Sunday, September 25, 2011

Message Received Loud And Clear

Whether it is a New York Ranger or a New York Islander prospect, the first thing we always want to see is how they respond after being sent back to their junior team. Getting cut is hard enough but going from an NHL training camp back to the juniors sometimes can be very rough on a prospect.

We call it the "training camp hangover" as you go from a palace like the Ranger's practice facility back to tiny arenas where locker room space is about the size of a closet. At 18, a prospect has the tendency to try too hard to show the world he should not have been cut.

We see it every year as prospects struggle to adjust back to the slower speed of the juniors. Guess somebody forgot to tell Ranger 2011 first round pick JT Miller that as Miller played himself a very strong game in his OHL debut.

It is funny though as one of the whispers we had heard about JT Miller had to do with his character as he was described as a "free spirit" but not in a good way. The thing about whispers is that they tend to always be negative because nobody would has a problem saying the good stuff aloud.

The folks of the Plymouth Whalers have been singing the praises of Miller all summer long and on Saturday night there was nobody whispering. Miller was somehow able to get from New York City to Plymouth Michigan in time to be able to play for the Plymouth Whalers in their home opener.

Score 1 for Miller as just getting back and ready to play spoke about his character as he could have taken the night off. Then Miller himself who was sending us a message about his character by being a very effective team player who was able to mesh with whichever line combo he was playing with.

People say that Miller is a goal scorer but in the games we have watched it has been his playmaking skills which have stood out. Against the poor Erie Otters this was no match as the Whalers broke open the game with 4 unanswered goals in the 3rd period to win 6-2.

It was a shooting gallery as Plymouth held a 53-22 edge in shots but more impressive was not allowing the Otters to reach double figures in shots in any period.

Miller we counted him as generating 4 good scoring chances not for himself but for his linemates including his 1st OHL point when he set up Mitchell Heard for the Whaler's 2nd goal of the game at 16:51 of the 2nd period. That goal came just 43 seconds after Erie had scored to tie the game at 1-1.

You know that saying about the shift after a goal being scored is so very important? Miller and his linemates did exactly that to the Erie Otters which would have made John Tortorella very happy.

This one was also one of those games where Miller was doing all the right little things from his positioning to keeping the game very simple. And we have to acknowledge one of the most ironic moments on the night when a name from the Ranger's past meshed with the Ranger's future.

Miller was out on a 4 on 4 with teammate Andy Bathgate and if you do not recognize the last name then allow us. Bathgate is named for his grandfather Andy Bathgate who is one of the all-time great Rangers.

Miller also showed he was not afraid to fight as he took on Erie's Johnny McGuire early in the 2nd period. We admire Miller's willingness to stand up for his teammates but we want him to make fighting a very small part of his game.

Millers and his Whalers are off now until next week.

Fellow 2011 draft pick 3rd round selection Steven Fogarty now has 2 goals in 2 games for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. That is about the only really nice thing to say after Fogarty's Vees were whipped 7-1 on the road by the Chilliwack Chiefs.

The Vees out shot the Chiefs but that did not matter, not when you went 1 for 9 on your power plays. Fogarty scored on the power play but it was when the Chiefs had already taken a 4-0 lead.

The only New York Islander prospect to see action on Saturday night was their 2011 5th round pick defenseman Brendan Kichton as his Spokane Chiefs took on their arch rivals the Tri-City Americans in their season opener. Kichton recorded his first point of the season when he set up Anthony Bardaro for the Chiefs only goal of the game at 14:33 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.

That was the extent of the highlights for the Chiefs as Tri-City scored 4 goals to earn a 4-1 win where the Chiefs basically gave the American's the game with poor play and badly taken penalties. Come Monday we expect the WHL to make a point about their seriousness reading checking from behind when they suspend Spokane's Dominik Uher for several games.

Kichton himself took a penalty which led to a Tri-City goal but the Islanders may want to remember that Adam Hughesman who they had in their prospect camp had a goal and 2 assists to lead Tri-City to the win.

Healthy scratches tonight were Shane McColgan (Kelowna) and Samuel Noreau (Baie-Comeau) both mainly because of travel especially McColgan as Seattle might be the only city in the USA that can make the ride from JFK to Mid-town seem like a quick 5 minute ride.

Sunday will see the 4 more prospects making their season debuts.

(Miller courtesy of the Plymouth Whalers, Kichton courtesy Spokane Chiefs)

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