So I got asked today which New York Ranger prospects might be able to help the CT Whale when their season ends as Tuesday is what they call "Clear Day" in the AHL. Good question to ask but if you are a fan of the Whale the news might not be so good.
The Rangers have 9 possible prospects who could be signed to ATOs (Amateur Tryout Contracts) but do not hold your breath thinking they will be heading to the Whale. The Islander side is more complex as they have only 5 active CHL prospects and their better NCAA prospects would be better off passing on leaving school until they see what if any changes might be made with the Islander management staff.
First the Whale have to make the AHL playoffs before worrying about which prospect will get the call for an ATO. As the current 8th and last seed in the AHL's Eastern Conference; honestly the prospects have a better chance playing longer than the Whale will.
The Ranger's biggest problem is that most of the quality prospects you would want to see added to the Whale roster are playing on teams expected to make noise in their respective league playoffs. The CHL regular season ends on March 20th with playoffs expected to start no later than the 25th or 26th.
Who answers the call of the bugle?
Roman Horak (2009 5th) is the one prospect who most likely be headed to Hartford once his Chilliwack Bruins are either knocked out of the WHL playoffs or fail to make them. Currently holding the 6th seed in the WHL Western Conference, they in all honestly do not have the horses to pull off a 1st round upset unless they finished 7th.
The 7th seed in the WHL West would face the winner of the BC Division (currently Kelowna) holding the 2nd seed. The Bruins it would be very hard to picture them defeating any of the US Division top seeds because they lack depth.
Max Campbell (2007 5th) deserves at least a look by the Rangers given his comeback season. Campbell's Western Michigan Broncos had a Cinderella season to earn the 4th seed in the CCHA playoffs which start this weekend.
Even if the Broncos win their first round, it is hard to see them stealing a spot in the CCHA finals unless someone else knocks off one of the Big Three (Michigan, Notre Dame, Miami) in this weekends CCHA quarterfinals.
Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) and Michigan are expected to make it to the NCAAs so barring an early elimination at best he would not be free to join the Whale until after April 1
Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) and his Kingston Frontenacs sit in the 5th seed of the OHL's East facing the Oshawa Generals in the first round. Except for questions about his wrist, Werek would be a sure-shot for an ATO sometime during the first week of April.
Dan Maggio (2009 6th) and his Oshawa Generals are our darkhorse pick to sneak past everyone in the OHL's East so we believe their season will go on past the Whales.
Jason Wilson (2010 5th) and his Niagara IceDogs also play in the OHL's Eastern Conference and should make it to at the least the conference finals but like Maggio should play past when the Whale could actually put him to use.
Ryan Bourque (2010 3rd) currently hold the 3rd seed in the QMJHL playoffs and if form holds should wind up in at the very least the QMJHL semi-finals which would put him right on the edge of being used by the Whale or not. At the very least we see Bourque brought in to practice with the Whale to help him get a head start on next season.
Chris Kreider (2009 1st) the moment he broke his jaw ended any hope of his playing time with the Whale even if he left school. Rangers would not dare risk further injury to their most prized prospect.
Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) is the only drafted goalie among the prospects but while we think he will return to action this week, the Rangers will not want to take a chance on someone coming off hip surgery. His Owen Sound Attack are at the top of the OHL's Western Conference and that will also play a factor in whether he heads to the Whale or not.
The Sound Tigers are not going to make the AHL playoffs this season but the good news is that all of their prospects have made it to their respective league's playoffs. The other bit of good news is we think several of their prospects are going to go very deep into their league playoffs.
David Toews is the only prospect who has a serious chance of joining the Sound Tigers for their final games of the season but that will depend on how fast his Brandon Wheat Kings are eliminated in the WHL playoffs.
Calvin De Haan, Nino Niederreiter, Casey Cizikas and Tony DeHart are all playing on teams who will go deep into their CHL league playoffs.
We do not see any of the college prospects leaving school early until after the NHL season ends
Congrats The Hat Trick
It would be a bigger surprise if Lee is not named to the NCAA All-Rookie Team or if he is not on one of the CCHA All-Star Teams.
If there was any prospect we would tell the Islanders to talk into leaving school it would be Lee as this 6'3 man-child has the makings of a nice combination with Nino Niederreiter.
(Stick Taps go out to Bruce Berlet of the Whale, the media folks from the 3 CHL leagues for constantly updating their league playoff pictures and the media SIDs from the NCAA colleges for also updating their playoff pic and please check out The College Hockey News for the most accurate NCAA tournament picture)
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