When asking who deserved the monthly prospect of the month award, more than a couple of votes were for Vladimir Lutchenko. Who is Lutchenko you ask?
Lutchenko is the Ranger's amateur scout who covers Russia and gets the credit for the Rangers drafting this months Dean Prentice Prospect of the Month for February Evgeny Grachev. Give Lutchenko some serious credit for convincing the Ranger brass about the potential of Grachev.
Grachev in becoming a back to back winner of the award also just about seals becoming our prospect of the year for the 2008-09 season. The Ranger's 2008 3rd round pick has turned the second half of the season into his own private showcase for his soon to be NHL future.
In terms of pure numbers, Grachev actually was down compared to his efforts in January going from 8-11-19 to 9-4-13 but that is not what tells why Grachev deserves this month's award. It is the "when" he scored his points that did it for us as we wrote in January that we wanted to see Grachev score more points in crunch time (third period and overtime) and that he did.
4 goals of which 1 game winner as well as 2 insurance goals. Of the 2 assists, 1 was a game winner in overtime and a big part of why Brampton is now a serious contender not just to go deep into the OHL playoffs but to win the OHL title and go on to the Memorial Cup.
As we said way back at the beginning of the season that Grachev and Brampton's coach Stan Butler were a perfect match to help Grachev's development. Now Grachev has a chance to do something for Butler and the Battalion which is help them put an end to recent playoff misfires.
We talk about the "Staal Standard" as a means of judging whether or not a prospect can make the direct jump to the NHL. One hates to overdo the level of expectations on a prospect but Grachev makes it hard for us not to explore the possibility.
Grachev is rewriting the Brampton Battalion record book, now let us see if he can become the first prospect to earn 3 straight prospect of the month awards. If he does then it means Brampton is going to be playing in April for sure.
(Grachev picture courtesy of the Brampton Battalion)