Friday, September 25, 2009

A Hat for Mr. Walker

First Star of the Night

He was the best leading scorer for the New York Ranger's Traverse City team with a 3-2-5 and would have most likely earned an invite to the main Ranger camp had he been older than 19. The Rangers really had no place for the 6'2 right winger so he was sent back to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL

But like his fellow invitees Luke Walker has used his experience from Traverse City as a springboard to kickstart his 2009-10 season. "Walks" is the son of Gord Walker a 1983 3rd round draft pick of the Rangers and would just love to earn a second shot at earning a spot with the Rangers.

If Walker plays like he did on Friday night in Tri-City then the folks in Hartford will be seeing him next spring. Walker scored all 3 of the Winterhawk goals including 2 goals as part of a 3rd period comeback but his young Winterhawk team came up short against the Tri-City Americans losing on the road 4-3.

We have been telling people to keep an eye on Walker since word of his invite to Traverse City leaked out. This is what the Rangers could always use more of an explosive scorer who if you blink he will do some serious damage. Walker in 2 games this season has already equaled his Traverse City numbers of 3-2-5.

Walker also was named the game's 2nd star for the second straight road game and it is easy to see why. Walker scored the game's first goal when he fired one past American's goalie Drew Owsley just 1:53 into the game.

In the 3rd period with the Winterhawks trailing 3-1 in the 3rd period; Walker took a feed from Spencer Bennett and whipped the puck by Owsley at 11:34. Just 1:55 later, Walker tied the game at 3-3 when Winterhawk defenseman Daniel Johnson found Walker for the hat trick and silencing a Tri-City crowd who just moments earlier thought the game was over.

Tri-City did get the game winner on the power play a little over 2 minutes later but then still had to hold off one last Winterhawk rally to escape with the win. Portland returns home to face Seattle for their home opener on Saturday and then on Sunday will host whiz kid Brent Connolly and the Prince George Cougars.

Second Star

If there were any doubts about Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) being a good pick by the Rangers then he should have erased them after his performance against the Kitchener Rangers on Friday evening. Stajcer stopped 45 of 48 shots but his Owen Sound Attack lost in overtime 3-2.

That the Attack even made it to overtime was because of the game's first star Stajcer. Out shot 17-9 in the first period and then 48-41 for the game; Stajcer did his job giving the Attack a chance to win the game.

It was a solid performance as this game never should have gone to overtime if not for Stajcer's performance. Owen Sound gave up 8 power plays but Stajcer limited the Rangers to just one goal on those 8 attempts including 2 lengthy 5 on 3s (both over a minute in duration).

All last season we complained about the Ranger's lack of depth at goalie among the prospect pipeline. Consider those complaints as history as between Stajcer and Chad Johnson the Rangers have addressed that issue quite well.

Third Star

So when the Rangers selected Daniel Maggio in the 6th round of the 2009 Entry Draft, there we were thinking that this was a good pick. Maggio a 6'3 202 lb defenseman was a good steady physical stay at home defender. It was even better as Maggio's Sudbury Wolves had just hired former Ranger Jeff Beukeboom as an assistant coach in charge of the defensemen.

Really who better than the "Beuk" to develop Maggio to follow in his footsteps? Silly us as we forgot all those years of being Brian Leetch's blueline partner just might have taught Beukeboom some offensive skills to pass along to Maggio.

All Maggio did was score his 2nd goal of the season, added an assist and a 3rd star of the game as his Sudbury Wolves behind 3 third period goals rallied from 3-1 and win their 1st game of the season 4-3 over Luke Pither and the Barrie Colts.

Maggio got the Wolves going with an excellent shorthanded goal off a feed from Marc Staal's kid brother Jared at 19:40 of the first period. It was Maggio's first career shorthanded goal in the OHL.

In the 3rd period with the Wolves trailing 3-1, Maggio earned a secondary assist on Eric O'Dell's 1st goal of the season on the power play just 44 seconds into the period. It was Maggio's 4th point of the young season but this unexpected offense is a very nice surprise.

Prior to this season Maggio in 108 OHL games was just 7-29-36, a number that he just might top in this season if he stays healthy. Something else we have noticed is that the 3rd year OHL veteran has moved into the starting lineup so it will interesting to watch how much Maggio continues to develop under Beukeboom.

The Rest of the Ranger Prospects

Roman Horak (2009 5th) scored his first goal of the season as his Chilliwack Bruins spotted the Seattle Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead and then scored 4 unanswered goals to earn their first win of the season 4-1.

Horak's goal scored his goal at 14:49 of the 3rd period and it was the 4th Bruin goal. Horak also was a +2 for the evening.

Sam Klassen's (Free Agent 2009) return to the Saskatoon Blades was not a happy one as the Blades lost their 2nd straight 4-2 to the Edmonton Oil Kings at home. Klassen had a quiet night with no points and a -1.

Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) also had a quiet evening as his Kingston Frontenacs were shut out 2-0 by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Werek also was a -1 with a minor for tripping in the 3rd period that the Greyhounds cashed in for their second goal.

Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) joined the quiet parade as his Erie Otters continue to struggle on a 5 game road trip dropping their 3rd straight game 3-2. This one was tougher as the Otters were coming off the fight filled whipping that they took at Windsor on Thursday.

The Otters have one more game on the road in Saginaw on Saturday before finally getting to head home for their first home game. The good news for the Otters is other than the loss to Windsor, they have been in every game despite still having several key players still at NHL camps including the expected starting goalie.

Ryan Bourque (2009 3rd) was also held without a point as the Drummondville Voltigeurs remain the only team in the QMJHL that has not lost after defeating Bourque's Quebec Remparts 4-1. Give the Voltigeurs credit as they kept Bourque in check allowing him 5 shots but only 1 real scoring chance.

Bourque after an explosive start has quieted down now that teams are keying on him which is not a bad thing at the moment. It gives us a chance to see now how Bourque responds to this kind of challenge (we say he is too good to be held down for long).

Craig Cunningham (Traverse City) had a secondary assist as his Vancouver Giants improved to 3-1 on the season with a very hard fought 2-1 win over the Prince George Cougars. Cunningham is now 2-4-6 which is 2nd among Ranger prospects.

As we mentioned before Luke Pither (Traverse City) was shut out for the first time this season by Daniel Maggio's Sudbury Wolves in their loss tonight. 8 goals in 4 games is still a nice number to have as Pither remains the leading scorer among Ranger prospects at 8-0-8.

The College Prospects

We keep getting asked when will the Ranger prospects in the NCAAs begin play and here is your answer as NCAA exhibition action begins next week with 3 games:

Dan Hobbs (UMass), Carl Hagelin (Michigan) Oct 3rd

Chris Kreider (Boston College) Oct 4th

Most counting games will not begin until the 16th or later

(Walker courtesy of the Portland Winterhawks, Stajcer: the Owen Sound Attack, Maggio: the Sudbury Wolves)

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