This was supposed to be a happy report (until we saw how the Rangers did)because we wanted to talk about what we believe is going to be a very important part of the Ranger's future. Who cares if we sound like a broken record because at times it seems like we are the only one who sees the potential of Derek Stepan of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Against the 9th ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers, Stepan showed what speed can do. Speed can draw penalties (which Stepan did), speed can score goals (which Stepan did) and speed can disrupt the flow of the other team's offense (which Stepan did too).
Wisconsin won the game 3-2 but honestly the Badgers were outplayed for most of the game by Minnesota. In the first period, Stepan's speed caused Minnesota's Justin Bostrom to grab Stepan or else risk Stepan breaking away.
The Badgers did not score on the power play but it bought them time to regroup even if it did not last long. In the second period, with the teams skating 4 on 4, it was the speed of Stepan that again played a huge part.
Wisconsin's Ryan McDonagh broke in on Minnesota's goalie Alex Kangas fired a shot that had a fat rebound but there was Stepan who had broken in behind the defense to pick up the rebound and score on an out of position Kangas.
With the Badgers clinging to a 3-2 lead in the third period, it was Stepan who was getting into passing lanes and showing us that the prospect who was supposed to be just an offensive only player has learned a lot in his freshman season.
Give Stepan 2 seasons at Wisconsin then color him Broadway Blue.
In the NCAAs
We accept the blame for Max Campbell's (2007 5th) 6 game scoring streak coming to an end. We jinxed him with the PPPW but I am sure he will gladly trade the end of the streak if his Western Michigan Broncos win in the shootout like they did over Nebraska-Omaha via the shootout.
Campbell did not score in regulation but scored a key goal in the shootout to help the Broncos continue their second half climb in the CCHA standings.
Also continuing their second half turnaround was Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and his 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines. Hagelin had an assist as the Wolverines had no problem with the Lake Superior Lakers 5-1.
In the OHL
We had mixed feelings in watching Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) and his Erie Otters take on the Saute Ste Marie Greyhounds in OHL action. See we had a curiosity about a 16 year old defensemen playing for the Greyhounds by the name of Beukeboom as in Brock Beukeboom who yes is the son of "The Beuk".
Getting the game out of the way, Gaulton had an assist as his Otters won the game 4-3 via the shootout but folks put it this way: Like father like son as we see a very bright future for young Beukeboom (6'2 190 and on a projection to be as big as dad).
Young Beuk has more offense than his father and shows more potential to be a 2 way defender not just the defensive defender that his father was.
Evgeny Grachev's (2008 3rd) 29th goal of the season was part of a 4 goal 2nd period outburst as Grachev's Brampton Battalion won their 12th straight game 5-2 over the Ottawa 67's. Grachev now has points in 14 out of his last 15 games (12-13-25).
Michael Del Zotto (2008 1st) had an assist but his London Knights gave up 2 goals in the last 10 minutes and lost to the CHL's top ranked team the Windsor Spitfires 4-3. The Knights were pointing to this game and have to be disappointed that they had the game but gave it back.
Tysen Dowzak (2008 UFA) and the Kelowna Rockets needed overtime before defeating the Everett Silvertips 2-1 to go 5-0-1-1 in their last 7 games. Dowzak continued his return to form on the defensive end but still has a way to go.
Lost in the Grachev highlight show is that Chris Doyle (2008 5th) still the leading scorer among the Ranger prospects. Doyle is 23-36-59 despite losing 2 weeks with an injury. Doyle scored that 23rd goal of the season as his Prince Edward Island Rockets defeated the Chicoutimi Saguenéens 4-1.
Antoine Lafleur (2007 2nd) got to play back up as his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies lost to the Halifax Mooseheads 3-1.
Greg Beller (2005 6th) was scoreless but his Manitoba Bisons defeated the Calgary Dinos 4-2, The Bisons are now 5-1-1 with Beller in the lineup (7-7-4 without) as they clinched a Canada West playoff spot with the win.
Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) did not dress for his UMass Minutemen's 2-0 loss to Boston College
(pictures: Stepan/Wisconsin Badgers, Buekeboom/OHL)