Friday, January 16, 2009

Not So Fun Friday

Tonight's First Star Max Campbell

There are times when we really do enjoy our job and this is one of them. The fastest way to earn our respect is to show a "never surrender" attitude and that is what Max Campbell (2007 5th) has done this season.

"Soup" as many recall found himself a healthy scratch earlier this season when he was struggling with his game. Campbell is a natural goal scorer who is playing on a rebuilding Western Michigan Bronco team.

Since returning to the Bronco lineup, Campbell has found his touch and is now the Bronco's leading goal scorer. On Friday against the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, Campbell scored his 9th goal of the season as the Broncos came back from down 3-1 to win 4-3 to earn just their 5th win of the season.

Campbell has worked his way back to being the Bronco's starting center with his play still needs work as we would like to see some more balance to his offense. Campbell also could use some more weight on his frame but that we believe will take care of itself as his body matures.

Second Star Derek Stepan

OK how many times will we need to tell the Ranger world that there is a really solid prospect playing for the Wisconsin Badgers by the name of Derek Stepan (2008 2nd). In case you did not know the Badgers have produced some pretty solid NHLers including those who once wore Ranger blue like a goalie by the name of Mike Richter.

Maybe Stepan's problem is that he is not playing for a CHL team, or maybe it is because he did not come to the Rangers with the hype of Michael Del Zotto or had the notice that Evgeny Grachev has gotten.

However we really do believe that when the smoke clears that Derek Stepan might become a very important key to the Ranger's future. This is a prospect who has all the tools both on offense and as we have been very happy to discover on defense as well.

Stepan as a freshman is the Badger's second leading scorer as just a freshman. Since the opening of the Badger's training camp, Stepan has been a top 6 forward for them. Now he is firmly established as the Badger's 2nd line center and a reason why Wisconsin has bounced back from an 0-6-1 start to 13-9-3 after whipping 11th ranked Colorado College 6-1.

Stepan had a power play assist on Wisconsin's only power play goal in this game as well as playing on a penalty kill unit that held Colorado to 1 for 6. Stepan also was 5-5 on his faceoffs.

Like Campbell, Stepan is a work in progress but his work is in many ways more advanced than most of the other Ranger prospects. Without a doubt the best skating prospect, the most pure goal scorer and the one prospect who can play any style of game at both ends of the ice.


The Rest of the Prospects

Evgeny Grachev (2008 3rd) had a secondary assist on the game tying goal as his Brampton Battalion came back from down 2-0 to win 3-2 via the shoot out over the Sudbury Wolves. For Grachev it was his 21st assist and now is 22-21-43.

Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st) was scoreless as his London Knights fought back from down 4-2 but lost via the shoot out 6-5 to the Guelph Storm. For Del Zotto it was just the second time this season that Del Zotto has gone back to back games without scoring.

Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) did not score but took back to back double minors for high sticking (the second of which cost his team) as his Medicine Hat Tigers got whipped big time 5-0 by the Saskatoon Blades. This one was ugly for the entire Tiger team who we know is going to pay for their efforts by their coach Willie Desjardin.

Also getting whipped were Tysen Dowzak (2008 UFA) and his Kelowna Rockets 5-2 by the Prince George Cougars. The kindest we can say about the Rocket's effort as it was kind of funny to see Rocket fans ticked off at their coach for a team that failed to show up with a solid effort against an inferior team.

Tell us if you have heard this one before: "Huska (the Rocket's coach) needs to stop with the constant changing of the line combos."

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) earned a promotion to the starting left wing's spot just in time for his Michigan Wolverines to get shut out 3-0 by Bowling Green. For Michigan this was the 5th time they were shut out this season and it cost them their season high 6 game win streak.

Hagelin did not play bad as he had one of the really solid scoring chances (shorthanded) but was stopped by Bowling Green goalie Jimmy Spratt. Hagelin had a season high 9 shots on goal for Michigan but this was a poor effort by the Wolverines in this game.

Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) had 3 shots on goal but his UMass Minutemen lost to the Providence Friars 5-4. What started as a very promising season for UMass has fallen on hard times as UMass dropped to 9-10-2 on the season.

Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) was the back up for the second straight game as his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies suffered an embarrassing home loss to the Lewiston MaineAICS 4-3. The Huskies blew a 3-1 lead in the 3rd period so we expect Lafleur to be back in the net tomorrow evening.


MASH Report

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) has been waiting for the clearance from Ranger doctors to be allowed to make his season debut for the Erie Otthers. Otter doctors cleared Gaulton but for reasons still unclear the Rangers still have not sent for Gaulton so Ranger doctors can give their final clearance.

With no Rangers suffering serious injuries, this in all honesty is very puzzling as either Gaulton can play this season or not. Erie can use Gaulton's presence in their lineup as their defense has been struggling as of late.

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) also remains out but in his case the situation is not looking good for Doyle. Doyle has an injured disc in his back and it is starting to look like he might not return to the Prince Edward Island Rocket lineup at the very least until after January.

(Campbell courtesy of WMU, Stepan courtesy of Wisconsin)

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