Thursday, December 18, 2008

Has Anyone Seen Our Holiday Break?

Not every Ranger prospect has started their holiday break just yet as those who are not going to play for a National Team in the World Under-20 championships are still in action.

The challenge for players in those situations is how to best help their team while in most cases they are missing their best players.

Case in point is our star; Tysen Dowzak of the Kelowna Rockets as with an assist along with a +3 helped the Rockets enter their holiday break with a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Dowzak's Rockets were missing their best forward in Jamie Benn and their best defenseman in Tyler Myers as both were named to Team Canada. Along with injuries as well as Czech rookie Stepan Novotny joining Tomas Kundratek trying out for the Czech Rep team.

With all that as well as the Rockets on a 3 game losing streak they needed a strong game from a veteran like Dowzak and he came though. It took all of 37 seconds for Dowzak to make his mark as Dowzak helped Colin Long set up 15 year old Shane McColgan's first WHL goal (remember this kid's name as he is a very talented prospect).

Dowzak also stepped up and got into a minor scrum with the Oil King's Brendan Dowd a few minutes later. Dowzak then helped keep the crease clear in helping goalie Kris Lazaruk earn his 3rd shutout of the season.

Now Dowzak gets a chance to go home for the holidays and get some rest to get ready for the second half.


Chris Doyle and his Prince Edward Island Rocket were in action against the Quebec Remparts but they were on the short end of a 2-0 shut out in QMJHL action. The Remparts were able to limit Doyle to 3 shots for the night of which none were really solid scoring chances.

Doyle was 2-4 on face offs as well as registering 1 good hit for the game. The Rocket has a game on Friday evening before they get to head off for their holiday break.


The question I get asked a lot is what I think of Hockey's Future and their ranking the Ranger's prospects as 24th best in the NHL. The answer is simple as they are entitled to their opinion just like I am entitled to my own.

I do not think it makes sense to rank prospects all in one group because of the vast differences in each prospect's stage of development. You can not say that a prospect playing in the AHL can be fairly judged against someone who is currently playing in say the Canadian juniors.

The differences between the levels is a lot larger than one realizes mainly because as when you more up in "class" the fast the game gets. It is a major factor as to why I will not rank Ranger prospects as you can not say "so and so" is a better prospect compared to "so and so" when one is playing against teenagers and the other against grown men.

When I look at evaluating a Ranger prospect I also take into account other factors that I doubt anyone else does starting with where a prospect got his hockey education at. Take Evgeny Grachev for example as all season long Prospect Park has been talking him up as a legit top level prospect.

Why you ask? First off Grachev is not a 3rd round talent but rather the victim of the ongoing NHL/Russian nonsense called the lack of a Player Transfer Agreement. With a PTA then Grachev goes at the end of the first round and not as a Ranger prospect.

Then toss in that Grachev is playing for Brampton and Stan Butler of the OHL, I have recounted repeatedly how many NHL players that Butler has developed over his coaching career. Butler is also close friends with Tom Renney so anyone who does not think that the Rangers have asked Butler to work on specific areas is only kidding themselves.

Brampton is a winning franchise and winning helps develop a winning attitude which can not be measured by any kind of numbers or "elite talent". That Grachev is leading OHL rookies in scoring should not come as a shock to anyone who reads this spot.

I have told this story as well in how to gauge a prospect's potential by looking at his heart and desire. A prospect that every day dreams about becoming not an NHL player but a Ranger and can describe how he makes the team like an artist painting a picture can not be discounted.

That day dreaming leads prospects to go to summer camps to improve as players and no I am not talking Ranger development camps. I am talking about specialized camps that they themselves pay for to improve on areas that the Rangers ask for.

Another thing I do during the season is avoid talking to Ranger scouts about specific prospects but talk to other NHL scouts simply because you have a better chance of getting an open minded response. Let me be clear Ranger scouts are some of the hardest working guys in the NHL but they are the ones who recommended these kids which colors their judgment and puts them in an awkward spot if one of the kids is having a bad season.

Prospect Park is made up of a cast of characters that for the most are not Ranger fans, they are guys who report on the players for their local newspaper. They are fans of the local team (and sometimes Ranger fans) as well as media reps from the various teams and in more cases than you would believe arena employees who love the game.

Put all of this into a large pot, mix it all together and there is how we get the word out about the Ranger prospects. 2-3 looks from different angles as well as talking directly to the kids themselves is how to gauge their potential.

Watching how they pick themselves up after injuries or slumps tells the story more than just looking at their stats. One of the reasons I like Max Campbell is he spent his own money to attend a Ranger camp, that when he got benched instead of pouting worked harder.

Guess who has been on a scoring streak since then? Yep Max Campbell and this is a natural goal scorer. Same about Chris Doyle who was the only draft pick cut without getting to come to Ranger training camp.

Doyle got the message and has been working his backside off since then. He is a top ten scorer in the QMJHL this season and now understands that to make it to the NHL he has to step it up.

HF can call the Ranger prospects 24th all they want because they have been wrong about Ranger prospects before and will continue to be wrong for one other reason. They have yet to realize that you need to talk directly to these prospects, to learn what makes their heart's tick and what they are willing to go though to follow their dream of becoming Rangers.

In terms of heart and desire, the current group of Ranger prospects are Top 10 as they want to be Rangers, they will do whatever they can to become Rangers and in a few years prove HF wrong.

(Dowzak courtesy of the Hartford Wolfpack)

No comments: