Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Future Gets Brighter

As the 2008-09 prospect season heads for the home stretch, now is the time when we see who among Ranger prospects steps up to the plate and helps his team the most. Right off the bat the Ranger's top 3 picks of the 2008 draft class of Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev are showing all the signs of becoming the Ranger's future.

First Star: Michael Del Zotto

Final games of the regular season typically do not tell you much about a team but Michael Del Zotto had a message he wanted to send. Del Zotto without 3 key teammates sitting out the regular season finale had 2 goals in leading the London Knights to a 7-1 win over the Saute Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Del Zotto got his night going by scoring an even strength goal at 7:56 of the second period which gave the Knights a 2-1 lead and Del Zotto his 3rd game winning goal of the season. In the 3rd, Del Zotto netted his 13th goal of the season at 9:24 for a 5-1 lead for the Knights.

With the win, the Knights head to the OHL playoffs on a 9 game winning streak and a date with Mitch Gaulton and his Erie Otters. For Del Zotto we are hoping that he takes this chance to send a loud message about the Rangers did not make a mistake in selecting him.

Del Zotto finishes his regular season 13-50-63 which equals his career best in points but as Del Zotto told us earlier this year, the goal for him is a championship not how many points he scores.

Second Star: Carl Hagelin

For the second straight evening Carl Hagelin was a huge factor as his 2nd ranked Michigan Wolverines ended Max Campbell and his Western Michigan Broncos season with a 6-1 win and 2 game sweep of their CCHA playoff series.

Hagelin followed up his 3 point Friday evening with a 2 assist evening as the sophomore from Sweden raised his playoff point total to 5 after just 2 games. But that is not what earned Hagelin his star this evening as it was his defense as the Wolverines were able to shut down the Bronco's top line of Campbell/Pat Galivan/Greg Squires during this series.

Hagelin and company kept the Bronco's leading scorer (Galivan) to just 1 goal and their leading goal scorer (Campbell) to just one shot in the 2 games. Not to mention holding the Bronco power play to 1 for 8.

Perhaps the best way to describe Hagelin is a better skating version of Ryan Callahan, Hagelin brings everything to the game whether it is on offense or defense. But what we got to see last season is coming forward this season and that is Hagelin is a big game player.

Now Hagelin and the Wolverines are heading back to the CCHA championships for the 20th straight season against a team to be determined. And with the 2 assists, Hagelin is now 13-18-31 on the season.


Derek Stepan had an assist as his Wisconsin Badgers swept away Minnesota State 4-2 to advance to the WCHA's Final Five. For Stepan it was his 3rd point of the series and is now 9-24-33 on the season.

Max Campbell saw his season come to an end against Carl Hagelin and the Wolverines and we are hoping that Campbell takes the disappointment from his performance in this series and uses it as an incentive for his junior season.

Campbell was held to just one shot in 2 games but also lost his cool in Saturday's game drawing a double minor which hurt his team. Next season Campbell will be looked upon as a leader for the Broncos and will need to act like one.

Do not get us wrong, Max Campbell is one of our favorites as we know how firsthand badly he wants to become a Ranger. Now we want to see him grow as a player and take charge of the Broncos.

Campbell finishes at 16-15-31

Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets moved one game closer to clinching the 3rd seed out of the WHL's Western Conference with a 7-1 whipping of rival Kamloops Blazers to finish off their home and home series.

Dowzak wound up with 4 PIMs and a +1 as the 3rd period of this one broken down to a fight filled last 10 minutes of the game when the outcome was long decided. Now the Rockets have to wait until Monday as their game against the Spokane Chief was postponed due to 11 members of the Chiefs coming down with food poisoning.

Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers continued to struggle as they dropped their regular season final to the Calgary Hitmen 4-1 and will enter the WHL playoffs as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Kundratek earned an assist on the lone Tiger goal to finish up his first regular season in the WHL at a disappointing 4-19-23 +8.

Mitch Gaulton was a scratch for the Erie Otters in their season finale as the Otters defeated the Kitchener Rangers 4-1. Gaulton is expected to return to the Otter lineup when they face Michael Del Zotto and the London Knights in the first round of the OHL playoffs.

Danny Hobbs was also a scratch as his UMass Minutemen lost 4-1 to 4th ranked Northeastern to even their series at 1-1. The two teams will face off in a deciding game on Sunday with the winner advancing to the Hockey East semifinals.

(Pictures: Del Zotto/New York Rangers, Stepan/Wisconsin Badgers)

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