Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thinking out loud

Chris Kreider (Blueshirts United)
Forgive me as I am so turned off by the recent labor issues in hockey that I badly needed a real hockey fix. I got it and it got me thinking about the future of the game rather than it's current mess of a present.

It is so nice to start off with news about 3 top prospects of the New York Rangers and New York Islanders. Chris Kreider (NYR 2009 1st), Brock Nelson (NYI 2010 1st) and Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) were selected by the NHLPA to take part in the 2012 NHLPA Rookie Showcase next Tuesday August 28th in Toronto.

The NHLPA Rookie Showcase
is where they bring in the top NHL prospects for their first pictures in their team uniform (Kreider of course already had plenty of images in his Ranger uniform). EA Sports will also do head scans so the prospects can be added to NHL 13 video game.

When I looked at the list of those invited to take part, it is an impressive list and made me wonder which of these prospects should start the season (if there is one) as the favorites for the Calder Trophy? Ranger fans are already inscribing Chris Kreider's name as the NHL's best rookie but he will face some really good competition this year.

If Nail Yakupov can keep from falling off treadmills he will be the media favorite to start the season. But I look at 2 defensemen in this group as real threats for the Calder.

First there is Dougie Hamilton (Boston) as he doesn't have to play top pair minutes for the Bruins thanks to the presence of Zdeno Chara. Hamilton is the player I still say the Islanders should have taken instead of Ryan Strome in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Hamilton is huge (6'4 180) but he put up 72 points last season in just 50 games with Niagara of the OHL. If Hamilton played all 68 OHL games he was on a pace to score 98 points which would have put him 3rd overall in the OHL.

What is really scary is that Hamilton is going to get even better once he gets to the NHL. Hamilton just might turn out to be the best player to come out of the 2011 NHL draft.

Ryan Murray is the best young hockey prospect you never heard of. Murray is a defenseman who was selected 2nd in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (sadly by the Bluejackets) from the Everett Silvertips of the WHL.

Hockey people know Murray as a solid defender who has solid offensive skills and is mature beyond his years. If Columbus is going to ever turn their franchise around then here is the starting point.

There are those who believe that Murray was the player that Edmonton should have taken instead of Yakupov. I know I would have mainly because of what Murray despite being just 18 brings to a locker room.

Say hello to a future NHL captain.

And speaking of the Islanders, the 2 prospects that the NHLPA selected are pretty good in their own right. Brock Nelson in my book is the best forward prospect the Islanders have in their system.

Yes I know people will say Ryan Strome but I have watched both and at the end of the day I want Nelson on the ice with the game on the line. Nelson is the Islander's version of Chris Kreider only without the speed.

Nelson is a 6'3 210 power forward who brings small man skills to his power game. Nelson down the stretch last season was the guy who made the big plays to help North Dakota win the WCHA's Final Five and a berth in the NCAA's.

Combine Nelson with the Islander's 2012 1st round pick defenseman Griffin Reinhart and the Islanders are building themselves back to respectability. In fact I would be watching the Islander's AHL team this year as Bridgeport is going to be a very loaded team.

Reinhart will not be there this year as he is still a year away but it is hard not to look at the Islander's prospect pool and not be impressed. They had a good year last season and now get to add Kirill Kabanov, John Persson as well as Nelson to their roster.

Reinhart is a smart 2 way defenseman who comes from a hockey family. Father Paul played in the NHL, older brother Max was drafted and signed by Calgary while younger brother Sam will hear his name called in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Jesper Fast (HV71)
Hej från Sverige

As we in North America are facing another labor stoppage in the NHL, the Ranger's Swedish prospect contingent is already hard at work getting ready for their regular season. What one has to like from the 3 Swedes and 1 Dane is how each brings something different to the table that Ranger fans will like in the coming years.

Jesper Fast (2010 6th) may not be as "fast" as countryman Carl Hagelin is on the ice but Ranger fans will love the energy that Fast brings to the game. Fast plays on a line with one time Ranger Jason Krog for HV71 so he is getting an education on North American hockey.

John Tortorella will like how Fast will go into traffic in order to make plays and that Fast doesn't take shifts off. Fast has a 2 year deal with HV71 before he comes over to join the Rangers but he will be worth the wait.

Oscar Lindberg (trade) is the future Ranger's checking center, if Lindberg was a baseball player then his uniform would be constantly dirty. Lindberg is considered a whiz on faceoffs but in all the tape I have gotten to see what impresses me the most is his willingness to play physical.

Lindberg doesn't look big (6' 185) but he knows how to use his body effectively as you don't need to blast a person into next week to register a good hit. Lindberg is under rated on offense and while I don't expect him to be a 20-30 goal scorer; he will contribute enough on offense to keep the other team's honest.

Calle Andersson (2012 4th rd) is an interesting defensive prospect as a friend who has followed him called him a "chess player on ice." In other words, Andersson sees the ice and can read the plays quite well.

Andersson gets by with his smarts and a strong passing skill set. Would like to see him get some firepower behind his shot and his body needs a makeover if he plans on coming over to North America.

Thomas Spelling (2012 5th) is the wild card of the European prospects mainly because nobody is really sure what will happen as he moves up the ladder. He has done well in international competition among his own age group but this is very much a project.

The first test will be whether or not he sticks with Rogle of the Swedish Elite League or gets sent to their Under-20 team. Spelling has scored at every level he has played but nobody has said word one about his defense.

Needs work on his skating but these days that is no longer a handicap as long as he is coachable (told he is). Considering the Rangers pissed away a 5th round pick on John Scott then this actually has way more value because Spelling has potential and understands he needs to put in a lot more work.

I remember once there was this player who could score but very few gave him any chance at the NHL. It was that player's willingness to bust his butt that made him into this guy.

I learned to never count out anyone who is willing to work his tail off and neither should any of you.

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