The New York Rangers to their credit deserve some props for not only televising but adding fan involvement to the Traverse City experience. It is a very gutsy call by the Ranger's management as if the prospect team does not play well then there will be no way to hide it.
Honestly we do believe that the Rangers are sending one of the strongest entries to Traverse City since the 2007 team. That team also was the only one to win Traverse City since the Rangers started playing there.
The Rangers will be of course expecting the fans to ask the easy questions but how about some questions that you might find of interest to know the answers to? You are not asking anything that will embarrass or make the staff uncomfortable but we think asking about the prospect process itself would be interesting.
Asking things like why so many scouts or why do the Rangers have separate scouting staffs for the amateur and the professional ranks. If you can get the Rangers to talk about what goes into scouting a single prospect then it might be something you will find enlightening.
Try asking them what happens at the rookie camp and what if anything are the Rangers looking for when they come back to the Traverse City Camp? Ask them to explain why a Chris Kreider or a Steven Forgarty can not attend Traverse City?
You can start with things as simple as what happens when the Ranger scouts report back that they have found someone to look at. Ask them to explain things like how many looks do they try to get from different people on a prospect.
Doubt you are exposing trade secrets but ask the Rangers to explain what they do when a prospect is returned to their junior team or sent to the CT Whale training camp. If you can get the Ranger's staff to explain things like suggestions for a prospect's diet or workout habits.
Ask them about how they work with a prospect even after they have been returned to their junior teams. Talk to them about what happens when a prospect gets hurt like McIlrath did last season.
You might be surprised to learn that the Ranger's hands are tied when it comes to things like the NCAA or even sending a prospect to the AHL.
As for us, Traverse City is going to be about 4 prospects who just might have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Winning will be a nice bonus but to us how these 4 perform is going to tell us a story about how badly they want to be Rangers.
The first is of course JT Miller the 2011 first round pick who nobody saw the Rangers picking so there are going to be those who will be looking to see him fail. To be honest, we thought the Rangers should have gone in a different direction but Gordie Clark has a much better track record than we do so we will trust his judgement.
Miller does not have to set the house on fire but what we do want to see is consistency from game 1 to game 4. Do that and we will be more than happy with Miller as what we pray he does not do is try to win every game by himself.
Play as part of a team, play up to his ability and stay consistent will go a long way in helping Miller survive John Tortorella's training camp. Miller from our first reports has worked hard with Plymouth during their training camp so if he can keep doing so then things will fall into place for him.
Prospect number 2 is Scott Stajcer as he does have to be perfect with no margin of error. Before Stajcer even steps out on the ice, he is the victim of the numbers game in goal.
The Rangers we believe want to send him back to the juniors to (a) save a year on his entry level and (b) because they only have 3 spots for 4 goalies. Normally we would support the move except Stajcer might have a good team to go play for in the juniors.
We want to see Stajcer step up and force the Rangers to move Chad Johnson or Cam Talbot. Stajcer when healthy is better than both of them already but the Rangers only have 3 spots for goalies.
Chad Johnson is going to Europe to be the practice goalie and if need be bench doorman. Talbot for now gets the start with the Whale and Jason Missiaen has a ticket for Greenville.
Stajcer we want to see from day one show he wants to be a pro goalie not an overager in the CHL. He must be perfect to convince the Rangers to keep him and dump Johnson when the Rangers return from Europe.
Prospect 3 is Andrew Yogan as he is also an overager but has some baggage because of last year. The first is that shoulder injury that kept him out for most of the season but that is minor compared to the bigger issue.
The bigger issue was the end of season conflict that Yogan had with Erie Otter coach Robbie Ftorek that led to Yogan being left home during the OHL playoffs. A clash of personalities with a coach will right or wrong give you baggage that is hard to get rid of.
Yogan first needs to show that he will also play in the defensive zone and be a team player. The best way to defeat rumors and whispers is to play a team game and remember you have 2 other guys on your line.
The last prospect is a guy who just might be playing for his hockey life and that is Randy McNaught who was the 2010 7th round pick. McNaught does not have an overage year as his was spent with a broken ankle that knocked him out after just 8 games.
McNaught was a project pick as despite being a journeyman enforcer in the WHL, the Rangers took a gamble on him to develop into a power forward. Don Hay who is one of the best junior coaches in the CHL was trying to remake McNaught into a real player if not for the injured ankle.
McNaught's strengthen is his fast hands as well as his 6'4 size which makes the possibility of turning him into a power forward a worthwhile gamble. We want to see McNaught do more than fight as all that will get him is a contract in the Central Hockey League (level below the ECHL).
The St. Louis game is one that really interests us because of the side stories in that game. Dylan McIlrath and Collin Bowman will be going up against Moose Jaw Warrior teammates Cody Beach and Joel Edmundson (who at one time has partnered with both Ranger prospects).
Beach has fought McIlrath before they became teammates as well as Randy McNaught so if the game gets out of hand expect Beach to be in the middle of it. Think a giant sized Avery pest (6'5)
The other match up would be if the Rangers started Scott Stajcer and the Blues Jordan Binnington in goal as both have been teammates the last 2 years in Owen Sound. Binnington is expected to be the main reason why if Stajcer does get sent back to the OHL why he is traded away by Owen Sound.
St. Louis also will have a name that Ranger fans will do a double take with when Brock Beuckeboom steps out on the blueline. Yes this is Jeff Beukeboom's son but they are not the same players as Brock is smaller and has a better offensive skill set.
And for our Portland Winterhawk friends, the Ranger's Taylor Jordan will be facing his 2 former teammates from last season Ty Rattie and Brett Ponich.
The Blues will be more experienced with 2 guys who had time in the NHL last year but the Rangers will have the more talented defensive corps. If we were Ken Germander we would take advantage of how badly Scott Stajcer will want to play this game.
Rangers but boy is it going to be a close one. Rangers have the slight edge offensively but St, Louis will have a good defensive corp.
(Stajcer courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
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