Rangers junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Leslie Treff

Nine of the New York Rangers prospects played in the CHL during the 2009-10 season, including five of the seven players selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Three of the prospects skated in the WHL, four in the OHL, and two in the QMJHL.

WHL


Tomas Kundratek, D, Medicine Hat Tigers

Acquired: Third round (90th overall) 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 20

Kundratek was selected out of the Czech Trinec Ocelari HC in the third round of the 2008 draft. After recovering from a hand injury, the young defenseman joined the Medicine Hat Tigers in late October of 2008. Kundratek had a very good freshman season in North America, and as a result, the Rangers gave the then 19-year-old a good look in training camp last fall. After his less than stellar preseason with both the Blueshirts and the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack, in which he did not show that he was either ready for the strength or speed of professional hockey, Kundratek reluctantly rejoined his WHL team.

An overager with the Tigers this past season, Kundratek was without question the best blueliner on the team. During the regular season, he posted 35 points (2 goals, 33 assists) in 65 games. Expected to be a mostly defensive defenseman in his professional career, which will start this coming fall, Kundratek has a booming shot from the point. If he has gained the strength he needs to be an effective professional player, he should begin the 2010-11 season with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack.

Roman Horak, C/LW, Chilliwack Bruins

Acquired: Fifth Round (127th overall), 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 18

After being a surprise in the Traverse City Rookie Tournament last September, Horak went on to prove during the 2009-10 regular season that his performance there was no fluke He joined the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL and became one of the offensive leaders on the team. Eighth overall in rookie scoring in the league, Horak posted 21 goals and 26 assists in 66 games during the 2009-10 regular season. Horak’s +15 rating ranked third on the Bruins, and he was fourth in total points on the team. Horak’s good play continued into the playoffs, where he recorded six points in as many games, and scored one game winner in overtime, which extended Chilliwack’s series with the Tri-City Americans. Once Chilliwack was eliminated from the playoffs, Horak went to Hartford and practiced with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. Although he did not play in an AHL game after signing an ATO, he did spend a week with the team prior to being released. 

Horak, a natural center converted to left wing, plays in all situations, and has a nose for the net. Horak’s path for 2001-11 is unclear. There are lots of options for him after being drafted out of Europe, and it will be up to him to decide where he wants to play next season.

Sam Klassen, D, Saskatoon Blades

Acquired: Free Agent Signing, 2009
Age: 21

When the Rangers signed Klassen in the summer 2009, they were projecting him to be a intimidating addition to the Wolf Pack blueline for the 2009-10 season. But preseason play revealed deficiencies in his skating, so Klassen was returned to the WHL Saskatoon Blades for an overage year, Klassen played very well in major junior this season, however, given his age (he was born on the first day of January in 1989), size, and WHL experience, this was no surprise. A very responsible player in his own zone, Klassen was third on the team in plus/minus rating (with +34) during the regular season. Not a fighter, Klassen is expected to start at the AA level when he becomes a professional next fall.

OHL

Ethan Werek, C, Kingston Frontenacs

Acquired: Second Round (47th overall), 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 18

Werek was one of the top OHL rookies during the 2008-09 season and the Rangers felt lucky to be able to draft him in the middle of the second round, A character player who is strong to the net and along the boards, Werek has an offensive touch as well as playmaking ability. He participated in the Development Camp last summer and the Traverse City Rookie Tournament and New York Rangers main training camp last fall, before returning Kingston to join the OHL Frontenacs for the 2009-10 season. Werek continued his development, learning positioning and improving strength and skating. He was second on the Fronts in scoring during the regular season (63 points in 57 games), and was tied for the highest plus/minus rating (+14) on the team. Two injuries befell him, however. Early in the season, he was sidelined for several games with hip issues, and in the playoffs last month, he suffered a right knee injury that ended his season.

Mitch Gaulton, D, Erie Otters
Acquired: Sixth Round (171st overall), 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 20

A late-round high-risk pick for the Rangers, Gaulton had a left elbow injury that cost him two seasons of development. Before the injury, Gaulton was an excellent puck mover with a better than average shot. Following surgery to repair his elbow, it was unclear if the young Grimsby, Ontario native would ever regain his skills. Daulton worked very hard and came back in the middle of the 2008-09 season, but he struggled. The Rangers got a chance to look at him on an ATO with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack that spring, and then in Development Camp and Traverse City last summer. They were far from a glowing success for the young blueliner, but he did rebound once he got to Erie this past fall. For three months, Gaulton looked like the player of old. Then, in late January 2010, Gaulton sustained an injury to his other elbow. At that time, he was the team’s defensive leader in scoring, but two weeks out of action turned into four. After his return, Gaulton had only one assist for the rest of the season and the playoffs. It is unfortunate that the injury happened, and it is unlikely that Gaulton will be offered an NHL entry-level contract this summer. However, given his two years of lost development, it is possible that the Rangers may suggest that Gaulton play an overage year in Erie and see if he can put in a whole season of healthy, productive hockey from the blueline.

Daniel Maggio, D, Sudbury Wolves

Acquired: Sixth Round (170th overall), 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 19

Like Gaulton, Maggio was a late-round pick because of injury issues. A right-handed defenseman from LaSalle, Ontario, Maggio rebounded nicely this season, as the Sudbury Wolves leading defenseman and in February 2010 was Player of the Month. Maggio recorded 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 66 games. Named the team’s best defenseman for the 2009-10 season, plays the power play, kills penalties and is a character player for the Wolves. Not afraid to drop the gloves (he took 121 PIM during the 2009-10 regular  season, including five fighting majors), Maggio is one year away from becoming a professional. A big, character blueliner who likes fight, barring another injury, Maggio is expected to be offered an entry-level contract some time toward the end of next season.

Scott Stajcer, G, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: Fifth Round (140th overall), 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 18

A late-ound selection for the Rangers last year, Stajcer had come off a decent 2008-09 season with a terrible OHL team. However, during the 2008-09 campaign, Stajcer shared the netminding duties with Dallas Stars prospect Tyler Beskorowany, and the Rangers organization hoped that this would change in 2009-10 to allow Stajcer to appear in more games. After Beskorowany was traded to the Kingston, it appeared that Stajcer’s increased playing time would be advantageous to his development. However, Stajcer posted a 3.67 GAA and a .897 save percentage, which was not an improvement from 2008-09. Stajcer was extremely inconsistent, making herculean saves, and then letting in soft goals at critical times during this year. He also seemed to tire as the season wore on. Next year will be critical for the young netminder and his future within the Ranger organization.


QMJHL

Ryan Bourque, C, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: Third Round (80th overall), 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 19

One of the most exciting offensive playmakers the Rangers have drafted in the last five years, Bourque decided to forego college and join the Remparts for the 2009-10 season. Despite missing several weeks in the spring with both a head injury and a neck injury, Bourque finished the season 10th overall in QMJHL rookie scoring (43 points in 44 games) and sixth in scoring on the Remparts. Bourque is a highly talented playmaker who is learning the two-way game. Despite the late-season injuries, after his return from winning gold as a member of the US U-20 WJCs team, Bourque’s confidence improved. This led to a more than a goal-a-game pace for the last two months of the regular season and into the playoffs. Expect Bourque to return for at least one more season to the Remparts.

Chris Doyle, C/LW, Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: Fifth Round (141st overall), 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Age: 20

The Rangers have to decide in the next five weeks whether or not to sign Doyle to an entry-level contract. An offensive star for several years with the PEI Rocket, and then traded mid-season to Victoriaville, character issues have dogged Doyle throughout the season. This year has included problems with at least one referee on the ice and police charges originating from an off-ice drunken altercation. Although the the off-ice charges were recently resolved with Doyle pleading guilty to criminal mischief  (he will be sentenced in June), these incidents are part of an on-going pattern of problems the young talented forward has had for several years.

On the ice, Doyle continues to contribute to the Tigres’ playoff efforts, posting 69 points (25 goals, 44 assists) in 63 games during the regular season and eight points in 13 games thus far in the playoffs. But there are big questions as to whether or not the Rangers will sign him or try to trade his rights to any takers prior to the June deadline.