Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Attack Of The Little Big Men

If Mats Zuccarello is doing anything for the New York Rangers it is showing that there is room in the NHL for the smaller sized players. We bring that up because the best prospects this season for both the Rangers and the New York Islanders are under 6 ft tall.

Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd) is all of 5'9 but the Oshawa General's forward is right now the biggest goal scorer the Rangers have among the prospects. Thomas scored 2 more goals to bring his season total to 34 as his Oshawa Generals blew a 4-1 lead to fall in overtime 6-5 to the London Knights.

Thomas scored Oshawa's 3rd and 5th goal  as the leading scorer among Ranger prospects is now 3rd in the OHL in goals and 11th overall with 60 points. Thomas is on track now for 51 goals, a number we believe is too low for what Thomas is going to wind up with.

Thoma's teammates Dan Maggio (NYR 2009 6th) had an assist for his 3rd point as a member of  the Generals. Calvin De Haan (NYI 2009 1st) also had an assist (on Thomas's 1st goal) for his 28th point of the season.

Tony DeHart (NYI 2010 5th) missed his 3rd straight game with an undisclosed injury.

Casey Cizikas (NYI 2009 4th) is just 5'10 but when it comes to big games, Cizikas has been a giant all season long. The leading scorer among Islander prospects is also captain of his Mississauga St. Michael's Majors and on Sunday, the Majors were playing Jason Wilson's (NYR 2010 5th) Niagara IceDogs in the 2nd half of a "home and home".

The IceDogs had taken the first half and with a win on Sunday would have closed the gap with the first place Majors to just 3 points. It was a big game for both teams and Cizikas was a factor with some offense and surprisingly with a fight.

The Majors fell behind 3-0 just 4:33 into the game and it looked like a rout was on. The Majors got 2 back in the first then Cizikas set up the game tying goal in the 2nd period. It was Cizikas 48th point on the season but he was not done.

In the 3rd period with the Majors leading 5-3, Cizikas got into just his 2nd fight of the season with the IceDogs Freddie Hamilton. The bigger Hamilton won the fight but it also fired up the Majors who scored less than a minute later to suck whatever fight the IceDogs had left in them away.

For the the IceDogs, Wilson had a game to forget as he was held scoreless but wound up with a -5 for the game.

Ryan Bourque (NYR 2009 3rd) is also just 5'9 but a 23-20-43 in 31 games equals what Bourque did last season in 44. His Quebec Remparts were trying to catch the Saint John Sea Dogs for the best record in QMJHL.

Bourque scored his 23rd goal of the season (second among Ranger prospects) but his Remparts dropped a 4-2 decision to the Sea Dogs. 2 third period goals did the Remparts in as they fell 8 points behind the Sea Dogs.

Bourque also took just his 2nd minor penalty of the season in this game; an impressive stat when you consider that Bourque plays a physical forechecking game.

Not all the prospects are small as Nino Niederreiter (NYI 2010 1st) of the Portland Winterhawks is a 6'2 power forward who can really dominate a game. Against the Spokane Chiefs, Niederreiter was the biggest reason why the Winterhawks now have a 5 game winning streak after his game winning goal with just 36 seconds remaining in overtime gave them a 6-5 win.

It would have been huge loss for the Winterhawks who at one time led this game 4-1 and instead of a 3 point lead for the Winterhawks in the conference standings they would been tied with the Chiefs. Niederreiter wound up with a 3 point game (2-1-3)   to improve his season to 20-16-36.

On the other side, if you look at the scoresheet of Roman Horak (NYR 2009 5th) and you see a 1-1-2 for the young Czech Republic forward then you think he did not play badly. You would also be wrong as Horak's points came when the outcome of his Chilliwack Bruins/Vancouver Giants game had long been decided.

Sorry but when you do not start scoring until after the other team is already up 7-0 then your points are meaningless other than padding your own stats. The Bruins were never in this game and their effort allowed the teams ahread of them in the standings (like the Giants) increase their lead on the Bruins.

Kirill Kabanov (NYI 2010 3rd) was scoreless as his Lewiston Maineaics jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-1 win over the Rimouski Oceanic. Still Kabanov had a couple of good scoring chances and a hit so we will give him some credit for trying to be a complete player.

Kabanov still needs to do this on a more consistent basis.

(Thomas, Cizikas/Aaron Bell/OHL Images, Niederreiter/Portland Winterhawks, Horak/Chilliwack Bruins)

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