Saturday, July 12, 2008

Young Guns: Broadway Blueshirts

For the New York Rangers, young players have recently been given alot of time to develop as the big club has big free agent signings lead the team with a few young players filling holes. That was until recently considering the majority of this team is now made up of home grown players Henrik Lundqvist, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Petr Prucha, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and others have become the core of this team and will lead it into the future with high hopes. But these guys aren't the biggest excitement surrounding the Rangers organization but rather a bunch of players who will be joining the ranks someday.
The biggest name that comes to mind is Alexei Cherepanov, the top 5 talent at the 2007 draft who fell all the way down to the Rangers has the organization excited. He will be playing with Avangard Omsk (Yes where Jagr went) for one more year where he will get another year of seasoning and hopefully helpful insight from Jagr. The Rangers tried to bring him over to North America for this coming year but Russia is very defensive when trying to bring players over, especially when they are already under contract. Glen Sather and Avangard's GM Anatoly Bardin met earlier this year where it was thought that a sort of trade of Jagr for Cherepanov might happen but it never did. But with Cherepanov staying in Russia, it ensures he will get top line minutes and he will be much happier being in his hometown. He had 15 goals and 12 assists this past year for 27 points in 46 games. He also had 3 points in 4 playoff games. In his rookie year he broke Pavel Bure's goal scoring record with 18 goals which is a big deal in Russia. Look for this kid to come over to North America next year and really start to make waves.
My personal favorite Ranger prospect is another Russian who has already come over to North America and is playing for the Wolfpack in Hartford. Anisimov had a good rookie year scoring 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in 74 games. He is almost NHL ready with the only knock on him being his size. He may be 6'3 but he is only 187 pounds which is a bit light for the NHL but he will certainly be heading into training camp looking to make a splash. He is a very good skater and playmaker with some decent defensive abilities. He can also score goals. For some reason I have a feeling he is really going to turn some heads and be a force in the NHL some day. Can anyone say Pavel Datsyuk? I can. 
The other Russian Ranger is Evgeny Grachev. The Rangers picked him up in the this year's NHL draft. He has a big body at 6'3 211 pounds and is a decent skater for his size. He uses his body very well and is strong on the puck. The best thing is that he will be playing in the OHL this year for the Brampton Batallion. Here he will learn alot about what it takes to get into the NHL and he will definitely improve. The fact that he is coming to North America also says alot about his desire to develop and play in the NHL someday. Him, along with Anisimov, Cherepanov and the newly acquired Nikolai Zherdev will form a very formidable group of Russians to lead the Rangers in the future.
On defense, things aren't as deep as they were with Marc Staal coming up to the NHL this past year but that is not to say things are bad. At the top of the list is Bobby Sanguinetti. He finished out his OHL years this past year playing with the Brampton Batallion where he shined. in 61 games Sanguinetti scored 29 goals and had 41 assists for 70 points, good for second in points in the OHL. His 29 goals led the OHL among defensemen. Bobby Sangs will probably spend a year in Hartford this year since the Rangers have filled out their defense corps but it will be very beneficial getting some top time in Hartford where he can learn what it takes to be a professional and maybe, just maybe, earn a call up or two this year if any defensemen go down to injury (*knock on wood*). 
The other defenseman that has the Rangers excited is Michael Del Zotto, their first round pick from this year. Playing for the Oshawa General in the OHL this past year, Del Zotto put up a solid 16 goals and 47 assists for third in points. Yes he beat out players like Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Alex Pietrangelo who were all picked before him. Del Zotto mostly fell because he didn't improve on his rookie year but he was ranked at the top as one of the best defenseman in the draft. Hopefully he can prove alot of people wrong and really show something this year wherever he plays. I am guessing the Rangers will want him in Oshawa to improve on his already great year.
Goaltending isn't an issue. Enough said.
That is the future of the New York Rangers even though it seems the future is now. It is exciting times for Ranger fans when looking at this young crop of players and hopefully, with Henrik Lundqvist in net, these guys will help bring Lord Stanley back to Manhattan.

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