It was another interesting evening to follow New York Ranger prospects as we really had a mixed bag of performances to show for a Saturday night.
Tonight's First Star Scott Stajcer
It was be a whole lot easier to get a clearer idea as to the NHL potential of Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) if he was not playing on a struggling team like the Owen Sound Attack. The Stajcer we saw last season gave hints of a becoming a solid NHL prospect but this season has been more about crossing our fingers and hoping.
Saturday evening was one of those nights where you saw Scott Stajcer the solid prospect as he put on a strong performance stopping 42 out of 43 shots to lead his Attack to a 3-1 win over Mitch Gaulton and his Erie Otters. When Stajcer gets defensive support from his teammates he can be very hard to beat.
Against Erie, Stajcer was rock solid as he came 4:56 from recording his first OHL shutout but settled instead for his 8th win of the season. Stajcer improved his record to 8-11-1-1 with a 3.66 goals against and a 0.904 save percentage.
Something we have noticed about Stajcer that keeps us on high on him is an interesting trend we noticed that with Stajcer is that he plays better when he faces more shots.
When Stajcer has faced over 40 shots in a game, his record is 5-1-1-1 on the season. Yet when Stajcer faces less than 40 shots then his record drops to 3-10 which we have no explanation for as the average number of shots an OHL goalie tends to face in a game is 34-35.
Second Star Craig Cunningham
Funny thing is that when it comes to Craig Cunningham (Traverse City) the first thing everyone seems to mention is that he is a mid-sized player. Here is something to think about Ryan Callahan was Cunningham's exact size at Cunningham's age (19) and he did not turn out bad.
For the second time this season, Cunningham had a 4 point night as his 1-3-4 evening put a 7-3 spanking on Luke Walker and his Portland Winterhawks. It was a solid performance for Cunningham who is in the midst of a breakout season at 13-24-37 in just 27 games which is way ahead of his numbers of last season (28-22-50 in 72 games).
Cunningham (8th in WHL scoring) got his evening going with his 13th goal of the season at 11:53 of the 2nd period to give Vancouver a 3-1 lead. After Luke Walker cut the score to 3-2, it was Cunningham who set up Lance Bouma for what proved to be the game winner at 18:50 of the second period.
Cunningham also had 2 secondary assists on Vancouver power plays as the Giants blew the game open late in the 3rd period.
Third Star Roman Horak
It is safe to say that Roman Horak (2009 5th) is trying to send a message to those who make the selections for the Czech Republic's Under-20 team that he wants on. Even though Horak's Chilliwack Bruin's lost in the shootout 4-3 to the Kamloops Blazers; Horak rightfully earned the game's "Third Star" to earn his 4th game star in his last 5 games.
Horak's 11th goal of the season tied the game at 3-3 at 15:29 of the third period and became the first (and only) Bruin this season to score on his shootout attempt. In Chilliwack's previous 3 shootouts they never got past the 2nd shooter so tonight Marc Habscheild went with Horak as his second shooter.
Horak over his last 5 games is now 5-3-8 +5 as he has risen to third in WHL rookie scoring. Prior to this season, Horak was an unknown to Ranger fans but that is changing very fast. How the Rangers were able to "steal" Horak with a 5th round pick is impressive as this is no one way player as Horak plays a rock solid 2 way game.
The Rest of the Ranger Prospects
As already mentioned Luke Walker (Traverse City) scored for the Portland Winterhawks in their 7-3 loss but what we did not mention was that it was a shorthanded goal (1st of the season) and his 15th overall. Something else to mention is last season Walker was a -17 and so far this season he is up to a +14.
That is a huge turnaround no matter who you play for and here is hoping the Rangers get him under contract before the NHL draft (if they can).
In the Owen Sound/Erie Otter matchup, Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) was held scoreless ending a 4 game scoring streak (1-4-5). Gaulton's game has improved but we still want to see more goals from him.
Luke Pither (Traverse City) had an assist to extend his own scoring streak to 4 games as his Barrie Colts won their 11th straight game 4-2 over the Saginaw Spirit. Pither is now 18-18-36 which puts him in 5th in the OHL scoring race.
Daniel Maggio (2009 6th) had a rough night taking 2 different minors as his Sudbury Wolves gave the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 10 power plays (3 that the Majors scored on) enroute to a 5-1 loss. The Majors outshot the Wolves 54-20 in a game that wound up getting out of hand due to the lack of discipline from the Wolves who had 21 penalties called on them.
Chris Doyle (2008 5th) did not score but went 6-3 on his faceoffs and was credited for one good hit as his Prince Edward Island Rocket jumped out to a 3-0 lead then held on for a 3-2 win over the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.
Carl Hagelin's (2007 6th) 5th goal of the season got the 15th ranked Michigan Wolverines going as they defeating Bowling Green 4-1 to end a 5 game losing streak. Hagelin's goal just 2:18 into the game helped give the Wolverines some jump as they ended their worst losing streak in 21 years.
Ryan McDonagh (2009 Trade) and Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) each earned secondary assists as their 16th ranked Wisconsin Badgers used their penalty kill to power themselves to a 4-1 win over St. Cloud State. The Badgers killed 7 out of 7 St. Cloud power plays and held the Huskies to just 19 shots on the game.
McDonagh recorded his 7th assist on the season while Stepan's assist was his 6th.
Chris Kreider (2009 1st) was scoreless as his 18th ranked Boston College Eagles settled for a 3-3 tie against the Maine Black Bears. Kreider had a quiet game for the Eagles who came away with 3 points from the 2 game set.
Max Campbell (2007 5th) and his Western Michigan Broncos on the scoreboard played top ranked Miami of Ohio to a 3-3 overtime tie (WMU lost the shootout 2-1 and did not get the extra point). Campbell did not score but went 7-4 on his faceoffs.
Campbell did miss on his shootout attempt.
(Stajcer courtesy of NHL.com, Cunningham courtesy of the Vancouver Giants, Horak courtesy of the Chilliwack Bruins)
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