Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It Just Keeps Getting Better

When it was announced that Evgeny Grachev was selected by the Brampton Battalion of the OHL in the 2008 Import Draft; we said that this was the best possible thing to happen to Grachev and the Rangers as Stan Butler is one of the best coaches in the Canadian Juniors.

On Wednesday, it did pay dividends for Evgeny Grachev as he was selected as the the 2008-09 recipient of the Emms Family Award for the OHL Rookie of the Year. In addition Grachev was named to the OHL First Team All Rookie team at left wing.

It is going to fuel the level of excitement that Ranger fans already have for the young Russian as this is an award that is voted on by the general managers of the OHL. It is also an award that has gone to some of the biggest names in the NHL like Wayne Gretzky (Sault Ste. Marie, 1977-78), Joe Thornton (Sault Ste. Marie, 1995-96), Rick Nash (London, 2000-01), and Patrick Kane (London 2006-07).

Grachev also becomes the first member of the Battalion to win this award as well as the second Russian (Vitali Yachmenev). We are also expecting to see Grachev named to at the worst the second team All-OHL team.

We sat in on the press conference to announce the award and got to ask both Grachev as well as Stan Butler about the progress that Grachev has made since coming to the Battalion. The question to both was what area has Grachev had to make the biggest improvement in

Butler: Playing at a consistent level every night. Evgeny was very inconsistent when he first came to us and over time has improved to where we are getting a consistent effort from him.

Grachev: Playing hard every night, it is much different here as you are playing 60 games and you have to play hard every night. It is not like that in Russia as you do not play this many games in a season. I have learned that I have to play hard each and every game.

We learned something else from that answer which is that Grachev does understand what he needs to do in order to work his way to the Rangers. We think as talented as Grachev is then expecting him to make the jump from the OHL directly to the Rangers may be too much to expect from a very talented prospect.


In game action, Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets have rallied from being down in their WHL playoff series against the Tri-City Americans 0-2 to tie the series after a thrilling 4-3 overtime win in Kelowna. This just might have been the most fun game for a neutral observer to watch as both teams had their chances to win this game.

Dowzak and his fellow defenders turned up the defense in the 3rd period as well as the overtime period holding the Americans to 9 total shots over the final 32 minutes of game time. Defense is what will win playoff series and if the Rockets continue to shut down the American's power play like they have in Kelowna then the Rockets have a great shot at winning.

The winning goal in all 4 games was scored on the power player, the Rockets have gone 7 for their last 16 which shutting the Americans down to 2 for their last 12. Dowzak and company took a serious butt chewing from Rocket GM Bruce Hamilton and have responded.

On the other hand Tomas Kundratek is no more than a game or two from seeing his rookie season in the WHL come to an end after his Medicine Hat Tigers got whipped by the Brandon Wheat Kings 6-1 and now are trailing in the series 3 games to none.

Kundratek had an assist to give him 5 assists during the playoffs but the Tigers are clearly out gunned and out matched in this series. Kundratek has a contract from the Rangers but while he is more than likely heading to Hartford; we really doubt that he is going to see any action unless the Pack suffer some injuries on the blueline.

(Grachev courtesy of Aaron Bell and OHL Images)

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