Friday, January 30, 2009

Tough for Us Fun for the Future

First Star Max Campbell

When we look back at the 2008-2009 prospect season there are going to be some moments that we are going to file away so we can say "we told you so" and one of those is going to be about Max Campbell (2008 5th).

We are perhaps the only ones who think that Max Campbell has a shot at becoming a Ranger and that is OK with us. The more we see of Campbell then the more we see possibilities for the future

We are not going to fool ourselves as "Soup" still needs a lot of work but for a prospect pipeline that so badly needs natural goal scorers then Campbell offers a serious possibility at filling a role. The Rangers need someone who has soft hands, a willingness to set up shop in the crease and who can create his own shot.

That is Max Campbell and if you got to see a night like we did out of him then maybe you would see the same things. Campbell and his Western Michigan Broncos hosted in-state rival Northen Michigan (coached by former Ranger's assistant Walt Kyle) in a CCHA matchup.

Campbell had a goal and an assist as the Broncos who dug themselves a 6-2 hole and fell just short of a great 3rd period comeback 6-5. The Broncos simply could not stay out of the penalty box as 3 penalties in the first 4 minutes of the game led to 2 Northern Michigan goals and the hole was being dug.

For Campbell his goal was the only answer in the first period for the Broncos. The goal was his team leading 12th goal of the season (as well as 8th on the power play) and his 6th assist on the season.

Campbell now has a 5 game scoring streak (4-3-7) despite the loss but in the loss we saw things that we really liked. First off Campbell's future is on the wing not at center, second for a guy who is listed at 6' Campbell looks a lot bigger then that.

Despite his skinny frame, when Campbell set himself in the crease he was hard to move out. Put some meat on his frame and the potential gets even better as the goal that he scored was pure nasty.

It was a rocket of a shot from the right faceoff circle that there was nothing that Northern Michigan goalie Brian Stewart could do to stop. There was no screen as it was just Campbell firing a shot that just beat Stewart.

And remember Campbell is just a sophomore so the Rangers still have a lot of time to help develop him. The possibilites just seem to be that good not to consider.

Second Star Michael Del Zotto

Speaking about enjoying the possibilities, that is something we are looking forward to next week as we are hoping to get a chance to interview tonight's second star Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st).

Del Zotto just keeps proving that getting traded from Oshawa was exactly what he needed to get some notice for his play. Del Zotto scored his 10th goal of the season but his London Knights lost a heart breaker 3-2 to the Kingston Frontenacs in OHL action.

What stands out is that Del Zotto earned the game's second star on the road which is next to impossible. Even better is that for perhaps the first time this season we can see that Del Zotto is having fun on the ice.

Since the trade Del Zotto has gone 3-7-10 +5 in 9 games with the Knights. No longer having to play monster minutes, Del Zotto is showing more and more comfort within himself and is now playing with the kind of effort that led the Rangers to draft him with their first round pick.

A relaxed Del Zotto can help his own development as we think that it is not out of the question for Del Zotto to also finish the season with at least 20 goals. The key difference is that we believe Del Zotto is starting to feel safe enough to look for his own offense.

That is bad news for the OHL, great news for both the Rangers and their fans who have been begging for a reliable weapon from the point. We will file this game just like we did Campbells.

Third Star Tysen Dowzak

Nothing makes us happier than to see someone who has been struggling come out in a big game with an even bigger effort. That was the case as Tysen Dowzak (2008 UFA) who showed some offense with a 2 assist +3 evening as Dowzak's Kelowna Rockets just destroyed Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers 10-1.

Dowzak got his night going by firing a shot that teammate Mitchell Callahan converted into a goal for a 1-0 Rocket lead. Then Dowzak earned a secondary assist on what turned out to be the game winning goal as Stephen Novotny scored to put the Rockets up 2-1 and the rout was just beginning.

It is nice to be able to write some good things about Dowzak as he has to be happy to see January end. His play has been a struggle to the point where Dowzak saw himself as a healthy scratch for a game.

That is not supposed to happen to guys who have already signed professional contracts but it did and since then Dowzak's play has shown improvement. The 6'5 defender has taken a more active role at both ends of the ice but now the key is for Dowzak to show this kind of effort on a consistent basis.

Do that Dowzak and the faith the Rangers have shown in you will be rewarded.


Rest of the Prospects

In the above mentioned game, Medicine Hat Tiger Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) was scoreless as well as a -2. Weather forced a change in plans as we had hoped to see this matchup in person but thankfully we were spared this one.

This is one of those "road trip" whippings as the Tigers have been basically living out of a bus for about a week on a Western Canadian road trip. It does not excuse the loss but it is one of our pet peeves about life for these teenagers.

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and his Michigan Wolverines continued their second half charge as the 8th ranked Wolverines went into South Bend Indiana and defeated top ranked Notre Dame 2-1. Hagelin was scoreless but his shot block early in the 3rd period while killing a Notre Dame power play may have saved this game for the Wolverines.

The 2 teams meet again Saturday evening.

Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) and his Wisconsin Badgers escaped the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-1 as Stepan had a secondary assist in this one. Stepan and his teammates can count their blessings that they were able to win this one as this was a defensive battle.

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) had 2 assists but his Prince Edward Island Rocket spent most of their game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan playing catchup before finally losing 6-5. It was a frustrating game for PEI who dropped their 2nd straight game.

Doyle remains the leading scorer among Ranger prospects at 22-36-58 as it seems just when Evgeny Grachev is going to pass Doyle, Doyle scores enough to stay in the lead. Good for Doyle who needs some kind of break at this point of the season.

Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) and his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies dropped a 3-2 decision to the Moncton Wildcats on Friday evening. The Wildcats are the best defensive team in the offense happy QMJHL having only allowed 106 goals in 50 games.

No shock that the Huskies lost their 5th straight game 3-2 to the Wildcats as Lafleur gave up 2 goals he should have stopped and got no help on the game winner.

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) had a happy home debut as his Erie Otters returned home from a 4 game road trip but whipping the Oshawa Generals 8-2. Gaulton was scoreless and had a rather quiet game which we will attribute to some nerves.

Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) was scoreless as his Umass Minutemen evened their record at 11-11-3 as they upset Northeastern 6-4. Hobbs continues to struggle as a 4th liner as a freshman.

(Pictures courtesy: Max Campbell/Western Michigan, Michael Del Zotto/New York Rangers, Tysen Dowzak/Hartford Wolfpack)

No comments: