Sunday, January 11, 2009

These Prospects ARE NOT BUSTS

You know it is getting really old having to spend time responding to people who are down on Ranger prospects. Here is our question to those people: We see you putting down Ranger prospects but not your formula in deciding what makes a prospects a winner or loser so tell us how you grade them?

We tell you what is right and wrong with Ranger prospects here, our track record over the last 5 seasons is better than anyone else. We are not bragging but stating a fact because unlike others, our mission here is Ranger prospect coverage and we told you about guys like Callahan, Dubinsky, Dawes and Staal before anyone else.

Just like we have been telling you that the 2008 draft is full of legit Ranger prospects starting with today's star Evgeny Grachev of the Brampton Battalion. The soon to be 19 year old has been making a splash as we said he would in the OHL.

Grachev's 21st goal of the season with just 15 seconds remaining in overtime gave his Brampton Battalion a 2-1 win over the Barrie Colts. The leading scorer among OHL rookies (despite missing 8 games due to the WJC) is now also on his 4th scoring streak of 4 or more games as with the goal on Sunday has gone 4-3-7 in those games.

For his efforts, Grachev was named the game's 3rd star. Grachev in case you have not been reading us, came to Brampton needing work on his skating which he has improved on. Our next area of development has to do with Grachev becoming more assertive on the ice, a bit more selfish to where he realizes that he is one of the better players out there.

Remember Grachev (6'3 215) is still just 18 years old and developing in his game/body so on this current path we are projecting him as a Top 6 forward (left wing) in about 3 years for the Rangers. Grachev is shaking the European background of playing a finesse game instead of the physical side (we really want to see what will happen the first time he drops the gloves) so that will take time.

We are also not in a hurry to send Grachev to Hartford next season as while the tools are there for him, the expectations for a teenager is typically bordering on the unreasonable so another season in the OHL where Grachev could dominate would not hurt.

Then there is Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st) who Larry Brooks tried to leave the impression was not all that good because Del Zotto was not invited to Canada's WJC camp. Yes politics played a role in why Del Zotto did not even get an invite (something we said over a month ago) but at the same time our position was more that Del Zotto deserved a look based upon the numbers he had put up.

To suggest that Del Zotto might not be any good or a bust as some clown at SI's Fan Nation made it look like. Thankfully the readers there showed that they are much smarter that whoever wrote up that posting headline.

Del Zotto's development would have no impact even if he had won a gold medal as the true measure of his development takes place with what he does over the season in the OHL. Now that Del Zotto is playing for Dale Hunter and the London Knights are we going to see a huge jump in Del Zotto's development.

In his second game with the Knights, Del Zotto netted his first goal with them (8th on the season) as the Knights blew out the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 7-3. In 2 games with the Knights, Del Zotto is 2-1-3 +3 and we believe that those numbers are only going to get better once Del Zotto gets to know his teammates.

Del Zotto is now 8-28-36 -9 in 36 games but for us now is going to be our chance to get a real look at where Del Zotto is defensively because now he is not having to carry an inexperienced blueline as he was with Oshawa. With 27 regular season games left for Del Zotto then the goal for us is to see him turn that -9 into a positive number and we think that will happen.

If for no other reason to shut up those who think that Del Zotto is any kind of bust.

Of course there is also perhaps the steal of the 2007 Entry Draft as Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) who is playing at Michigan and in our eyes is the best 2 way prospect the Rangers have. Hagelin did not score in Michigan's 4-0 win over 8th ranked Miami of Ohio but led a penalty kill unit that did not allow a goal in 6 attempts in the win (1 for 11 during the weekend series).

Hagelin is another example of a Ranger prospect playing for a proven winning program as winning breeds winning in a prospect. Michigan after struggling in the first half of the season has now won 6 straight games and is now 15-7 on the season.

Hagelin as a sophomore has been a fixture on the Wolverine's top 2 lines as a winger but has also been able to move back to center when needed. We see Hagelin as a left wing in the NHL mainly as a checker but a checker who will be able to chip in 10-15 goals on a season.

It is going to be interesting over the next couple of seasons to see how far Hagelin can go as a Top 6 forward for the Wolverines as we think it is not out of the question for Hagelin to become a 20+ goal scorer for Michigan.

Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) was given the night off as his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies played their 3rd road game in 3 nights. There are times when we wonder about how the CHL leagues set up their schedules as it is a head scratcher asking a team to play schedules like this.

Lafleur's Huskies lost to Montreal 4-3 in overtime with Lafleur playing backup. The Huskies played as better than one could expect for having to play a game last night then a bus ride overnight for this game. This was a game they could have scheduled for Monday evening since the QMJHL is off until Friday.

(Grachev courtesy of the Brampton Battalion, Del Zotto courtesy of the Rangers)

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