough Petes at three sending it to overtime and an eventual shootout. For us, it was a record-breaker as well as a validation of our belief that Evgeny Grachev is in the perfect place for an introduction to North American hockey.

Seeing Grachev go 5-4-9 during this streak is also impressive because previous streaks have typically been either mainly goals or assists. This streak is the first that was almost a 50-50 mix which makes it even more interesting to follow.


The Rest of the Prospect Action

Antoine Lafleur (2007, 2nd) picked up his 4th win of the season backstopping his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Juniors in QMJHL action. Lafleur actually had it on the easy side, facing just 18 shots while his teammates dominated the play on the offensive end much more than the final score shows.

This was Lafleur's 3rd straight win and, with the effort, he lowered his GAA to 3.28 and raised his save percentage to 0.857.

While neither number is earth-shattering, they do represent improvement as Antoine tries to regain the form that led the Rangers to using their second-round pick on him in the 2007 draft.

Michael Del Zotto (2008, 1st) had a scoreless night offensively and struggled on defense as his Oshawa Generals were whipped 5-1 by the Saginaw Spirit in OHL action. There isn't much to say about this one as the inconsistent Generals continue their frustrating inability to put together a string of good games like Grachev's Brampton Battalion have.

Max Campbell (2007, 5th) had an assist as his Western Michigan Broncos lost in the shootout to 11th-ranked Michigan State 3-2.

Or did they lose? Sorry, but we're not 100% sure either but we have asked for an explanation and will share it when we get it.

As for Campbell, as we said last night, the best thing for him to do now is to play a more basic game that stresses the fundamentals. Something is working, though, as he has points in back-to-back games.

Danny Hobbs (2007, 7th) and his UMass Minutemen extended their unbeaten streak to five (4-1-1) in a row with a 5-1 win over the Providence Friars in Hockey East action. Hobbs was scoreless in the game but, as we're sure Danny would tell us, the team is winning and he's getting ice time so he's a happy camper.

Carl Hagelin (2007, 6th) and his Michigan Wolverines played Ohio State in a game that will be shown on the NHL Network in the US on Sunday. After thinking about it for a while, the decision was made to not disclose the game's outcome in the hope that people will be more willing to watch the matchup without knowing its end result.

The call is an easy one to make and we hope that you will tune in to the NHL Network at noon EDT and take a look at the #12 Wolverines. We will post the results tomorrow.

(Pictures: Chris Doyle -PEI, Derek Stepan -Wisconsin Badgers, Tysen Dowzak -Hartford Wolfpack, Evgeny Grachev -Brampton Battalion)

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