If you are ready for some live hockey then the New York Ranger prospects will be taking the ice at the annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament starting on Thursday when the Baby Rangers will take on the Carolina Baby Hurricanes starting at 3:30 EDT. Wish I could tell you that there would be some live coverage of the event but that sadly will not be the case.
Once again the NHL misses out on an opportunity to give the fans a look at the future of the NHL. They would rather show you replays of playoff games rather than offer the fans a headstart to the 2013-2014.
The Baby Ranger roster is a good mix of prospects who are legit NHL prospects and those looking to impress the Ranger staff. Here is a mini breakdown of the Baby Rangers starting with the goalies.
Jeff Malcolm- (2013 UFA)- Give the Rangers some credit as they picked up the goalie who won the NCAA Championship for his Yale Bulldogs with a 4-0 shutout of Quinnipiac. Malcolm is coming off a 20-6-2 2.24 GAA and a 0.919 save percentage. He will push one of the 3 returning Ranger prospect goalies out the door.
Mackenzie Skapski (2013 6th)- While Skapski is not ready to turn pro, this is a good pick as Skapski has the size (6'3 182) and plays for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL. Skapski is coached by former Hartford Wolfpack coach Ryan McGill and the Ice are looking to make some noise in the WHL after being the youngest team in the WHL.
Charlie Dodero (AHL UFA 2013)- another free agent that the Rangers signed only Dodero is on an AHL deal which is a low risk investment. Seen as a more offensive defender but is on the smallish side (6'0 195). Hard to see him as serious NHL material as I have him penciled for Greenville of the ECHL.
Troy Donnay (UFA 2013) signed to a future deal as Donnay is expected to be sent back to the OHL (Erie) where he will get plenty of ice time mainly because he is 6'7 200. Very much a major project but that 6'7 size makes it a gamble worth taking. Not super physical which will have to change for Donnay to be seen as pro material.
Ben Fanelli (UFA invitee)- Fanelli is a feel good story as he make a remarkable comeback from a skull and orbital bone fractures to earn the OHL Humanitarian of the Year. Longshot to earn a contract but I will root for a class act like Fanelli anyday.
Ryan Graves (2013 4th)- Graves is a big body defender (6'4 225 and growing) who had a strong 2nd half for the now Charlottetown Islanders in the QMJHL. Should have a breakout season as a stay at home defender. Played a solid game in his only preseason game for Charlottetown with an assist, 3 hits and a fight.
Tommy Hughes (UFA 2013)- Signed from the London Knights. Hughes is a stay at home physical defender who is a lot like Dan Girardi at this stage of his career. Hughes is a shot blocker who needs work on his offensive game.
Samuel Noreau (2011 5th)- earned himself a Ranger contract by being a textbook case of forward progress after draft day. Noreau put it all together last season with the Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL. Add another 6'5 player to the blueline.
Jimmy Oligny (UFA invitee)- a two way defender who was a teammate of Ryan Graves until a trade to Rimouski. Not a big player (5'10 190) but plays bigger than his size and was a locker room leader. Was traded in order to be closer to 16 month daughter as he plays his overage season. Keep an eye on him.
J.T. Barnett (UFA invitee)- journeyman forward in WHL who had trouble staying healthy. When he was in the lineup he produced so could earn a contract as the system needs scorers.
Anthony Duclair (2013 3rd) smallish forward who has speed and skill but went backwards in his draft year. No question he has an offensive skill set but needs to breakout this season to show last year was fluke.
Jesper Fast (2010 6th)- time to see if the hype is for real as Fast is described as a high energy player but I think he needs a year to adjust to North America.
Kyle Jean (UFA 2012)- best known as the prospect who took out Dylan McIlrath but actually had a strong 1st half last year but tailed off in the 2nd half. Will be expected to lead the Baby Rangers
Josh Graves (UFA invitee)- not a serious contender for roster spot as he had a so-so OHL career followed by an even less than season in Canadian college. Has size (6'3) but didn't use it
Michael Kantor (UFA 2013)- got to admit that I am scratching the head trying to understand what the Rangers see that nobody else did. Average size who had a so-so overage season (20-13-33)
Danny Kristo (Trade 2013)- the player everyone will be watching because of his college hype at North Dakota and the USA Under-20 team. Honestly I wonder why the Rangers gave up on Christian Thomas who in my book remains a better overall player than Kristo. Kristo is going to be watched to see if he can earn a roster spot because of the injuries to Callahan and Hagelin.
Paxton Leroux (UFA invitee)- pure goon material as he played just 22 games period in the OHL (plus 14 in the OHL playoffs)
Oscar Lindberg (trade 2011)- if he doesn't make the Rangers I would be shocked as his defense was NHL ready last year. If the offense he showed last year was real then he should be a "Top 6" forward by the end of the season.
Josh Nicholls (UFA 2013)- free agent player who had a 47 goal season for the Saskatoon Blades last year. Has size but needs work on skating and decision making speed.
Thomas Spelling (2012 6th)- had a bad year trying to play for Rogle of the Swedish Elite but wound up spending most of the year playing at the junior level. Choose to return to Denmark instead of Sweden which is step backwards. Strange considering his former teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand had outstanding year for Portland of the WHL. Hard to see him as a NHL player at this point.
Michael St. Croix (2011 4th) 2 time Ranger prospect scoring champ who's main strength is his power play skills. Needs to bulk up and continue to improve defense before makes it as NHL player.
Klarc Wilson (UFA invitee)- former teammate of St. Croix who will make sure nobody messes with any of his teammates. Would like to see BR's use his body in front of the net on power player. Extremely strong
Andrew Yogan (2010 4th)-- the most naturally skilled prospect the Rangers have but Yogan is his own enemy as if he can get head on straight then the Rangers have a huge weapon in the middle.