Experience has taught us that while being cut is rough for New York Ranger prospects but being a 20 year old cut and sent back to the juniors is the toughest. Last season we watched Tysen Dowzak struggle for close to half a season before turning his season around.
This season Sam Klassen and Tomas Kundratek were sent back to their junior teams which is why we are watching to see how well they handle their "demotion". In the case of these two young defensemen, it was more a numbers game than their own play.
The Rangers simply had more defensemen than they had roster spots for among the Rangers, Wolfpack and even Charlotte of the ECHL. So Klassen and Kundratek drew the short straws and were sent back to their junior teams.
In the case of both prospects the Rangers might have done them a favor as they were sent to teams that would give them plenty of ice time but also a very good chance at winning . Klassen was sent back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL while Kundratek to Medicine Hat of the same league.
Sam Klassen (UFA 2009) had been quiet in his previous 3 games but finally broke though with a 3 assist game as his Saskatoon Blades defeated the Kootenay Ice 8-4. Klassen had 2 secondary assists and one primary assist (setting up the Blade's 6th goal of the evening) to earn his first points of the season.
Klassen is more the stay at home defensive type but as he told us in an interview for the Blueshirt Bulletin his goal for the season was to get more involved offensively. On this night he was as it was the 3rd time in Klassen's WHL career that he registered 3 assists in a game.
For a while the Rangers were reportedly concerned that Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) would bolt to Europe rather than report back to Medicine Hat. The Rangers have been though this before with European prospects who choose Europe over playing in the Canadian juniors.
So far none of those who choose Europe over the Rangers has yet to return to attempt to make the Rangers so the Rangers had a valid concern regarding Kundratek. Kundratek eventually did report to Medicine Hat of the WHL and we knew they were very happy to have him back.
The Tigers needed an experience defenseman to anchor their blueline especially one with Kundratek's skill set. The question remains is how much Kundratek has matured and is willing to embrace a leadership role on the Tiger blueline.
Last season Kundratek showed flashes of brilliance with his offensive skills; we said that the smooth skating defender was ideal for the Tortorella system. Kundratek can run an offense and then cover the defensive side of the ice.
The main thing with Kundratek that we are looking for is consistency as Kundratek would play great in one game then disappear in the next few. If Kundratek wants to have a pro career then becoming consistent is the most important.
On Wednesday, Kundratek and his Tigers took on the defending WHL champions the Kelowna Rockets. It was a wild shootout that eventually did go to the Rockets via the shootout 6-5. It was a back and forth effort with blown leads, plenty of fights and excitement for the home crowd.
For us it was seeing Kundratek pick up a point (secondary assist) for the 2nd game in a row and last season we would wonder aloud if Kundratek would be about to go on a roll. This season, Kundratek is going to have to go on the roll to change our view on his inconsistency.
Ranger fans will tell you that being a Ranger goes beyond talent, it is about the kind of heart and character a player brings to that uniform. Throughout Ranger history there have been players who gave as much off the ice to the community as much as they did on the ice.
Before we get to how Luke Walker (Traverse City) did against the Everett Silvertips on Wednesday night we would like to show what Walker, Chris Francis and Brent Ponich are doing to help a friend of Ponich's
Does "I am a Ranger" fit after watching the video? Ponich is the Winterhawk captain and Walker along with Francis are the assistants. It is another reason why I love any excuse to attend Winterhawk games.
Walker on Wednesday scored his 5th goal of the season as his Winterhawks jumped out to a 4-1 lead on Everett and held on for a 4-3 win. The Winterhawks who spent the last 2 seasons as doormats of the WHL are off to a 6-1 start and are tied for the best record in the WHL.
The only one who did not have any fun on Wednesday night was goalie Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) of the Owen Sound Attack. Stajcer and his Attack team continue to struggle falling to the Plymouth Whalers 5-2.
Stajcer was 21 of 26 as he gave 5 goals for the 2nd straight game and 3rd time this season. It has been a very rough go for the young goalie as his numbers are now at 1-4-1, 4.05 goals against and a 0.883 save percentage.
The blame does not all belong on Stajcer's shoulders as his Attack team has been struggling since the beginning of the season. With a record of 1-6-1 and on a 5 game winless streak, there is plenty of blame to go around.
We know Stajcer is a good goalie and we have not given up on his potential but now perhaps is a time for him to take a seat on the bench for a game or two.
(Pics: Klassen: Saskatoon, Kundratek: Medicine Hat, Walker: Portland, Stajcer: Owen Sound)
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