Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Making your own opportunity

Christian Thomas (Oshawa Generals)
While everybody else is looking to see which NHL players the New York Rangers coud add to their roster for the 2012-2013 season; why not look at which prospect might take advantage of an open opportunity?

Yes, the easy way would be to go out and spend the money on free agents or make a trade. But what if injuries happen and you need to call upon players from the AHL as replacements during the season?

If I'm going to look at prospects then I believe these five offer the best possibilities to help the Rangers in the 2012-2013 NHL season. I am not sold on John Tortorella's ability to teach and develop but these are the guys I would want to see push for a job at training camp.

Christian Thomas- the key with Christian Thomas has more to do with will John Tortorella show more confidence in a smaller player than he has in previous seasons? My number one reason for listing Thomas first is the fact that he can be used as a power-play specialist while he earns Tortorella confidence and trust.

Thomas can score from any place on the ice as he possesses an arsenal of shots that most players would envy. Oshawa used Thomas to quarterback their power-play from the point which is another reason why I want to look at him.

The other reason why Thomas is here first on the list is because he's just as good creating offense for others as he is scoring himself. Great vision, excellent hands and a very higher than average hockey IQ makes up for Thomas not being 6'3 214.

Bourque (NY Rangers)
Ryan Bourque- last year struggled in his first professional season, but if you're looking for someone to pair up with Carl Hagelin on the forecheck then this would be my first choice. Bourque gets overlooked because of his size (where we heard that before?), but Bourque's strength is his ability on the forecheck.

Ryan Bourque would give new meaning to the term pest as he will drive other teams crazy because of the pressure he can apply on defense. Bourque's versatility is also very underrated because you can use him any number of ways whether it's with Kreider, or Hagelin or Boyle.

Bourque adapts to who he's playing with rather than forcing them to adapt to him. Again, the key has to be will John Tortorella give him a chance because of his size?

Lindberg (NY Rangers)
Oscar Lindberg- here's the first of three wildcards that I think could walk into training camp and steal a roster spot. The young Swede Lindberg is expected to become a face-off specialist/defensive center who can chip in 10-15 goals when he finally matures.

One thing about Swedish hockey players is that they place a big emphasis on the most basic fundamentals of hockey. I expect Lindberg to surprise a lot of people with his skating as well as his underrated physical play.

Lindberg will not be afraid to get his uniform dirty if it means making a play at either end of the ice. With face-offs being a weakness on the Rangers on in previous years; this is a strength of Lindberg's.

The question is how quickly could Lindberg adapt to North American play? If he adapts fast then he makes Jeff Halpern expendable or Lindberg could also push Brian Boyle to the wing.

Yogan (NY Rangers)
Andrew Yogan- here's the wildest of wildcards as Andrew Yogan there is no denying that he has a world of potential when it comes to offensive skill. His 6'3 size combined with a very good skating ability and an arsenal of offense and moves could make him a star player in the NHL.

Yogan can score, Yogan can skate, Yogan can pressure and break defenses but Yogan can also be his own worst enemy. When Yogan brain stops working, Yogan can find himself in a coaches doghouse very quickly.

This is a player that I hope John Tortorella takes the time to coach and teach not scream and kick his ass. You not going to find many players who have the size and raw skill that Yogan has but Yogan needs someone to get his head on straight.

Yogan walked right into the AHL and started scoring so I wouldn't be surprised if he walked into an NHL camp and started scoring there too. Yogan wants to be more than just an NHL player; he wants to be a star, and if he gets his wish than the Rangers will be much better because of it.

Miller (NY Ranger)
J.T. Miller- the reason I list Miller last is because of the uncertainty of the NHL/NHLPA labor negotiations. Because Miller backed out of his college letter of intent to play in the OHL then he is eligible to play in the AHL this year despite not being 20.

The problem facing the Rangers is if there is a labor dispute then do you want to burn a year of Miller's entry-level contract? Miller is a player that I believe would benefit more from another year in the OHL then he would in AHL.

But if there are no labor problems then Miller is worth taking a look at to see how much he can handle at the NHL level. The Rangers could use his grit on the bottom six and I do really like the way Miller creates his own space for offense.

I think down the road Miller is going to surprise a lot of people with his offensive capability. His ability to read the ice, locate a free spot and set himself up in shooting position is above average.

He may be bigger this year but is he more consistent? If he is then you want to keep him even if he has to split time in the AHL. Quite honestly even with his consistency issues that Miller has more NHL promise then many of those who will be playing for the Whale this year.

At the very least, I would keep him with the Whale until either the labor troubles are settled or 10 games, whichever is more promising.

The reason you don't see any defenseman listed here is because the Rangers don't have the quality or the depth that they had last year at this time. McIlrath is out injured, Erixon traded and really none of the other defensive prospects are even close to being AHL ready let alone NHL.

As for the goalies, Can Talbot looks like a solid number 3, Jason Missiaen 4th and Scott Stajcer 5th. It's going to be interesting to see what the Rangers do if there's a Traverse City tournament this year.

Stajcer is almost a given but I would expect the Rangers to bring in somebody on a tryout basis. I'm not sold on any of these three to be NHL quality starters.

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