Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Roar of Godzilla

As we said last night this is the best time of the year for us as we get to see the best possible look at how New York Ranger prospects are doing. All the lessons that the Rangers tried to teach these prospects either show up and pay dividends or the prospect becomes invisible.

Marc Staal is the best example of how a solid playoff run can advance one's development, Staal picked up his Sudbury Wolves and carried them all the way to the 2007 OHL Finals and from there we knew he was going to be a Ranger the following season.

We call it the Staal Standard as if a prospect can do what Staal did (which was basically everything but go up into the stands and sell beer) then we can say we see a bright future for him.

Tonight's Star Evgeny Grachev

We are getting really spoiled getting to watch Grachev this season playing for Stan Butler and the Brampton Battalion. It is really hard trying not to get overly excited about this young man but Grachev puts a smile on our faces when he shows us a new trick or two.

Like today as his Battalion took on the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors with Grachev needing one point to tie Jason Spezza for the Battalion single season scoring record by a rookie. Grachev not just break the record, he blew by it with a 3 point game that was pure Grachev domination.

We called him Godzilla with good reason as Grachev is a monster playing in the OHL. To tie the record Grachev got his game going with a secondary assist on teammate Anthony Peluso's goal in the first period.

In the second period, Grachev showed all of his skills to score the record setting point. First while on the penalty kill, he grabbed up the puck in the neutral zone, he shot down the left wing while out muscling Major's Jordan Mayer and then cutting across used a backhand to score his 39th goal of the season and give the Battalion a 3-1 lead.

It also turned out to be the game winning goal (his 6th of the season), his 3rd shorthanded goal and the new record setter. In the 3rd, Grachev then put the exclamation point on his game by setting up teammate Cody Hodgson's 40th goal of the season to give the Battalion their final score of the day.

So in a 5-2 win, Grachev was named the game's first star but this one stat just totally stands out. Grachev was a +5 on the day being on the ice for all 5 goals even if he only took part in 3 of them.

What is even better is that our own experience in watch Grachev when he was a member of Russia's Under 17 and Under 18 teams tells us that the best is still to come out of him. Grachev has a knack of making clutch plays and if he can meet the Staal Standard then it would not shock us if he beats Artem Anismov to the NHL as a regular.

Win or Go Home

Max Campbell is giving us an idea as to how he handles the pressure of big game after his Western Michigan Broncos fought off the Lake Superior State Lakers in the deciding game of their best of 3 series 3-1. Campbell did not score but his play was steady enough to like.

Campbell was even for the game, 5-4 on his faceoffs and had a couple of good scoring chances for the Broncos who had to win 2 straight after losing game one of this series.

We watched for Campbell but it was his teammate goalie Riley Gill who earned our respect for his play in the last 2 games. To win in the playoffs you need your goalie to step up big time and that was Riley Gill.

He is undrafted as an older college junior but one stat of his stands out which is despite all the struggles the Broncos had, Gill had a save percentage of .902 this season.

Next up for the Broncos is a series with Carl Hagelin and his second ranked Michigan Wolverines. Campbell will need to step up and do as he has done which is score on the power play for the Broncos to have a chance at the biggest upset of the year.

Campbell against Hagelin is going to be fun to watch as the power play specialist takes on the penalty killer.

The Rest of the Prospects

Michael Del Zotto is going to be able to tell John Tortorella a ton about future Islander John Tavares. That is unless the Islanders find a way to screw up the first pick in the NHL draft which we would not put past them.

Del Zotto got to watch his friend and teammate break the all-time OHL goal scoring record as Del Zotto's London Knights finally found a way to defeat the Windsor Spitfires 4-3 in a possible preview of the OHL Western Conference final.

Del Zotto was scoreless with a +1 as well as a 2 minute minor for delay of game but was a factor on defense as the Knights held the Spitfires to just 1 for 7 on the power play. As for Tavares, unless he suffers a major injury between now and the entry draft will go first.

If he heads to the Islanders, he will bother the Rangers for a year or so before the Islanders either trade him or move to Kansas City.

Tomas Kundratek broke his scoreless streak at 7 games with his 4th goal of the season but his Medicine Hat Tigers continued their late season slump dropping a 5-2 decision to the Kootenay Ice. The Tigers are taking themselves out of post-season contention with their play.

At one point the Tigers were holding the 4th seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference but could drop as low as 6th or 7th with just 2 regular season games to play.

Antoine Lafleur was once again back to being the back up for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies as they rallied from down 4-1 to win 6-4 over the Val-d'Or Foreurs. It appears that will be how Lafleur ends his QMJHL career unless the Huskies have a change of heart for the playoffs.


Check us out on Twitter, call it a moment of insanity but we decided to try out being a part of Twitter as we are looking for a new home for Prospect Park after nothing but frustration with Blogger/Google/whatever.

We want to be able to bring you late breaking news and in game reports but it is impossible with Blogger so check us out at TheProspectpark. As always we welcome suggestions and hints on how to get make Twitter a better place while the hunt for a new home goes on.

(Grachev courtesy of the Brampton Battalion, Campbell/Western Michigan)

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