Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kundratek to The Rescue

Today's Star Tomas Kundratek

It was pointed out to us the other day that at times we are harder on Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) than we are most of the other New York Ranger prospects. It is hard to disagree with that because we see a ton of potential in Kundratek to become a top NHL defenseman.

We have said this before of all the Ranger defensive prospects, Kundratek is the one prospect who is perfect for the Tortorella system. Between his strong skating to his excellent passing skills to a very accurate shot; we see a player who could become a top 4 NHL defenseman.

The talent is there, the question is the willingness to put in the extra effort to elevate himself to the next level. Now Kundratek does play hard so we have no complaints there but we wonder about the decision making process as at times it does not always make the right choices.

We can understand the frustration about being sent back to the WHL instead of the chance to play at Hartford. We can understand that Kundratek could have jumped to Europe and got paid to play.

But what Kundratek has to understand is that he has to earn that spot in the AHL, that as good as he may think he is that it has to translate into performance on the ice. Kundratek has to learn how to play smart as well as hard and if he does then the Rangers will have a defenseman.

On Sunday we got to see what could happen when Kundratek puts everything together. Kundratek's Medicine Hat Tigers were facing the Red Deer Rebels; with the score 0-0 in the first period, Kundratek made a heads up play, diving to block a shot with his goalie out of position leaving the net empty.

If Kundratek does not make this save the Red Deer Rebels grab a 1-0 lead and the momentum of this game changes. It was a smart reaction play from Kundratek that prevents a goal and gets the crowd into the game.

Kundratek then earns a secondary assist on Emerson Etem's power play goal at 7:45 of the second period which gives the Tigers a 2-0 lead and eventually proves to be the game winning goal. Kundratek was on the ice for all 3 Medicine Hat goals in this game which as he did not get an assist on the first goal in the first period but he made the play that sprung the Tigers on the attack.

Until today Kundratek was the only Ranger prospect (besides goalie Scott Stajcer) who had not scored a goal. Kundratek finally got his first of the season at 12:59 of the second period as he read how the power play was developing then came down into the slot where Etem hit him with a pass and Kundratek had a wide open net to score into.

That gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead which they held onto for a 3-1 win. Kundratek earned the "Third Star" for his efforts as he played a nice smart all-around game.

Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) saw his 7 game scoring streak come to an end (7-4-11) as his Kingston Frontenacs lost their 2nd in a row to the Plymouth Whalers 4-1. In all fairness this was Werek's 4th game in 4 nights and that he had enough to play a decent game says a ton about his conditioning.

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) and the Erie Otters did not have to face Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) in the second half of their 2 game series in Owen Sound but the result was the same as the Otters lost 3-2 to the Attack. Gaulton was scoreless in this game and a -1.

Ryan Bourque (2009 3rd) was used as a center by his Quebec Remparts against the Montreal Juniors in the Rempart's 5-2 win. While Bourque did not play too badly: 1 assist, 9-10 on faceoffs, +1, 2 shots and 2 hits, it does not look like where the best use of Bourque's skills would be.

If Bourque was bigger than 5'9 then we could understand trying him there but as small as Bourque is then playing him on the wing remains the better choice.

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) was also used as a center on Sunday by his Prince Edward Island Rockets; Doyle was also not that bad at center as he too netted an assist, was 4-5 on faceoffs and had 3 shots as his Prince Edward Island Rocket won a wild one 6-5 in overtime over the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

The game winning goal came at with less than 1/10 of a second remaining in the overtime period as the Rockets came back from trailing 3-1, 4-2, and 5-4 to win. The Rocket scored 4 goals in the 3rd period to force overtime with Doyle assisting on the Rocket's 4th goal of the game.

(Kundratek courtesy of the Medicine Hat Tigers)

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