Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

A Look at Rangers’ Prospects

Everyone in hockey knows how valuable prospects can be whether it’s on the ice or as a trade chip. The New York Rangers have made plenty of mistakes with regards to handling of their prospects but in recent years, have done a much better job of evaluating them and bringing them up at the right time.

Last night, Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park, a terrific Web site that covers all things Rangers’ prospects, took time out of his busy schedule to do an e-mail interview with us. Jess was kind enough to talk about how he got into hockey, how he got into scouting/writing about Rangers’ prospects and more importantly, what our prospect system looks like now.

Take it away Jess:

PH: How did you first get into hockey?
JR: I have always loved hockey going back to being a kid. I grew up in Jackson Heights Queens so my first hockey “experience” was going to a Long Island Duck game when the old Eastern League was playing out of the Commack Arena (hockey was wild and crazy then) in the 1960’s.

What makes hockey so special as a sport is that no other sport is about heart and desire more than hockey is.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team? How about your favorite player?
JR: My favorite player has always been Eddie Giacomin, as he represented the heart and soul of the Rangers. It has always been the Rangers for me but I have to admit that I once came very close to walking away from the Rangers thanks to Glen Sather and the Dolans.

PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to get involved in hockey as a writer/blogger?
JR: It was more like I stumbled into writing than any great plan and there have been several people have greatly influenced why I started writing. In 1997, it was a really special lady by the name of Kara, who was running Ranger Fan Central, as she gave me my first spot to write at. Dubi Silverstein, when he purchased Blueshirt Bulletin, asked me to cover Ranger prospects in 2004.

Real Journalists like Frank Brown, who used to write for The Daily News, Bruce Berlet who covered the Hartford Wolfpack, Andrew Gross who writes Ranger Rants and Rick Carpiniello of the Rangers Report, have shaped how I think and write.

But more than anything else, it has been the prospects themselves who have had the greatest impact on my wanting to write. Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes taught me about chasing the dream of being Rangers. They helped spark my “rebirth” for not only hockey, but the Rangers as well.

PH: Name some of the outlets that you have written/blogged for and tell us how you think it led you to where you are today.
JR: As I mentioned previously, Ranger’s Fan Central got me started in 1997, as I was not liking what I was seeing of the Ranger franchise. As such, I was given a forum to speak my views.

When Dubi Silverstein purchased Blueshirt Bulletin in 2004, I was actually sick of the Rangers and very close to becoming a San Jose Sharks fan. The lockout was also killing my love for hockey, but Dubi, who is a great friend, asked me if I would help fill his magazine with some content by doing a story on Ranger prospects.

Getting to follow the Ranger prospect was a rebirth for me as a hockey fan and as a Ranger fan. People like Tom Renney, Gordie Clark, Don Maloney and Adam Graves took time to talk to me about what makes a prospect and how they are developed.

I have also been very lucky to have gotten to know some great people who work as NHL scouts for the various NHL teams. People do not realize that of all the jobs in hockey; scouting is the toughest as everyone remembers your mistakes, but never your hits.

PH: How did you come up with The Prospect Park? What are you trying to bring Rangers/hockey fans who visit your blog?
JR: To be honest, I really never planned on becoming a blogger. I actually prefer the talent evaluation as well as talking to the Ranger prospects. It was the Ranger fans who turned me into a blogger as they have been super supportive of what I do and have helped build Prospect Park.

Like it’s name said the park in Brooklyn; Prospect Park is a great mixture of people who help bring the word about the Ranger prospects to the Ranger fans. The stuff fans see there is a combination of fellow fans, media relations folks and broadcasters of the teams that prospects are on, regular media, and even the prospects themselves.

The goal is to bring fans the story of the journey that the prospects travel chasing their dream of becoming Rangers and NHL players. These young kids are just as much hockey fans as you and I are so it is a way to help bridge the gap.

PH: Now for some actual hockey talk: In your opinion, which Rangers’ prospects are ready to make an impact in 2009-2010 whether it’s with the big club or in the AHL? Why?
JR: The easy answer is Artem Anisimov, as he is the one should win the 3rd line center spot in training camp. People look at his 37 goals last season with Hartford, but what will stand out is that Anisimov is a very solid two-way player. I project Anisimov as a first line center within two years because he has all the tools.

If you want a stealth choice, Bobby Sanguinetti, as I never understand why people are so down on him. Sanguinetti is a Jersey kid who grew up at the Garden so he knows all too well the demands Ranger fans have. He has been working very hard over the last month to get ready for this season and I think he is going to shock a lot of people with his play. His offense is rock solid as he can score from anywhere on the ice but more importantly his shot from the point is laser like lethal. It is accurate, it gets on net and if it does not go in then it will create juicy rebounds for his teammates. Sanguinetti was developed by Stan Butler, the very same guy who developed Evgeny Grachev last season.

Hartford is going to have Grachev of course but I think Ranger fans should temper their expectations for him this season. He is still learning the game while his body matures so anything over 20 goals will be a bonus. Let Grachev continue to learn and grow so in 2010-11 you will have a more complete player ready for the NHL. Put him down for 25 goals this year.

I also see Matt Gilroy and Michael Sauer earning playing time on defense during this season and Dane Byers as a much better option than Aaron Voros, Brad Boyle or Tyler Arnason.

Hartford players to watch are Dale Weise and Justin Soryal, as both struggled with injuries last year but so far look in even better shape than they were last season when both were two of the best in terms of physical shape and conditioning.

I think people will not like this but Michael Del Zotto would be best served by returning to London of the OHL. Gordie Clark is a believer in a player needs to dominate at his current level before advancing and I totally agree. Del Zotto needs to step out from the shadows of others and take charge like Marc Staal did in 2006-07. Let Del Zotto play away from the glare of NYC under the leadership of Dale Hunter and he will like Staal make the direct jump to the NHL in 2010.

PH: How do you think head coach John Tortorella will treat the prospects this season? Will he give them a chance to make the team? Will he give them a chance to play if one gets called up?
JR: I have some concerns about Tortorella and the prospects because I really did not like how he handled Michael Sauer last season. Sauer got incorrectly blamed for two goals against the Pens and was then benched and shoved out of town.

That is not how you develop prospects and Tortorella in my book royally screwed up. I think that Ranger cap issues more than anything else might determine if any prospects make the team because Sather has spent too much money.

As for playing time, I think it will be up to the kids themselves to force Tortorella to play them by living up to Tortorella’s claims of the hardest working will get the ice time. The kids I project making the team all work very hard so if Tortorella “walks his talk”, then they will play.

PH: Look into your crystal ball: Who do you think will be the best Rangers’ prospect this season? Why?
JR: I think you will see several prospects stand out this year so let me offer up some names to watch and why:
Michael Del Zotto: Going to put up huge numbers this year, force his way onto Team Canada and win the CHL Best Defenseman of the Year. Why? Because everyone keeps telling him he can not do it and that motivates him

Ethan Werek: Is going to put up monster numbers for Doug Gilmour in Kingston so look at 40-40-80. Why? Werek has shown major improvement in each of his last three years and Gilmour knows how to reach him as a teacher.

Derek Stepan: My pick for breakout prospect of the year as he is going to have a great season for the Wisconsin Badgers. Why? Stepan is one of the smartest prospects I have ever interviewed, he has a plan to turn pro after this season and has worked like a manic this off-season

Roman Horak: Perhaps the steal of the 09 draft, has been turning heads up in Chilliwack since his arrival and will be a first line player. Why? An offensive attack machine as both goal scorer and playmaker with a very smart 1st step.

PH: Any words of wisdom for true blue Ranger fans out there?
JR: I think that the prospect pipeline is about ready to flow on a regular basis and while there is no big name superstar among the prospects, there are the kinds of prospects who Ranger fans will really like.

The best part about this crop of prospects is that they want to be Rangers; that they want to play for the Ranger fans and how much that will mean to them. Ranger fans demand hard work and these prospects will give it to them.

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: new+york+rangers, prospects

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.