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February 23, 2006

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Game review: Feb 17th, Hartford Wolfpack vs Albany River Rats

I made what is becoming an annual trip to the Pepsi Arena in Albany New York with my brother Paul, nephew Paul and friend Michael to watch a Wolfpack-River Rats game.

Three first period power play goals were all the Wolfpack needed to post a 3-1 victory. Thomas Pock had the first Wolfpack goal and assisted on the 2 others (Wiseman and Immonen) for a 3 point night good for 1st star of the game.

My observations:

The AHL dresses 17 skaters and 2 goalies.

The Wolfpack dressed 7 defensemen and 10 forwards (most of the time the spare forward was Falardeau and the spare defenseman was Girardi.)

The only 2 defensemen that skated well enough and looked to have the skills to move up to the big club were Baranka and Pock.

Likewise, the only forwards that had the skating skills, quickness and hockey sense to move up appeared to me to be Wiseman, Dawes, Immonen, Genoway and Giroux. Craig Weller was a step or two behind those guys but he worked real hard every shift, always looked to take the body and was the first guy there to stand up for a teammate.

Hugh Jessiman can skate, he worked hard, took the body and was physical, but he couldn't handle the puck/stickhandle too well and at times appeared to make the wrong moves with and without the puck; in other words: no hockey sense.

I know he lost a year that hurt his development. Handling the puck and stick handling can be worked on and he can improve in those areas but unless this game was an aberration, hockey sense can't be taught.

Robbie Gherson was in nets and had a real good game. He might be ahead of Chris Holt at this time. Talked to a few Wolfpack fans at the game and they all said good things about Gherson and were not as enthusiastic about Holt's future.

In a nutshell, Immonen, then Wiseman and/or Giroux looked the most ready for a call-up among the forwards. Dawes has talent and can skate, needs to work on his strength and adjusting to playing the pro game.

Pock and Baranka were way ahead of the other defenseman and Pock was better all around than Baranka although Baranka was more physical.

IMO, with the possible exception of Dwight Helminen to the players mentioned above, as he is very young and can develop, there are no other forwards or defenseman in Hartford at this time who have a shot at playing anywhere in the NHL.

Lines: Dawes Immonen Helminen
Jessiman Giroux Wiseman
Sonnenberg Genoway Weller

Spare forward: Falardeau: Saw time on the penalty kill.

Defensemen: Pock Grenier
Rullier Liffiton
Baranka Taylor
Girardi

Some rotation among the defenseman with Girardi doing a good
job on the penalty kill.

Slap Shots: The River Rats two NHL banished players played different games. Dan McGillis was was at his hooking and slashing, cheap shot after the whistle best but was not that physical when it came to the corners. Alexander Mogilny, although he scored the lone goal for Albany early in the third period, floated throughout the whole game. The mezzanine of the Pepsi Arena was off limits as with only 1648 fans in attendance they only needed the lower tier to amply seat everyone. Seats we had were good at 16 bucks each. The AHL only uses 1 referee with 2 linesmen. The Arena is easy to get to and the Pepsi Arena area of Albany is nice with plenty of fairly priced places to eat before the game. Parking can be a pain if you don't get there early.

Ron that is a fantastic post. I have seen only 3 Hartford games so I have been reluctant to post, but your observations 100% confirm what I saw. I would add that in the 3 games I saw Grenier had a very positive input to the game playing very physical, not taking stupid penalties and really being there to stick up for and to protect his teammates. In particular against Houston he took out there 6ft5inch tough guy who was working Federov over. I agree he is not the skater or potential all around guy like Pock and Baranka[who just might be the real stud of the team] but having a guy his size who does not hurt the team and brings that physical dimension is missing from the big club. While Pock and Baranka are the talents on defense I would not mind giving a shot to Weller and Grenier to see what they can do in the bigs[I mean a real shot not one or two games playing 4 minutes per game]. Keep up the posts and let us all know the progress of the young players,as I said only seeing 3 games is not enough for a fair evaluation.

Ron's report is some of the best evidence I have needed to show people that the Ranger's future is not among those at the AHL or ECHL but rather among those who play at the CHL, NCAA or in Europe.

I am very happy to see others seeing in Baranka what I saw the last couple of years. IF I was a Ranger scout I really would look at the Everett Silvertips as a source for players especially defenseman.

Thanks for the kind words Brooklyn Toni but I would be less than honest if I did not tell you that this was the ONLY Wolfpack game I have seen this year. Travel distances and game dates have precluded seeing more.

My brother has an A-frame in Peru, Vermont about 90 minutes or so from Albany and we hit the game and headed for the frame and a guys only weekend afterwards.

Albany is about 2 1/2 hours from my home in northwestern New Jersey so I left at 2:30 which got me to the Arena at 5. I work a flexible schedule that gives me a day off every two weeks and Friday was my day off so it made the trip easy leaving the holiday weekend traffic behind my early start. My brother and nephew showed up at 6 and we shared with my friend Michael a large pizza and a dozen large garlic knots with gravy, all washed down with a pitcher of soda in a pizza joint close to the Arena for under 18 bucks. What a bargain!!!!

We really had a good time at the game and minor league hockey, although pricey at times, is fun.

Weekend games with the Wolfpack in the closest Pennsylvania AHL towns are almost non-existent and on a good day, Hartford is a three hour drive. There is also the weekend conflict with Ranger games as I am a season ticket holder.

In other words, it is tough for me to make a Wolfpack game. I am a carded New Jersey track and field official which also creates problems attending games during spring track season in April and Cross Country season in October and November. I can't do winter track as it interferes too much with the Ranger games and the holidays. I am also married (with grown children now out of the house) and there are responsibilities at home and always a honey-do list. Like any other fan, life sometimes gets in the way of attending sporting events.

I envy Jess and his ability to see CHL games and WHL games in particular. I have known Jess thru Ranger Fan Central for a long time and although we have never met in person, would hope some day we could get together for a hockey game somewhere.

I believe Jess is right, that the real future of the Rangers is now playing in the CHL, colleges and Europe. I think HF is off the mark in their current ranking of Ranger prospects and fail to see how legitimate NHLers like Prucha and Lundqvist are rated as prospects. How they have Ryan Hollweg unrated as an "other notable" when he has been with the big club most of the year does not make sense.

IMO, the #1 prospect is Mark Stall and he is followed by Montoya, Korpikoski, Pock, Immonen, Baranka, Giroux, Dawes and Genoway. Brandon Dubinsky would round out my top ten.

Genoway is not even listed in HF.

I think Michael Sauer might develop into a potential NHLer and I am very high on Ohio State defenseman Nate Guenin.

I am surprised HF does not have Martin Richter or Jan Marek listed and think Greg Moore, Corey Potter and Joey Crabb should be ranked higher than where they are currently as they are experienced college seniors with a leg up on 18 and 19 year olds.

There is a ton of good young kids learning to play in the CHL with lots of potential. The only drawback is many of them are small forwards and while the new NHL rules would benefit them, you have to have some size on the big club. These kids will need to play a year or two more in Juniors or like in the case of a kid like Ryan Callahan, now an overage Junior, add some weight and muscle and develop in Charlotte and Hartford.

We have a full slate of draft choices come June. The Ranger scouting staff is the best it has ever been, others not even close, and I look to them to continue to build a promising stable of potential Rangers.

I would like to ask Jess his opinion on Dane Byers of the Prince Albert Raiders and whether his skills are just too crude for him to develop into a first rate prospect and whether or not he saw Marcus Jonasen play last season and what he thought of him. Also want to ask him about Brodie DuPont of the Calgary Hitmen and how he looks. These are guys who are have some size and could develop into power forward types.

Jess I wonder if you could comment about the transition from AHL, CHL, NCAA

some guys who light it up in the minors go oon to terrific careers, while many who do well go on to be big and become failures. Are there any qualities you have observed that help determine who can make the transition and who can not?

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