Friday, March 2, 2012

The night before the battles began

While the New York Rangers and New York Islanders still have a little over five weeks left in the regular season; that is not the case for their prospects. For us this is our most wonderful time of the year, the beginning of the hockey playoff season.

There's nothing more exciting than watching games that are "sudden-death" or "sudden-life" and there is no sport that does this better then hockey. We have best-of-three, best-of-seven or even single elimination games to watch but more importantly this is where we find out the most about the prospects.

That prospect who put up a ton of numbers during the regular season now have to do it under pressure filled situations. Not all of them are able to but there are also those who step up even higher and show that already to take it to the next level.

We have a mixed bag coming up this weekend as we have the opening-round of a couple of college conference playoffs, the final weekend with all the jockeying for playoff seeding in others and in the Canadian juniors we are now under 10 games remaining in the regular season.

One of the best things that we can say about both franchises prospects is that for a change we're starting to see prospects playing on legitimate championship contenders in the various leagues they play in. It was not the case when we started doing this in 2004 as most of the Ranger prospects saw their season end in the first-round of the playoffs if they made the playoffs.

Now we see prospects playing for the coveted Memorial Cup or the Frozen Four championship of the US colleges almost every year. Prospects who play on winning teams are used to winning and  when they transition into the professional ranks, they bring with them that winning attitude.

Thursday night for those of you who are Ranger fans was a chance to see that if you had any doubts as to whether or not the Rangers are drafting players who fit what John Tortorella is trying to do; then we wish you could've watched Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) play this evening.

If we would've showed you a clip of Fogarty in action with the volume turned off and just the video alone that you would've watched a carbon copy of the New York Ranger's efforts against the Carolina Hurricanes. There was Fogarty doing everything that you see Brian Boyle, Brandon Prost, and Ryan Callahan do all the time on defense.

Fogarty and his Penticton Vees were playing the Merrett Centennials on Thursday night but if you would've watched Fogarty on defense than you would've sworn you were watching the Rangers. There was Fogarty blocking shots, winning face-offs, being aggressive on the forecheck and winning the puck battles along the boards.

This is a young man who has attended the one Rangers rookie prospect camp back in July 2011. Yet there's Fogarty doing all of the things that will win him a place in John Tortorella's heart right away.

Even better was Fogarty got his Vees on the scoreboard thanks to scoring a shorthanded goal just 3:57 into the first period. The goal was Fogarty's 29th of the season as well as his 3rd shorthanded goal.

Fogarty's Vees won the game 5-3 for their 38 consecutive victory as they tied the BCHL record for longest unbeaten streak. And they set a new BCHL record for most consecutive road wins (20).

Fogarty on the season is 29–43-72 (2nd NYR prospects), 5 power play goals, 3 shorthanded goals, 9 game-winning goals (1st NYR prospects) 1 game tying goal. Fogarty has 5 regular season games remaining before the BCHL playoffs which in other words is our way of saying is a long shot to reach 80 points.

But yet for all the things he does we go back to his defense and we see why the Rangers drafted Fogarty as it is clear as day that Fogarty will have no trouble fitting in with what what John Tortorella wants to do.

Of course it is not going to hurt that Fogarty is already 6'3 200 lbs plus.

The only other prospects to see action on Thursday night were Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) and Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) of the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL. The IceDogs were hosting Saginaw Spirit looking to increase their lead for the conference first seed over the Ottawa 67's.

It was a close game all night long but it was Theoret scoring his 1st goal in 13 games that gave the IceDogs a lead that they would not give up. Theoret scored his 11th goal of the season with 0.5 of the second left in the 1st period burying a shot from right in front.

Ryan Strome had a secondary assist on the play as the IceDogs would add another goal and then hold on for a 2-1 win. The win opens a 4 point lead over the 67's but the 67's hold a game in hand.

Theoret is now 11-6-17 on the season while Strome is 23-31-54 which is good for 2nd among Islander prospects.

Friday night TV

Ranger and Islander fans will get a chance to watch a couple of key prospects of theirs in action starting with Chris Kreider (NYR 2009 1st) and his Boston College Eagles as they host Vermont in Hockey East action. Their game starts at 7 PM Eastern to be televised nationally on the CBS College Sports Network. Saturday night we are told that that game will be shown as well also on CBS starting at seven.

Boston College is looking to wrap up the first seed in the Hockey East playoffs as well as the home ice advantage that comes with it.

For the Islander fans, they will get a chance to see Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his Denver Pioneers as they travel to play Nebraska-Omaha. Watch the start time for this one as it will be 8;30 Eastern time and will be shown on the NBC Sports Network.

Denver will be looking to lock up the third seed in the first round of the WCHA playoffs as they lead fourth place North Dakota by three points with two games left to play.

(Clark and Fogarty  –  New York Rangers/NHL media, Theoret – Terry Wilson of OHL Images)

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