Thursday, September 19, 2013

What we should be expecting from the Baby Rangers

Brady Skjei (
On the eve of the OHL and WHL beginning their 2013-2014 season; the question as to what we should expect from the New York Ranger prospects is a good one. For the Ranger prospects expectations should perhaps be moderated as the main goal this season should be forward progress.

Don't take this as saying the Ranger prospects will have a bad year but rather what we should be looking for is for the prospects to take charge on their respective teams and become leaders.

Brady Skjei (2012 1st) is the best example of what I mean as if you go strictly by the numbers then many a Ranger fan thought Skjei had a weak freshman season at Minnesota. They would also be wrong as Skjei was paired with Minnesota's best offensive player last season with the role of being the defensive protector. Yes Skjei had some inconsistent games during the season as he made the jump to NCAA Division 1 hockey but that is to be expected for a young defender.

This year, Skjei is be asked to do a little more on the blueline as once again Minnesota will bring a loaded squad to contend for the NCAA title. Don't be surprised if Skjei winds up paring with Islander prospect Jake Bischoff (2012 7th) on the blueline. The numbers aren't important to me as I want to see Skjei out on the ice in critical situations with the game on the line for Minnesota.

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (2012 2nd) had a great first half and for the most part a good second half but no goals in his last 11 games. This year "Boo" will need to be one of the team leaders for his Michigan Wolverines as the Wolverines missed making the NCAAs for the first time since the 1989-1990 season. The first question for Nieves has to be which is he, a playmaker or a goal scorer?

I say Nieves needs to be the playmaker who chips in enough goals to keep other teams honest. A 45 point season would be a good one for Nieves.

Steven Fogarty (2011 3rd) may have only had a 5-5-10 freshman season for Notre Dame but expect that to change as Fogarty enters his sophomore season. Fogarty and the Fighting Irish are beginning their first season in the Hockey East so Fogarty's big size will be needed especially on the penalty kill where he excels at.

Fogarty also needs to have a strong season on his faceoffs as anything below a 50% win rate could be the difference between a winning season and a losing one.

Adam Tambellini (2013 3rd) will be making the jump from the BCHL to North Dakota and for his development this is the right move for him. I like Tambellini's size and skill set but he has to work on his body first adding some muscle to it. Better body to me will help Tambellini improve his decision making speed.

There is no question that Tambellini can score but let us see him put the entire package together.

Anthony Duclair (2013 3rd) should have a better year now that the circus known as Patrick Roy has left the Quebec Remparts. Duclair had a rocky season last year and should bounce back under new coach Philippe Boucher. Anything less that 30 goals will be unacceptable from Duclair who has speed and talent but needs to show that he will bring it every night.

Ryan Graves (2013 4th) plays on a team called the Islanders which should make things confusing for several Ranger fans. What won't be confusing is that Graves at 6'4 220 as he will be looked to lead a very young Charlottetown Islander blueline. Graves will be asked to play top 2 minutes for the Islanders who will be coached by former Ranger Gordie Dwyer.

Mackenzie Skapski (2013 6th) is in my book the prospect to watch as the goalie for the Kootenay Ice will be asked to carry the Ice on his shoulders once again. Skapski appeared in 65 games last season going 34-25-1 with a 2.78 GAA and 0.910 save percentage. Would like to see Skapski come down to a 2.25- 2.30 and 0.925 for this season.

Tomorrow the Islanders

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