Friday, January 15, 2010

This is More Like it

It was a very welcome relief to see that New York Ranger prospects play up to what we have gotten used to seeing out of them. Last weekend we will have to pray was a fluke as the play that we have gotten used was back on Friday evening.

First Star Derek Stepan

Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) has been a player on fire for the last couple of months and Friday evening was no different. Stepan in his first counting game action since winning the gold medal as part of Team USA had a goal as well as 2 assists as 3rd ranked Wisconsin defeated 8th ranked Colorado College on the road 4-0.

It took Stepan all of 43 seconds to get on the scoresheet as he fed Ben Street for his 18th assist of the season and a 1-0 Wisconsin lead. Then just a few minutes later at 5:37 while trying to pass to a teammate Stepan gets a deflection and the puck goes in for a shorthanded goal, a 2-0 Wisconsin lead on Stepan's 6th goal of the season.

In the 2nd period at 9:22 Stepan earned his 2nd assist and 3rd point of the night when he fed Brendan Smith for Wisconsin's 3rd goal of the game. Stepan was playing like a man on a mission as he had 2 more strong scoring chances in this period.

Stepan is now a nice 6-19-25 in 19 games with the Badgers; add in his numbers for Team USA and Stepan is 10-29-39 in 26 games on the season. Those numbers are a huge sign that Stepan is ready to make the jump from the college game to the professional ranks so we expect Stepan to leave Wisconsin as soon as their season is over.

Stepan has played himself into Hobey Baker consideration as wouldn't it be nice if the Rangers laid claim to back to back Hobey Baker winners?

Second Star Ryan Bourque

Like Patrick Roy or not, one has to give him credit for knowing how to use his players. While just about every other coach put their World Under-20 players right back to work; Roy gave Ryan Bourque (2009 3rd) a couple of games off to rest.

It paid dividends as Bourque set up the tying goal and scored one of his own as his Quebec Remparts came from behind to defeat the Gatineau Olympiques 4-3 in the shootout.

For Bourque it was his first goal in 6 games going back to November 29th as he very much was looking for his offense tonight taking 5 shots and pressing the attack. The goal was Quebec's first of the game at 6:18 of the first period as Gatineau had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.

In the 3rd period with the Remparts trailing 3-2, Bourque fed Dmitri Kugryshev at 12:58 to tie the game up and force overtime. Bourque with the 2 points improved to 13-17-30.

Third Star Sam Klassen

Sam Klassen's (2009 UFA) assist on defensive partner Stefan Elliott's 3rd period goal tied the game at 3-3 and Klassen's Saskatoon Blades went on to score a shorthanded goal in regulation to defeat the Swift Current Broncos 4-3.

Yet Klassen's value is his defensive skills as when Ranger fans look for someone who is going to hit anything that moves then here is your guy. Klassen in addition to his assist had a +3 to improve his plus/minus to +33 which is good for 2nd in the WHL 1 behind his own defensive partner Elliott.

Klassen and Elliott are a major reason why the Saskatoon Blade have the best record in the WHL. Between Klassen's defense and Elliott's offense; the combination is almost lethal to try to matchup against.

The Rest of the Ranger Prospects

Ryan McDonagh (2009 Trade) is someone we get asked a lot about because his numbers are not jumping out but trust us when we say that there is no need to worry all will be fine. McDonagh gets the job done at both ends of the ice. In the Wisconsin win over Colorado College, McDonagh had several scoring chances that just did not fall for him but he also made some great stops on the defensive end.

We are more than looking forward to a couple of years down the road when Ryan McDonagh is on the Ranger blueline. Between McDonagh and Klassen there are going to be some very sore players who will think twice about running any Ranger.

We also do not think there is anything wrong with a defenseman having a 3-8-11 +7 in 20 games at the NCAA level.

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) is also on fire as he set up Michigan's first goal of the game (which also was the game winner) as Michigan whipped Alaska 6-0 for their 4th straight win. Hagelin's assist was his 14th on the season as he now has scored in 5 straight games which is a new career high for him.

Hagelin who finds himself also under consideration for the Hobey Baker is now 12-14-26 which is tops for the Michigan Wolverines. In addition Hagelin earned the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week for last week which can be found here.

Roman Horak (2009 5th) is fast becoming one of our favorite prospects as we just love the way he plays at both ends of the ice. Against the Everett Silvertips, Horak did not score but his skill on face offs is just flat out amazing. Horak in the games we have watched him play has averaged an 80% win rate and that is very good for someone who is coming over from Europe.

Horak's Chilliwack Bruins lost a tough one 3-2 to the Silvertips but Horak's play has us wondering what he is going to be like when his body matures and he adds some muscle to his upper body. Horak is a very smooth skater who is just going to get better.

Daniel Maggio (2009 6th) had an assist on Sudbury's 3rd goal but the Wolves still needed to go to the shoot out before earning a 4-3 win over the Oshawa Generals. For Maggio it was his 13th assist and 22nd point.

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) did not score but his Victoriaville Tigres won their 6th straight game with a 4-0 shutout over the Shawinigan Cataractes. With Doyle in the lineup the Tigres have gone 6-1 which makes the Tigres look brilliant for trading for Doyle.

Chris Kreider (2009 1st) was scoreless but took 3 shots and was a +1 as the 12th ranked Boston College Eagles had little trouble with the Maine Black Bears 6-1. The name of the game is winning so when your team is 12-6-2 like Boston College is then nobody can complain about the numbers that Kreider is or is not putting up.

With the win Boston College moved to within 1 point of first place New Hampshire and 3 points ahead of Maine.

Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) and his UMass Minutemen faced off against UMass Lowell Redhawks in a key Hockey East matchup. The Minutemen and Red Hawks were tied for 4th in the Hockey East standings so as the 2 teams faced off in a home and home series; round one went to Hobb's Minutemen 3-2.

With the win, the Minutemen moved into 4th place 2 points ahead of the Redhawks and 1 point behind 3rd Maine Black Bears.

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) with his bad finger was able to record his 19th assist of the season as his Erie Otters doubled up the Brampton Battalion 4-2. Gaulton was also a +2 on the night as he is now 4-19-23 on the season.

Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) was held scoreless as his Kingston Frontenacs were defeated by the London Knights 3-2. Kingston held their own against a very good London team which is a good sign for the rebuilding Frontenacs.

Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) was also scoreless as his Medicine Hat Tigers lost a tough one to the Prince Albert Raiders 3-2. Medicine Hat now trails the Saskatoon Blades by 8 points in hte race for the conference top seed.

Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) was not in goal for the Owen Sound Attack as they held off the Guelph Storm 4-3. No reason was given as to why Stajcer was not used but one can point to last week's performances by the Attack.

Luke Walker (Traverse City) got his Portland Winterhawks going with his 17th goal of the season after they fell behind the Kelowna Rockets 2-0. Walker then finished off the Rockets by scoring the game winner in the shoot out.

(Pictures Courtesy of- Stepan/Melody Hasse, Bourque/Katherine Ep, Klassen/Saskatoon Blades)

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