Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blaming it on the Boss

Tonight's Star Antoine Lafleur

As much fun as the Friday Prospect Report was to do, tonight's was a rough one as the theme for Saturday was 1 as in the number 1. One goal, One Assist and One Shutout was the entire output for the 9 Ranger prospects who played on Saturday.

And we have one person to blame for this as Dubi Silverstein of the Blueshirt Bulletin emailed us earlier in the day asking who we believe was the Ranger prospect of the month. Dubi if we remember correctly used to be a goalie himself so we believe he jinxed the offensive attack on Saturday to support Lafleur.

On the serious side, Lafleur picked the right game to pitch his first shut out of the season has his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies shut out the Halifax Mooseheads 3-0. It put an end to the Huskies 5 game losing streak as Lafleur and his teammates bounced back from Friday's loss to Moncton.

Lafleur stopped 22 shots for the win as he really was not tested other than in the second period when Halfax fired 13 of those 22 shots on him. Lafleur only faced 5 dangerous scoring chances but after his performance on Friday where Lafleur gave up 2 "bad" goals this was what we wanted to see.

Now if only Lafleur could play like this more often then we would feel more comfortable with his potential. We have said this before; Lafleur has the talent to become a solid and dependable goalie but not the consistency.


Evgeny Grachev (2008 3rd) saw his 11 game scoring streak come to an end in part to a cheap head shot that he received in the first period. Grachev's Brampton Battalion however won their 9th straight game as they whipped the Peterborough Petes 5-1.

Grachev received some stitches to his upper lip and returned to the game in the second period but was not a factor in this win. And in case you are wondering Ranger fans can give kudos to Grachev's teammate Scott Tanski for coming to the aid of Grachev and fighting Zach Kassian of the Petes for his hit on Grachev.

Grachev was 10-11-21 during his streak and the thing that stood out the most was that Grachev scored in every game other than this one during the month. Grachev now has 2 scoring streaks of 10+ games which is a new record for Ranger prospects.

Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st) also saw his 5 game scoring streak come to an end but his London Knights won a huge game over the Belleville Bulls 3-2. This was a match up of two of the four teams expected to be contenders for the OHL championship.

Del Zotto did not score but played a good game defensively for the Knights who gave the Bulls 9 power plays during this game. Those who have concerns about Del Zotto's defensive skills can take heart that Del Zotto's defensive skills are very much on the upswing.

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) of the Erie Otters is someone who we do not want to stand next to in a lightning storm as this poor kid has the worst of luck. Against the Oshawa Generals on Friday evening, he took a hit to the head in the first period which ended his evening.

Gaulton did play on Saturday but really was not that effective but his Erie Otters did win their 3rd straight game with a 5-2 win over the Guelp Storm. Gaulton was a -1 against the Storm and the rust is still there in his game which is understandable given his injury.

Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) and his Medicine Hat Tigers dropped a 6-4 decision to the Kamloops Blazers which considering the 10-1 loss the Tigers suffered the previous evening was an improvement. The Tigers lost for the 3rd straight game as this nightmare of a road trip has come to an end.

Kundratek had an assist for his 11th assist and 12th point of the season but we want to see more from him if he wants to only spend one season in Medicine Hat. Kundratek needs to become more agressive on offense and go on the attack for the Tigers to live up to their current 4th seed.

It is very rare when we blame refs for a loss but that is the case for Tysen Dowzak (2008 UFA) and his Kelowna Rockets as they got the shaft in their 2-1 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds. It is a shame too because had this game been called evenly then Seattle goalie Calvin Pickard's play would have been even more impressive.

Dowzak did not play badly as this was a defensive struggle which considering that the Rockets who played at home on Friday rode the bus for 7+ hours to get to this game.

Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) and his Wisconsin Badgers had to settle for the weekend split but this was a really good game to watch. Stepan and his Badgers lost 1-0 to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs but for a 1-0 game it was pretty exciting as both teams played hard but we walked away totally impressed by Bulldog goalie Alex Stalock who stopped all 33 shots that the Badgers threw at him.

It is not often that we rave about someone else's prospects but the San Jose Sharks got themselves yet another legit goalie prospect (by our count they have 3). Stalock got some serious support from his teammates who helped key the tough scoring chances down.

Stepan was held to just 2 shots and you can see that his rep is now getting around as the Bulldogs made sure that he was closely checked all game long.

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and his 7th ranked Michigan Wolverines also had to settle for the weekend split as they dropped the 2nd half of their series with top ranked Notre Dame 3-2. Hagelin was held scoreless but took 5 shots as the story of this game was that Michigan dug themselves a 3-0 hole and could not come back.

If this series is any idea of what the CCHA hockey tournament is going to be like then the NCAA will be awarding at least 4 spots in the tournament. This was a great series to watch and a shame that more people were not able to see both games.


So who now is the hottest scoring Ranger prospect? Bet the last person you would have said was Max Campbell (2007 5th) but with yet another goal (#13 on the season) there is Campbell with a 6 game scoring streak.

Campbell's Western Michigan Broncos lost to in-state Northern Michigan again this time 4-3. When WMU learns how to not put themselves into holes then this is a team with a future as that is what is the biggest problem for the Broncos.

Unlike Friday when they fell behind 6-2, in this one the Broncos had a 2-1 lead but gave up 3 straight goals and could not catch up. If you read this far and want to see when Campbell scores all we will say is that it was midway of the 3rd period and made the score 4-3.

(Lafleur courtesy of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies)

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