New York Rangers loaded with firepower at CHL level

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Scott Stajcer is one of several Rangers prospects to have been recently signed to an entry-level deal. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Rangers have nine prospects who were members of CHL teams this past season, including six forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender; five play in the OHL, three in the WHL, and one in the QMJHL. In a break from the past, the Rangers have been signing their CHL prospects significantly ahead of the deadline for doing so. Six CHL players were signed to an entry-level contract over the last two months, including three (Jason Wilson, Christian Thomas, and Dylan McIlrath) that were drafted in 2010.

QMJHL

Ryan Bourque, C, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 3rd round, 80th overall, 2009


Recently signed by the Rangers to an entry-level contract, Ryan Bourque spent the 2010-11 hockey season as a member of the Quebec Remparts. It was his second year with Quebec, and there was a significant improvement in his game from one year to the next. An exciting, flashy prospect with excellent speed and a quick release, Bourque sees the ice well and posted more than a point per game during this regular season. However, his size, injury history, and lack of a north-south game may hinder his professional development. After exhausting his CHL eligibility, it is expected that Bourque will spend at least one season in the AHL prior to competing for an NHL roster spot.

OHL

Christian Thomas, RW, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 2nd round, 40th overall, 2010

When the Rangers drafted Thomas, they were excited about his game-breaking abilities, however, its hard to believe that they expected the outstanding season the young Toronto native has put together. The NHL team is now taking about Thomas having elite talent, and given the numbers he put up in the OHL this season its hard to argue with them. With 99 points (54 goals, 45 assists) in 66 regular season games for the Oshawa Generals, which was ranked sixth in the league for total points and second for goals, Thomas topped that performance with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 10 games in the playoffs. Additionally, he was named "Most Dangerous in Goal Area" and "Best Shot" by the OHL Eastern Conference coaches and was voted runner-up in the "Hardest Shot" category. Signed to an NHL entry-level contract last week, the Rangers and Thomas have some decisions to make next fall. After three years in the CHL, Thomas appears ready to transition to professional play. However, under the NHL’s agreement with the CHL, the only way that is possible is for Thomas to start the season with the NHL team. Much of that decision will rest upon how Thomas performs this summer and in the main training camp next fall.


Andrew Yogan, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 4th round, 100th overall, 2010

Yogan is a former top OHL prospect, who was selected by the Windsor Spits in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. A Floridian who did not play hockey full time until his rookie season, the OHL was a big adjustment for Yogan, and it was not until his second year, and a trade to the Erie Otters, that Yogan began to fulfill the promise that many scouts had seen in him at ages 14 and 15. During the 2009-10 season, the Floridian was at close to a point per game pace, excelling at face-offs and distributing the puck. However, the Rangers were unaware of the extent of a left shoulder injury that Yogan had sustained last spring, and it was not until the young prospect got to New York last summer that it was determined that he needed shoulder surgery. Returning to the Otters in February 2011, Yogan only skated in 10 regular season and three playoff games during the 2010-11 season. He then signed an ATO with the Connecticut Whale, appearing in two regular season games (and registering three points). The Rangers are not expected to make a decision as to whether to sign Yogan to an entry-level contract until sometime during next season.


Jason Wilson, LW, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 5th round, 130th overall, 2010

The Rangers signed Wilson to an entry-level contract earlier this month, after he had a very successful overage season with the OHL Niagara Ice Dogs. Drafted as a 20-year old, Wilson did not play in the OHL until he was already 18 years old. First with the London Knights and then with the Owen Sounds Attack, Wilson proved to be tough with some offensive upside. In his overage year with the Ice Dogs, Wilson showed more offensive capabilities (particularly during the playoffs) and worked on his two-way game. Expected to begin his professional career next fall with the AHL Connecticut Whale, Wilson is at least one year away from an NHL debut.


Daniel Maggio, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 6th round, 170th overall, 2009

After recording 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 66 games for the Sudbury Wolves during the 2009-10 season, the Rangers were looking forward to further development in the Windsor, Ontario native this year. After beginning this season with the Guelph Storm and only appearing in 12 games, Maggio was sent home because of team issues and to recover from an ankle injury. This was after starting the 2010-11 year missing nine games with an upper body injury, then a two-game suspension for a hit to the head from behind on a much smaller player. Mid-season, Maggio was traded to the Oshawa Generals, where he played much better, but it is doubtful that he will earn an entry-level contract with the Rangers prior to their rights expiring next week.


Scott Stajcer, G, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 5th round, 140th overall, 2009

Stajcer started the season as Owen Sound Attack’s number one netminder and looked to be a force in the OHL. Upon return from the Rangers training camp this fall, Stajcer won his first eight starts. A couple of bad games followed, but Stajcer played an outstanding second half in one of the OHL games in the Subway super series. It was November 20, 2010, in a game against the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors, that he sustained a hip injury that required surgery. Stajcer did not return until the playoffs, but proved early on that he was back in top form. He won eight of nine games in April, with a 2.08 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. Although Stajcer’s play since has been less stellar, last week the Rangers signed him to an entry-level contract. It is expected that the 19-year-old will begin his professional career in either the AHL or ECHL next season.

WHL

Roman Horak, C/LW, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: 5th round, 127th overall, 2009

Horak was one of the Rangers late-round European selections, in what has become a pattern for the team. After being drafted in 2009, Horak came to the Traverse City Rookie Tournament that September, and became a surprise performer. He joined the Chilliwack Bruins and became one of the offensive leaders on the team, posting 21 goals and 26 assists in 66 games during the 2009-10 regular season. After that excellent rookie performance (he was eighth overall in the league in rookie scoring), Horak followed up with 78 points (26 goals, 52 assists) in 64 regular season games in 2010-11. Additionally, he appeared in both the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championships for the Czech Republic. Under contract until through April 2011 with the Czech Federation, the Rangers were unable to sign Horak until its end. New York signed him to an entry-level deal as soon as it was possible in early May. Expect the excellent two-way forward to start next season in the AHL.


Randy McNaught, RW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 7th round, 190th overall, 2010

The Rangers were hoping to get some immediate minor league help with "tough guy" McNaught with their last pick in the 2010 draft. McNaught played for both the Chilliwack Bruins and the Blades during the 2009-10 season, posting 12 points (six goals, six assists), a minus-six, as well as 163 penalty minutes (including 20 fights) in 65 regular season games. After determining in training camp last fall that he McNaught was not ready for professional play, the Rangers sought a junior team to take McNaught for an overage season. McNaught began the year with the Vancouver Giants. However, McNaught started only eight games before injuring his ankle on October 11, 2010 in a game with Kamloops. Although it was originally believed that McNaught would retrun some time in November, season-ending surgery was required. It is not likely that the Rangers will offer McNaught an entry-level contract.

Dylan McIlrath, D, Moore Jaw Warriors
Acquired: 1st round, 10th overall, 2010

When the Rangers selected McIlrath 10th overall last summer, what they were looking for was an eventual clear the crease, hard to play against, mean, big defenseman. They knew that it would take quite a bit of time for McIlrath to become that player, and the Rangers are willing to give him that time. The NHL team signed McIlrath to an entry-level contract in March and expect him to keep developing in the WHL next season. After posting 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in 65 games last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2009-10 (while accumulating 169 penatly minutes and a plus-20 ratio), the Warriors alternate captain posted almost identical offensive and penalty minutes numbers this season (five goals, 18 assists, 153 penalty minutes in 62 regular season games). McIlrath is expected to develop toward the NHL over the next two to three years. Absent an incredible showing at training camp next fall, a return to the WHL is expected for the 2011-12 season.