Saturday, September 17, 2011

Exit Interviews (Part 2)

Training camp opened up for both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders so we will cover the news that was not covered first.

The Islanders invited free agent defenseman Steve Staios to attend training camp on a tryout basis. To be honest not sure why but the Islanders are waiting to hear back from Paul Mara to see if he will accept an invite, that one we can understand as Mara would be a nice depth move for them.

The Islanders also returned Brenden Kichton (2011 5th) to Spokane, John Persson (2011 5th) to Red Deer and Andrey Pedan (2011 3rd) to Guelph. Good move for these 3 as their junior teams open their regular season next week and are key players for their teams.

The CHL may be proud that close to 400 junior players were invited to attend NHL training camps but it came at a price for some teams. We know of 2 teams forced to cancel exhibition games because they did not have enough players.

The Rangers invited a couple of names we know to the main and CT Whale Training Camp. First Scott Tanaski comes to the Ranger main camp from our old friends the Brampton Battalion in the OHL.

Tanaski is a John Tortorella kind of player; will bet good money that when Tortorella saw the results of the testing that Tanaski was right there physically and mentally.

We remember him from the Grachev year at Brampton as it was he was a key player in Brampton's playoff run. Others got the headlines but Tanaski was the guy who made those headlines possible.

The other prospect is Jerry Kuhn a teammate of Max Campbell at Western Michigan and will join his former WMU teammate at the Whale camp. Kuhn was the starting goalie for the Broncos but do not let the 12-8-6 record fool you as Kuhn was a big reason why WMU earned a NCAA invite.

Kuhn is a fundamentally strong goalie who if the other prospects are not careful will steal their job. Nice move here by the Rangers as Kuhn's W/L numbers hide the fact that he had a 2.35 GAA and a 0.913 saver percentage.

If you saw what John Tortorella said about how many players he is thinking about taking to Europe (30-32) then it is smart thinking by the coach here. Help will not be a phone call away but at the same time it also indicates that it will take a monster camp by a CHL eligible prospect to earn a spot to Europe.

The question the Rangers would have to ask is would it be worth it for a prospect to miss as many as 8 regular season games? Which is harder to do speed up your game or try to slow it back down?

The latter is in large part because there is also the difference in talent as well. Picture a JT Miller getting shifts with Brad Richards and then going back to playing with a 16 year old rookie fresh out of Junior B.

30 players would be a good number to take as you are looking at 16 forwards, 10-12 defenders and 3-4 goalies. Replacements as well as practice players will not be a phone call away.

The Forwards

JT Miller- Got to say when the smoke cleared we wound up finding that we liked Miller more than we had expected to. Honestly it was hard to let go of wanting Tyler Biggs but we understand why Miller a lot better today than we did on draft day.

Miller has an excellent upside and really he was one of the few players who was not intimidated by the Sabres. We liked his goal in the first period as it was nothing fancy; he skated to a spot where he wanted to shoot and gave Carl Hagelin the target for a pass.

The shot was nothing special just a set up for a one-timer which right there earns points for using KISS (keep it simple stupid).  The one thing we tell Miller is to take the NHL timetable he thinks he is on and toss it away.

Miller will make the NHL quicker if he stops trying to rush himself up the ladder.

Carl Hagelin is going to draw more penalties from other teams with his skating alone. Loved how his first step created separation so quickly all teams could do was grab him. 1-3-4 was nice numbers but his path to the NHL starts with his defense first.

Felt Hagelin was trying too hard to be a scorer as he let his defensive game get sloppy which hurts his cause. Yes he will offer more than Avery and Christensen but we send him to the AHL to adapt to the professional lifestyle.

Playing 2 games a week in the same spot (for 4 years) is one thing but trying to play 3 games in 4 nights in different locations is a new experience for Hagelin. Hagelin has already shown he can play in the AHL but let us see how he does after riding a bus all night and then having to play.

Ryan Bourque is someone who we need to send a "thank you" card to as he proved us right. If Bourque was 6'1 then everyone would be on the Bourque bandwagon right now talking about what a stud he is.

Glad to see Bourque show he can play in all 3 zones and that his size should not be held against him. Honestly if the choice is Hagelin or Bourque for the last spot then we take Bourque.

The difference maker for Bourque is that you can slot him into any role and Bourque will make it his. Bourque also was a real leader on the ice as he was the Ranger's best player against the Sabres.

Between the tying goal, the penalty killing and even better the PK where Bourque in one motion jumped into the passing lane, stole the pass, started on the attack and forced the Sabre to grab him rather than allow him to break away spoke volumes about why Ryan Bourque is a player.

Other than hit the gym to get as strong as he can, Bourque needs to keep doing what he has been doing which is just play the game. 4 goals in 4 games says he can play

Kind of felt bad for Christian Thomas as it sure looked like people were expecting him to score 50 goals in 4 games. 1-4-5 is not bad but what we liked was how easy Thomas and Shane McColgan adapted to each other.

Thomas has already shown he can carry a team as we saw that last year and we know he can dominate so what he has to do is now do it on a bigger stage. In his case we want to see Thomas turn the World Under-20 Championships into his personal playground.

Shane McColgan we knew had talent but what has hurt his cause was inconsistency. Points in 3 out of 4 games is fine with us but now he has to go back to Kelowna and perform just like this.

Shane McColgan said after being cut by Team USA that he wants to prove he deserves a 2nd chance. Best way to do that is to play like he did at Traverse City with Kelowna as now McColgan has to be a team leader for the Rockets to be as good as their preseason ranking of 7th in the first CHL poll of the season.

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault we knew was a scorer from his days with the Quebec Remparts. So his numbers with the prospects did not surprise us as over 4 years JAM kept raising his numbers.

The question for JAM is because he is so small would he be more effective on the wing than he will be in the pros as a center? Nobody really hit him hard at Traverse City so we could not tell but he was invisible against the Sabres.

Michael St. Croix played for the most part like he was afraid to make a mistake so he hurt his own cause because of that fear. His defense was a lot better than we thought it would  be but we never saw his offense.

St. Croix goes back to Edmonton where his offense will return but he can not allow opportunities like this go by as a goal or two would have raised his stock. Not one point means he better do something this weekend or risk falling behind other prospects.

Jason Wilson we are going to blame ourselves for as our own expectations were much higher than where they should have been. Wilson looked slow and at times lost at Traverse City as Randy McNaught clearly out played him.

Wilson is a projected 4th liner in the NHL but at a Traverse City he needed to show things like stepping up in the crease (he did not), show off his hand speed (he did not) and protect his teammates (he did but took a beating).

Dale Weise can rest easy at least for another year as we thought Wilson could push him for PT but that will not happen this year.

Randy McNaught was a nice surprise for a guy who we thought never had a chance because of injuries. The bigger surprise was that he was not invited to the Ranger's main camp as McNaught had earned the invite over the non-roster invitees.

This area gets kind of fuzzy as McNaught was a "age 20" player when drafted so the Rangers may not have offered him a SPC (standard player's contract) to retain his rights. The other thing was that McNaught was seen as a "project" player so he may have decided to use his WHL scholarship and play hockey for a Canadian college rather than play in the ECHL.

We asked the Rangers about McNaught so when we know you will.

Andrew Yogan suffered a separated shoulder during game 2 of the TC tournament which kept us from seeing if he had learned anything. Yogan showed he has offensive talent but to us it is his mindset that is going to hurt his development.

Game 1 Yogan had 4 legit scoring chances he created for himself  but he scored on none of them because he kept trying to be cutesy with his shot. Rather than just slam the puck in, Yogan tried to pinpoint each shot and missed on each on one.

In game 2 Yogan kept it simple so when offered a scoring chance, he scored on it. It sure looked like someone had talked to him about KISS which is why we so badly had hoped he would have played.

Yogan has ultra fast hands so yes he could develop into one heck of an NHL player but like we did with Niemi yesterday; we will give Yogan a mirror and tell him that the reflection in said mirror is going to be who keeps him from being an NHL player.

KISS Yogan KISS and if you that then with your 6'3 size, your fast hands and your creativity then you will have a monster season followed by that NHL contract you want. Take your pick, be a team player with a simple game plan who puts up 30-40 goals or be the player your former coach left home during the OHL playoffs.

Kale Kerbashian was more invisible than visible as he may have an AHL contract but he could find himself in the ECHL if he does not bring more. We would like to tell you what he needs to bring but we never saw enough to know what he offers.

Taylor Jordan, Jordan Hickmott, and Tommy Grant combined for 0-0-0 +1 on 8 shots. Jordan we are biased but other than a hugging contest did nothing. Hickmott had a good 2nd period against the Sabres but we can't recall him doing anything else.

Tommy Grant has a contract but he too was an invisible man who better realize that the Rangers have 7 spots to fill in Greenville so up his intensity and show us something fast. Otherwise he will keep Lee Baldwin company in South Carolina as a Road Warrior.

Matt Rust appeared in just one game at Traverse City and it would be unfair to rate him on the one game.

Overall one does have to wonder what this group of forwards would have looked like if they had a Chris Kreider and Steven Forgarty in the lineup. The Sabres with their AHL team did physically intimidate the smaller younger Rangers but next year, a year older and some growing will do more to define the Ranger future than this year did.

(JT Miller courtesy of USA Hockey)

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