Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 Just Might Turn Out Fine

New York Ranger scouts wherever you reading this please stand up, take a bow, heck take 2 bows because the more we watch the more we see the class of 2009 is going to be another winner for the Rangers and their fans.

First Star Roman Horak

When the Rangers used the first of their 5th round picks on Roman Horak; everyone was scrambling who is this guy as none of us had a single clue.

The only thing we were told was Horak was someone who had some decent offensive skills and was worth checking out. As both the pre-season and Traverse City came and went, Horak's name started showing up more and more as a player who was having an impact.

On Sunday we got our own firsthand look at the young man from Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic and boy was he fun to watch in action. Whichever Ranger scout discovered Horak deserves a very nice holiday bonus from the Rangers for the gift he gave to the Rangers and their fans.

For starters, Horak is not just a one way player as he was working hard at both ends of the ice. The Chilliwack Bruins use him as a center and with great reason as he was 13-2 on his faceoffs.

We counted 23 shifts for Horak which includes 10 on the power play and 2 on the penalty kill. A fluid skater who has no wasted movement to his skating, we liked his speed and a very nice compact stride to it.

On defense, we liked how Horak was aware of where everyone was on the ice, making sure he covered anyone who came into his zone of coverage. Horak was willing to use his body to block shots (we counted 2) and to check Winterhawks (another 2 good hits).

On offense, Horak had 2 goals in this game mainly because Horak spent the majority of the night in the Winterhawk crease. The first came at 17:38 as Horak outworked Winterhawk defenders and pushed the puck past Winterhawk goalie Kurtis Mucha to give his Bruins their first lead of the game 3-2.

In the second period, Horak was on the power play when he grabbed the puck and with a quick move then flick of the wrists lifted the puck over a screened Mucha. For Horak the goals were his 7th and 8th of the season and gave him 4 points for his last 2 games.

So what does Horak need to work on? Right off the bat he needs some weight especially in the upper body as I was surprised at how skinny he was but his strength is very deceptive as he was winning battles in the corners.

Second it would be nice to see him shoot the puck more which is part of the adapting to the North American game. Play a little more selfishly with the puck as he was very hard to knock off the puck so he can generate either more scoring chances or draw power plays.

Ranger fans will love his work ethic, that on offense all you have to do is look towards the slot or crease as Horak unlike many European prospects heads right there and stays there and that he plays hard on every shift at both ends of the ice.

This was actually one of the more entertaining games we have been at as Portland jumped out to a early 2-0 lead, Chilliwack responded with 4 straight goals, then Portland scored 2 to tie the game before Chilliwack scored a power play goal in the 3rd period and held off the Winterhawks for a 5-4 win.

Horak is 8-13-21 +6 with 14 PIM in 25 games.

Second Star Ryan Bourque

Prior to attending the Winterhawk game, we watched Ryan Bourque turn in yet another strong solid performance as the Rangers 3rd round pick from the 2009 draft had 2 goals on 4 very good scoring chances as his Quebec Remparts rallied from down 3-1 with 4 goals in the 3rd period to defeat the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-4.

Bourque made both of his goals count as his first came at 5:00 of the 3rd period tied the game at 3-3. Quebec then scored to take the lead just 7 seconds later and Bourque then added his second goal of the game just 2:18 later for what proved to be the game winning goal on the power play.

It was Bourque's 9th and 10th goals of the season and his first game winning goal in the QMJHL. Bourque is now 10-12-22 with a 4-4-8 mark for the month of November.

Rest of the Ranger prospects

Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) saw his 4 game goal scoring streak end but had a secondary assist on his Kingston Frontenac's first goal of the game (just 14 seconds in) as the Frontenacs held off the Sarina Sting 4-3 to win their 3rd straight game and take possession of first place in the OHL's East Division.

Doug Gilmour has done quite a job turning the Frontenac around but Werek with a 13-11-24 season is a big reason why.

Chris Kreider (2009 1st) had an assist in a losing effort as his Boston College Eagles lost to the Vermont Catamounts 3-2. For Kreider it was his 3rd assist of the season as the young freshman is now 1-3-4 in 6 games.

Luke Walker (Traverse City) did not score against Roman Horak's Chilliwack Bruins only because he had one goal taken from him on a highlight reel save from Bruin goalie Mark Friesen and a second by an alert Bruin defender who knocked away a bank shot off Friesen's back that was headed in.

Walker actually played well despite the loss as he showed us some skills we had not seen before starting with some strong defensive play during a 5 minute penalty kill in the second period which kept Portland in the game. The other is how well he plays all 3 forward positions especially at center as if you remember those 2 faceoff losses that Horak had?

Both were against Walker who won all 4 faceoffs he took. We would leave Walker at center as he played his best when used there.

Craig Cunningham (Traverse City) and his Vancouver Giants would rather not have us mention that they got beaten badly at home by the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-0. The WHL's Western Conference leaders were out played in every area of the game.

The Giants will get to pay for their poor play with what will be a really hard hitting practice on Monday.

(Horak courtesy of Bob Frid/Freemotion Photography, Ryan Bourque courtesy of the Quebec Remparts)

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