Three members of the 2011 New York Ranger draft class saw playoff action on Thursday night with one winning to advance to the next round of his leagues playoffs, one saw his season come to an end when his team was eliminated, and one earning new life because his team tied up the series.
JT Miller (NYR 2011 1st) set up Mitchell Heard for a power play goal 6:00 into the third period to break a 2-2 tie and send his Plymouth Whalers on the way to a 5-2 win over the Guelph Storm. The goal proved to be the game winning goal that tied the series at 2-2 and sending it back to Plymouth for game 5.
Miller picked up his game tonight after 2 weak games and a so-so effort. Miller still needs to do more to make sure that Plymouth advances to the next round. Want to see him looking to attack the net more, create space for his linemates and bring back his one timer play with Andy Bathgate.
The game though was called early (1:53 left to play) for what the officials called "rough play." What they called "rough play" we have to call inconsistent and poor officiating by the officiating crew. The only thing that was consistent was the bad calls as they were too many missed calls and some of the calls that were made fell under the category of head scratchers.
This is one of those times where if a player winds up being suspended we hope that the league (in this case the OHL) then so should the two gentlemen with the orange bands around arms. Neither ref was in sync with the other and that in our eyes created the conditions which caused the end of his game melee that gives the sport a black eye.
Islander prospect Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) had a very quiet evening against the Whalers but his play so far has been better than expected. Pedan though needs to become more active especially on the offensive and
Miller is 1-3-4 for the Whalers in this series.
Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings are heading to the second round of the the WHL's Eastern Conference Playoffs after defeating the 2011 WHL champions, the Kootenay Ice 3-1 to earn a 4 game sweep.
St. Croix was held scoreless but the story of this game really was the Edmonton defense because they held the Kootenay offense to just 16 shots for the entire game. This was the closest of the four games but Kootenay never could figure out how to beat Edmonton the season.
Edmonton played Kootenay 10 times this season and defeated them each time. Unless Regina can pull off a comeback against Moose Jaw (lead series 3-1) then Edmonton will be facing the Brandon Wheat Kings in the second round.
St. Croix in the four games was 2-3-5 but they were five very quiet points which means St. Croix will be needing to do more in the 2nd round. We are seeing signs of a Edmonton/Moose Jaw conference final but to get there, St. Croix needs to do more in crunch time.
We have our first elimination in the Canadian juniors and that distinction goes to the Ranger prospect Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) of the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets saw their season come to an end after the Portland Winterhawks defeated them 5-3 to earn a four game sweep.
Give credit to Portland because they shut down the Rockets offense starting with McColgan. Last season McColgan in 10 playoff games went 8-11-20 including a four-point game against these very Winterhawks.
The Winterhawks held McColgan down to just two assists in the four games and that is why the Rockets are going home. It's not that McColgan played badly but credit goes to a strong Portland defense which never gave McColgan any space on the ice.
McColgan will look back upon the season as a mixed blessing as we really did love McColgan's heart and willingness to drop the gloves to defend his teammates. But where McColgan hurt himself was not showing a visible forward progress from his draft season.
That's the key for him next season to convince the Rangers to offer him an NHL contract or just not sign him. 18-46-64 is backwards not by much from his draft year but now McColgan has to put up a monster second year in order to show the Rangers he deserves a contract.
We were not expecting Michael St. Croix numbers out of him for next season but for his own professional future, he is going to need to produce at least 80 points with 30 goals.
If we were to sit down with McColgan right now, we would point out how many Ranger prospects are currently with the CT Whale who are also close to his size (11 players who are 6' or less). To earn that contract then McColgan has to offer something that those the other 11 don't offer and sorry fighting is not going to help him.
Start with consistency, become a leader, put the puck in the net and do it when the team needs it the most. Right now we cannot see the Rangers signing McColgan based on (a) lack of for progress, (b) only three game winning goals, only three power-play goals, and (c) the size factor
(Miller- Aaron Bell OHL Images, St. Croix- Edmonton Oil Kings, McColgan - Kelowna Rockets)
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