Thursday, December 25, 2008

Getting Back to Work

The Holiday Break is going to come to an official end on Friday as Ranger Prospects return to the ice so here is an update as to who is doing what and where:

Evgeny Grachev (2008 3rd) is playing for Team Russia in the World Under-20 Championship as they take take on Latvia. Grachev is not inexperienced at international competitions having played for Russia in the Under-18 championships.

Expect Grachev to wind up on Russia's top line but the Russians have a ready made excuse for not being one of the real gold medal contenders that being the tragic passing of Alexi Cherepanov. Truth be told, it is the lack of serious talent that will earn the Russians a trip to the medal round but they will finish 4th at best.

Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) is playing for the Czech Republic in the same championships making it his second straight time. The Czechs are lacking in both talent and depth to be serious medal contenders so expect them to be playing in the relegation round.

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and his Michigan Wolverines return to action on Saturday in the annual Great Lakes Invitational. It will be an interesting test for Hagelin as his normal center Matt Rust will be gone playing for Team USA so we believe Hagelin drops down to the second line center spot for this tournament.

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) did not get the trade out of Prince Edward Island that we had hoped for but others were moved so Doyle now is going to become the main offensive weapon that the Rocket have. The Rocket have made a few trades during the holiday break signaling to us that they are going to look towards next season as they return to action on Saturday.

With the QMJHL trading period open until Jan 8th; we remain hopeful that Doyle who is the leading scorer among Ranger prospects will still be traded to a playoff contending team. Experience has taught us that winning teams do a much better job at helping foster pro potential than losing ones.

Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st) is another Ranger prospect that we hope gets traded once the World Under-20 Championships end. For now Del Zotto is going to be stuck on a struggling Oshawa General team that is without their leading scorer as they return to action on Sunday against Owen Sound.

In a way we will be watching Del Zotto to see if he steps up his game as well as how he handles the responsibility of leading a team.

Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) and his Wisconsin Badgers will be hosting the Badger Showdown on Saturday/Sunday taking on Alabama-Hunsville and either Lake Superior or Harvard. Stepan was starting to heat up prior to the holiday break so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the second half of the season.

Mitch Gaulton's (2008 6th) season debut has been pushed back for now so the defender for the Erie Otters will not be in the lineup on Sunday as his Otters face a Evgeny Grachev-less Brampton Battalion. No word as of yet as to if Gaulton has received the green light from the Ranger doctors but no word gives us hope.

If the Ranger doctors had said no then it would have been announced by now so we will keep an eye on Erie.

Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) will be returning on Saturday as his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies take on Gatineau in QMJHL action. The Huskies have not made any major moves as of yet during the QMJHL trading period but we believe they need to add at least one more scorer if they want to make a run in the QMJHL playoffs.

Lafleur has shown a lot of improvement with his play over the first half of the season everywhere but in one key area; consistency. If Lafleur can figure out how to shake his inconsistent ways then the Rangers will have themselves a serious goalie prospect for the future.

Tysen Dowzak (2008 UFA) and his shorthanded Kelowna Rockets also return to action on Saturday but that is not the big story coming out of Kelowna. Word is that when the World Under-20s end then the Rockets will be adding Mikael Backlund who was a Calgary 2007 first round pick.

Until the end of the WJCs then Dowzak is going to need to play at a higher level than he has been as Dowzak has been too quiet for our tastes.

Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) we hope will be returning to action on Sunday when UMass takes on Bemidj State in the Ledyard Bank Classic. Hobbs has not dressed for UMass's last 2 games and privacy rules will not let us know if he is injured or a healthy scratch.


Nobody asked us but before everyone gives Canada that 5th gold medal in a row can we take a good look at this team as a possible Gold Medalist: Our Gold Medal Pick

Canada is a smaller more inexperienced team than in any of the previous gold medal winners have been. Yes we saw those exhibition scores but when the games begin there will not be North American Refs working Canadian games.

Russia is not a real gold medal contender as even if they had Cherepanov on the roster they won't get past Canada, USA or Sweden. Sorry to the Russian fans but this is a down year for Russian talent but they will be back.

Team USA has to get past Canada but they still have not learned the lessons of how Canada became so good. Canada is a better skating team, has more offensive talent and deeper goaltending. Until USA Hockey stops leaving off players like a Colin Long (who we believe was left off because he choose the WHL instead of the NCAAs) then they will play second fiddle to Canada.

The team we have not talked about is the one in the link, we know the author of the article as well as the rep of the person who did the breakdown for the article. For us the other factor that was not listed in that article was that this was a team that with a break here or there beats Canada for the gold.

Yes Canada defeated them in the exhibition opener but as we said earlier in the WJC, there will not be a North American Ref in their next encounter.

Our Picks:

Gold: Sweden

Silver: Canada

Bronze: USA

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