Well that was certainly a nice start to the hockey season for the New York Rangers. Considering that majority of these players just met each other only a few days ago, the team came together very well and had reasonable chemistry. In the long run, though, the results aren’t what truly matter. This tournament is really about giving these young players a chance to play some hockey at a relatively high level before training camps start as well as giving management an opportunity to evaluate the players. So with that, let’s go over some things I noticed and I thought were worth mentioning:
Dylan McIlrath- I don’t know if the Rangers plan on changing captaincy every game, but even if it was just for tonight, the fact that Dylan McIlrath was chosen to be captain for the first game speaks a lot about what the Rangers think of him. There are guys such as Niemi, Erixon, and Parlett who have been in professional hockey already. There are older guys who have been in the organization longer such as Hagelin and Bourque. And yet, it was a 19 year old Dylan McIlrath who was chosen as captain. I think the Rangers are trying to challenge McIlrath. They’re trying to make him step up his game and become a leader on and off the ice. Dylan told Blue Line Station this summer that he wanted to work on all facets of his game but specifically his “hands” and “being quicker.” I watched a few Moose Jaw games last season and it appeared to me tonight that he definitely improved both of those. His acceleration looked better tonight than it did last season, but what impressed me the most was that his passing as well as poise with the puck seemed noticeably improved. I’m happy that he didn’t seem afraid to shoot the puck and most of his shots were on net and hard. What did concern me a bit was that it takes him a little too long to get the shot off. If you watch Shea Weber, whom McIlrath compares to, he is able to get the puck off his stick relatively quickly while still maintaining velocity. Hopefully McIlrath can improve that this season.
Ryan Bourque- I don’t think anyone played harder than Bourque did tonight. He’s been written off by much of the fanbase and it looked like he came to Traverse City ready to prove something. He looked very good defensively and was dynamic on the transition, getting two very good scoring chances by skating down the wing and cutting towards the net. One of them turned into a goal. Good for him.
Blake Parlett- We also spoke to Blake in during the offseason and he stated that his goal for the upcoming year is to play his first game in the NHL. I think he’d have a chance to crack the top-7 of a team with less defensive depth than the Rangers have. People might groan at hearing this, but Parlett reminded me a lot of Matt Gilroy with his play today. He displayed good speed, was not afraid to pinch deep or join the rush, and was confident in his offensive abilities. What he does seem to possess that Gilroy doesn’t is puck poise and passing ability. On one hand, Parlett is 22, which is older than majority of the competition, but you still have to give him credit for playing well. I think he has a legitimate chance of getting that first NHL game in this season at some point, but at the very least he’s put himself on the radar.
Peter Ceresenak- You can see why the Rangers thought he was a good selection in the 6th round. He has a big frame and is physical. He also had one or two decent shots tonight. That being said, he got absolutely burned on both goals by the Blues. He’s only 18 so there’s plenty of time to develop him, but if he doesn’t improve his foot speed in open ice and his agility then it’s going to be hard to find a spot in the NHL.
Randy McNaught- I think he did enough to deserve a mention. Before he had even scored his goal I had made a note of his play. The only future McNaught has in professional hockey is as a goon. That’s obvious. That being said, guys who can stand on skates and punch people are very easy to find. The ones who make it to the NHL are the ones who can play at a decent enough level (unless you’re Trevor Gillies and play for the Islanders.) I thought McNaught did a reasonable enough job, goal aside. He was responsible in the defensive zone and made a genuine effort to backcheck as well as transition to offense. If he can stand in front of the net and deflect pucks in then that would be even better. McNaught is playing for a contract this year so if he can go back to Saskatoon and play like he did tonight then I think he has a good chance of taking the next step towards becoming a Ranger.
Jake Allen- He’s not Rangers property, but I think he deserves to be mentioned. He was impressive for the Canadian Junior Team and he was on a whole different level from everyone else tonight. The scoreboard doesn’t do him justice, really. The Rangers could have easily scored 2 or 3 more goals had he not been in net. Allen definitely has a future in the NHL.
The Ranger’s prospects play Dallas tomorrow at 6PM. I imagine that lines and defensive pairings will be shifted around. We’ll also likely get our first look at Scott Stajcer in net.
Topics: Blake Parlett, Blues, Carl Hagelin, Dylan Mcilrath, Jake Allen, Jyri Niemi, Moose Jaw, New York Rangers, NHL, Peter Ceresnak, Randy McNaught, Rangers, Ryan Bourque, Saskatoon, St. Louis Blues, Tim Erixon, Traverse City, Traverse City Hockey Tournament, WHL