Monday, December 19, 2011

The Ranger Prospect Report Card (Part 1)

If you are a New York Ranger fan then between the start for the Rangers and the first half from the prospects then life is good these days.

Is it perfect? No it is not but for the first time since the 1990's there is good reason to have real hope for the future.

As the prospects for the most part are starting to enjoy their holiday break, we are going to look at how the prospects did and what we want to see from them in the 2nd half. 

If you are expecting rankings then sorry that is not how we do things. Each prospect is at a different stage of his development so they need to be judged not against other prospects but themselves.

The First Half MVP is without question Michael St. Croix of the Edmonton Oil Kings as the 2011 4th round pick has blown the roof off with his 52 point first half. St. Croix is the fastest Ranger prospect to reach the 50 point mark (33 games) since 1999 when Parvel Brendl did it.

Unlike Brendl who blew out as one of the all-time busts in Ranger's history; St. Croix is the total opposite, a hard working player who knows where he needs to improve and works on it.  More than anything else we love how St. Croix goes for the kill when he sees a team on the ropes.

No other prospect in recent history has shown the "Predator" ability like St. Croix has to take a close game and blow it wide open. But we also want to stick tap his coach Derek Laxdal who taught us about sticking with a player even in a slump.

2011 Draft Class

JT Miller (1st)- Gordie Clark went against the experts for the 2nd straight year selecting JT Miller instead of Tyler Biggs or Mark McNeil. Miller did not make many fans in North Dakota backing out of a letter of intent to attend in favor of playing for Plymouth in the OHL.

First Half: got off to strong start what stood out for us was his play on tail end of 3 in 3 or 3 in 4 game stretches. More playmaker than scorer and plays with more discipline on the ice than expected.

Strengths: great vision on the ice, quick hands and playnmaking skills, much stronger than he looks.

Concern: goal scoring has tailed off a lot (11 in 1st 15 games, 2 in last 11), 2nd concern is was he a first half wonder? The OHL is a good league and Miller is going to be tested down the road.

Second Half: Just bring it JT, you got your contract and you wanted to turn pro after 1 year well then 13-26-39 has to become 35-45-80. We want to see you dominate in the 2nd half.

Miller leads his team in scoring and while we have seen flashes to excite us about his future then now it is time to make the Whalers his team. We want to see the entire package, goals, playmaking, hitting and protecting teammates.

Steven Fogarty (3rd)- the pleasant surprise of the Ranger draft class. The 6'3 200 lb center was seen a project pick at the 2011 NHL draft. Playing for Penticton Vees in the BCHL as part of  Fogarty's current plans to attend Notre Dame next year.

First Half: Hard to complain about a "project" player being 2nd leading prospect scorer. Fogarty had a couple of very good streaks and to our surprise was used in late period defensive situations as the faceoff taker.  

Strengths: 2-way center who is used in all situations on the best team in the BCHL. Has adapted to high level of competition with little trouble. Super mature for 18 and possibly the smartest prospects we have dealt with.

Concern: While points look nice (16-24-40) only 1 multi-goal game but no goals in last 7 games. Fogarty does not always go up against the other team's best players so it is not wrong of us to expect more.

Second Half: Fogarty is not used as a first line player with Penticton so we want to see Fogarty raise game to next level. After the first half his Penticton team had anything less than a BCHL title is unacceptable so we want to see Fogarty be a big part of that run.

Fogarty has only once been the "First Star" so we want to see the player heading to Notre Dame be the "star" a whole lot more in the 2nd half.

Michael St. Croix (4th)- No question the clear first half Ranger Prospect MVP as his 18-34-52 has been astounding; toss in 7 power play goals, 3 game winners and you have a prospect who has put himself on the radar.

First Half: Going to steal from Reggie Jackson but "here is the straw that stirs the drink" for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Since October 9th, when St. Croix registers a point then the Oil Kings have won 21 out of 29 games.

Strengths: As we said earlier, his ability to score points in bunches to blow games open. Great passing skills and not afraid to go into traffic to make a play. Skates well and can score from any spot on the ice; vison is outstanding as quick reaction times to make plays.

Concern: Consistency as we want to see St. Croix keep up this pace (100+ points) and show the leader that he has talked about being for his younger teammates. Can his defense stay up with his offense is the biggest question?

Something to work on during the off-season is for him to get stronger upper body to put more power into his shot.

Second Half: The one thing we so love about St. Croix is that when he senses a team is in trouble then he goes for the kill like a true predator. There is no mercy in St. Croix as if he can blow someone out then he goes for it.

Good teams, bad teams, it does not matter as if St. Croix can blow a game wide open then he does. We have watched St. Croix and his linemates take a 4 minute burst in all 3 periods and turn a close game into a laugher.

We harp on it because it is the one area that the New York Rangers are at their weakest. The Rangers for whatever reason do not have that player who will turn a game into a laugher and here could be one for the future.

Shane McColgan (5th)- The "Beach Boy" as McColgan who leads his Kelowna Rockets in scoring with a 10-26-36 has been a really good indicator as to how well his team has done.

First half: Started off with 13 game scoring streak then has slowed down since then. Kelowna struggled trying to find wins and McColgan struggled as well at one point going 10 games without a goal.

Strengths: Good skater with strong offensive skill set. Big game player who steps game up against the top teams/playoffs. Smart quarterback who can read the ice and adapt to what defense is offering.

Concern: Up and down season as Kelowna had struggled with injuries and consistency from all players. McColgan is smallest Ranger prospect and is being asked to do a lot for Kelowna.

The question is can he carry them at 5'9 170?

Second Half: McColgan has to score goals plain and simple for Kelowna to have a good second half. The Rockets will not win many games if McColgan goes 10 games without a goal again.

A lot was expected of both McColgan and the Rockets based on their strong finish last season. So far they have not come close and will not unless McColgan has more 17 point months.

Samuel Noreau (5th)- is what he is a big project (6'5 225) of a defenseman for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. Currently a 3rd pair defender on a team trying to go from worst to a playoff spot.

First Half: Noreau is not going to win a Norris Trophy but he has been a dependable player for the Drakkar. Already with more points than last season (12-10), the area the Drakkar has to like the most is the improvement on defense as he is becoming more than just a goon.

Strengths: Huge player who will cleanly hit anything that crosses in front of him. Not afraid to take the shot from the point and surprisingly very coachable. He wants to become a better player and is willing to put in the work.

Do not even think about running a teammate of Noreau as he will be on you in a heartbeat.

Concern: Not going to kid anyone, big man with typical big man skating issues, reaction time is not the greatest and Noreau is not going to play 20 minutes a night.

Second Half: The Drakkar have been in the cellar of the QMJHL for a few years; help them make the playoffs and keep doing what he has been doing (eating up minutes, good defense and the occasional point). A long shot for the NHL but as long as he is trying hard we will not rule him out.

Peter Ceresnak (6th)- Another giant of a player (6'4 203) who the Rangers decided to take a gamble on. Ceresnak is never going to make anyone forget about Brian Leetch but was worth risking a 6th on.

First Half: Started decently and was the top pair defender at the beginning of the season for the Peterborough Petes. The smaller ice surfaces of North America actually helped Ceresnak because speed is not his game.

Strength: Coachable and looking to improve himself as a player. Does not look to make the "perfect play" as he is learning get the puck on the net. Potential with some work

Concern: A big man with slow first step who is trying to adapt from playing one style of hockey to a much more physical game. Now do it while being thousands of miles from home in a strange country with few people around who speak the same language or have the same culture.

The "European Wall" will hit Ceresnak about the middle of Feburary so we will see what he has left in the tank then. Shoot more, hit more, get angry once or twice are all serious areas to watch.

Second Half: Ceresnak starts off by playing for Slovakia in the World Under-20 championships which we do not expect much from Slovakia as they have been in relegation round each of the last 2 years. Returning to the Petes will be interesting as their conference is close enough where 3 wins could put you as high as 3rd or 3 losses could knock you out.

Ceresnak has a good point shot and we want to see him use it more. Ceresnak is huge so use that size more as you do not have to fight to intimidate; hit a couple of people hard and they will not want to come down your side of the ice.

Improving his skating will have to wait until the off-season but Ceresnak is in good hands with Mike Pelino as his coach. A project yes but if he works out then you added another monster sized defender.

(St. Croix-- Edmonton Oil Kings)

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