Saturday, March 28, 2009

One Step Closer

We have this selfish dream where the two best New York Ranger prospects this season go head to head in a OHL final.

For us the chance to see Michael Del Zotto and Evgeny Grachev playing for the OHL Championship would be a preview of what we will be able to expect when both are wearing Ranger uniforms.

Step one towards this dream has happened as Micheal Del Zotto's London Knights advanced to the second round of the OHL playoffs after eliminating Mitch Gaulton's Erie Otters in 5 games after a 6-2 win.

Del Zotto set up the series winning goal when he fed Phil Varone for his 5th goal of the playoffs at 10:15 of the second period which broke a 2-2 tie. For Del Zotto it was his 7th assist of the first round but the 3rd time Del Zotto either set up the eventual game winner or game tying goal in this series.

Del Zotto is the 2nd leading scorer among OHL defensemen in the playoffs so far but as we keep saying; he is the player to watch as if Del Zotto continues to put up these kinds of numbers then beating London is going to be very hard to do.

London moves on to face the Saginaw Spirit in the second round as form held and seeds 1-4 won their first round series. Saginaw was the 3rd seed in the Western Conference finishing 21 points behind the Knights and to be honest given the firepower that the Knights have, this might be a short series as well.

As for Mitch Gaulton and the Erie Otters, the ending was expected since for this young team making the playoffs for the first time since 2005 was the goal. The question now is what will happen with Mitch Gaulton and will he return to Erie next season?

Good old hindsight says that making the comeback that Gaulton did hurt him and a lost season due to injury would have done less damage to his potential than what he wound up going though. IF Gaulton is in as bad a shape as Coach Robbie Ftorek thinks he is in then pity the young man if he shows up at the post draft camp the Rangers run.

Reg Grant will eat Gaulton up alive and then gas the kid like no kid has ever been gassed before. After what happened with Alexi Cherepanov, you can just about guarantee that physical conditioning will be a huge factor at Ranger prospect camps.


Chris Doyle also saw his season come to an end as his Prince Edward Island Rocket were eliminated by the Moncton Wildcats in five games after losing 4-3. Give Doyle credit as he went down fighting putting up a goal and an assist for the Rocket in a losing effort.

Doyle got the Rocket going scoring his second goal of the playoffs as he scored a goal at 18:52. It was a pretty good effort as Doyle had just left the penalty box and joined the rush. He fired a wrist shot that came right back at him then fired a second shot and finally shoved the rebound in on his 3rd attempt.

Call it a make up goal as Doyle was also guilty of taking a couple of questionable penalties in the first period. In the 3rd period Doyle set up JP Mathieu for what proved to be the final score of the game as the Rocket tried one last comeback.

Doyle finishes his playoff season 2-2-4 after a regular season where he was the 2nd leading scorer among Ranger prospects at 30-42-72. Doyle is expected to return to the QMJHL next season as he is nowhere near pro potential despite those numbers.


After tonight's action the Ranger prospects are down to 3 prospects who have advanced to the second round of their respective league playoffs (Grachev, Del Zotto, Dowzak), one still alive in round one (Kundratek) but everyone else is finished for the season.

(Del Zotto picture courtesy of Getty Images/NHL/New York Rangers)

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