Sometimes covering Ranger prospects is just way too much fun to be called work. You get to watch players chasing their dream of becoming Rangers but more importantly to watch as they play under several different conditions and how they handle those conditions.
Then even better is that we get to feel really good about the future of the Rangers when we get to see efforts like we have from Evgeny Grachev, Michael Del Zotto and even UFA Tysen Dowzak.
Evgeny Grachev has gotten better as the deeper his Brampton Battalion have gone. Which do you want to hear about; the 8 game scoring streak (5-7-12), that he is the 6th leading scoring in the OHL playoffs (10-12-22) or that he is the highest scoring Ranger prospect since Ryan Callahan in 2005-06.
In Game 5 of Brampton's series with the Belleville Bulls, it was Grachev's 10th goal of the playoffs at 19:50 of the second period which tied the game at 2-2 and led to a 38:44 of some great back and forth overtime hockey. Brampton lost in the 2nd overtime 3-2 to head back to Brampton for Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead.
Grachev's goal was a blast off the faceoff that handcuffed Belleville goalie Mike Murphy and now that we have talked up Grachev's offense how about a few words about a part of his game that almost never gets mentioned? We are talking about Grachev throwing the body at other teams and how his clean hitting is having an effect on Belleville.
When someone is the size of Grachev and he is using the body on you over a short period of time, it will pay off the longer the series is going. Grachev has been hitting all series long and now that the series has reached Game 6, we will get to see the dividends.
More importantly is that Game 6 will be the biggest game of Grachev's OHL career and how he plays will help show us about his development.
Tysen Dowzak has a very good reason to smile as his Kelowna Rockets earned a very impressive win in Game 4 of their WHL Western Conference finals over the Vancouver Giants 3-0.
With the win, Dowzak and his Rockets are sending the series back to Vancouver all tied up at 2. It was without question the best performance from the Rockets during this playoff series.
Dowzak was a force on the blueline, playing a very good steady defense which shut down one of the most potent offense's in the WHL. Dowzak of course did not score but was a +1 and helped shut down the Giant's power play (0 for 3).
You want to talk some defense? How about a 3rd period where Dowzak and company held the Giants to just 2 shots on goal? How about limiting the Giants to 14 shots for the game itself? This was pure shutdown hockey as the Giants managed 8 shots in the first period and then the Rockets increased the defense.
It was the "must win" performance that the Rockets needed and now the question is can the Rockets follow this win up with another one on Saturday in Vancouver? If the Rockets do then Monday night in Kelowna just might be a whole lot more fun to watch.
(Grachev: Brampton, Dowzak: Regan Bartel)
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