Sunday, August 19, 2012

Time to go camping

J.T. Miller (Plymouth Whalers)
I am not going to fib about it but boy am I glad the New York Ranger prospects playing in the Canadian Junior are starting to report to their junior teams for training camp. At the same time it is also kind of sad too because while the kids will be playing, the adults will be once again risking damage to the sport if the NHL once again has a labor stoppage.

5 Ranger prospects will be reporting to Junior training camps in North America and if you thought last year was pretty good then wait until you see the encore.

J.T. Miller (2011 1st)- will at the very least report to the Plymouth Whaler's training camp next week when it opens up. Where he winds up spending the season is anyone's guess at this point in time.

If Miller plays in the OHL then get ready for a break out season from him. Miller has grown in size and from every report has improved his game in every area.

Miller will benefit from playing on a Whaler franchise that has made the OHL playoffs for the last 21 straight years. Miller will also be playing with 2 other players who were at the USA Hockey Summer Evaluation Camp with him in Stefan Noesen and Ryan Hartman.

The Rangers will reap the rewards of Miller playing for Coach Mike Vellucci for a 2nd year. If there is a lockout I think Miller will wind up being sent to the OHL rather than burn a year of his entry level contract.

Will it be the right call? This time I say no as Miller has blown me away with the improvements he made since last season.

St. Croix (Edmonton Oil Kings)
Michael St. Croix (2011 4th)- So how exactly do you top a 40-65-105 season where you also won a WHL championship and played in the Memorial Cup? Well for the prospect I gave the nickname "The Predator" then I would remember that despite being one of the best scorers in the WHL that I didn't get invited to Hockey Canada's camps or teams.

I would also remember that I still haven't been offered a contract by the Rangers either so there remains plenty of incentive for the 2012-2013 season. Nobody seems to be talking about St. Croix and I think that is a mistake.

St. Croix last season showed major improvement on defense and has worked hard at getting stronger. Let us also remember that the Rangers are not going to forget that 18 of St. Croix's 40 goals last season were on the power play.

One thing that I very much remember from last season is that St. Croix also plays for Derek Laxdal who in my book is one of the best teachers in junior hockey. Derek Laxdal is going to turn St. Croix into a complete player just like Vellucci will do Miller.

McColgan (Kelowna Rockets)
Shane McCogan (2011 5th)- It is a year of opportunity for McColgan after an off-season trade sent McColgan to the Saskatoon Blades after 3 full seasons with the Kelowna Rockets. Both McColgan and the Rockets had disappointing seasons in 2011-2012 as McColgan flat out did not show forward progress towards a Ranger contract.

Playing with the Saskatoon Blades is going to give McColgan some opportunities he would not have had if he remained in Kelowna. The first is that the Saskatoon Blades are the host team of the 2013 Memorial Cup which means McColgan will get a chance to play for the Memorial Cup.

McColgan won't have the weight of the franchise on his shoulders like he did in Kelowna as the Blades will have much more talent on their roster. The other and perhaps best (or worst) opportunity for McColgan is he will be playing for one of Glen Sather's old friends in Blade coach Lorne Molleken.

Noreau (Baie-Comeau)
Samuel Noreau (2011 5th)- Noreau is already hard at work as his Baie-Comeau Drakkar started training camp last week and have played 2 exhibition games. As I said yesterday, Noreau has to grab his opportunity with a strong season or the Rangers won't offer him a contract NHL or AHL.

The Rangers really could use Noreau to develop into a contributing prospect given how what once was a deep pool of defenders is now needing bodies. You can't teach size and Noreau has plenty of it at 6'5.

What might make this season really interesting is would be if the Rangers wound up with 4 out of the 5 CHL prospects playing for the Memorial Cup. McColgan and St. Croix out of the WHL, Miller from the OHL and Noreau from the QMJHL.

Ceresnak (Peterborough Petes)
Peter Ceresnak (2011 6th) - Ceresnak like Noreau is one of the Ranger's "project" prospects on the blueline. At 6'4 205, the blueliner came over from Slovakia last season to play for the Peterborough Petes.

It was a season of mixed results for Ceresnak last year as he got off to a good start with the Petes but the Petes were hurt by injuries and other issues which hurt Ceresnak indirectly. Ceresnak was a reliable defender but wasn't ready for top pair duty.

As the season wore on, Ceresnak "disappeared" as he went 4-6-10 for the Petes in the 1st half of the season but just 2-3-5 in the 2nd. Playing for former Ranger assistant coach Mike Pelino should be an advantage for Ceresnak but only if he grabs for it.

Ceresnak is eligible to play in the AHL but it would take a miracle of a training camp (if he is even invited) for that to happen.

Christian Thomas (2010 2nd)
is eligible to play in the OHL as an overage player if the Rangers decide not to burn a year of his entry level contract. It is not something that should happen but because of the possible lockout it is a possibility.

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