Questions from readers

By Michael Theodore
The past four seasons have all started with the same glimmer of hope, an improved roster and the long awaited end to the Rangers playoff layoff. This year however there is no big name signing, no huge blockbuster trade, and importantly no lofty expectations. There is however something that is at least partially refreshing, the first legitimate chance to phase in some prospects without the fear that they were being rushed.

Jamie Lundmark and Pavel Brendl have both graduated from Juniors and both will once again get long looks in camp. Lundmark is stronger then ever and so far in rookie camp has looked extremely sharp and poised to make it to the show this season, whether it is straight out of the gate or as a call up later will remain to be seen. The swift skating center checked into the rookie camp at muscular 195 pounds, most of which was concentrated in his upper body. Jamie’s body has finally matured enough for him to carry the extra weight without slowing down any or drastically changing his game. Still {as predicted} his eventual playing weight figures to be in the 200 pound region as it would best serve him as a big league center. Jamie didn’t wait for the rookie camp to get into shape and it’s paid off, he’s the best conditioned prospect there and figures to possibly even challenge for the team fitness award as well.

Pavel Brendl on the other hand figures to need the rookie camp just to get ready for the regular camp. The enigmatic winger is exactly the type of player the camp was developed for. Brendl probably will never be a fitness champion, but you would honestly guess that after all this time he’d learn to at least not get too out of shape in the off season. Instead Brendl came in at around 220 and now must get down to 210, another further concern that this kid might not live up to the hype. Simply put, Brendl has more skill then any player not playing in the NHL yet the main reason he isn’t playing is because he just doesn’t get it? Whether or not he understands is entirely up to him.

Some Questions from the readers:

1. What would fair value be and what do you think will most possibly happen between the Rangers and Flyers? Lindros for Mike Mottau, Pavel Brendl, Garth Murray and Dominic Moore or is Lindros for Mottau, Patrick Leahy, Layne Ulmer, David Inman?

Well to be honest with you, both are highly unlikely. The Rangers for one aren’t going to pay too much for Lindros and it especially won’t involve that many players. I think it will probably take a forward and a defenseman to land Lindros but I am not so sure the Rangers are taking that direction, I think Jason Allison has them watering at the mouth a lot more then Lindros at the moment.

2. What’s your assessment of Low. Is there someone else out there you’ll rather see behind the Ranger bench to coach a young team? Also, is Holmqvist good enough to be back up or should NYR go after Chris Tererri?

I think Ron Low has done a solid job of leading this team so far. Let’s face it, this team wouldn’t have done any better with anyone else behind the bench. I think people were hard on Low because of the high expectations of this season, expectations that weren’t close to realistic. You also must realize that Low was working with a defense who lacked experience and was fairly young. People got on Low  because of various reasons from not having Brendl and Lundmark make the team to hurting Mike York and both of those complaints are absurd. Neither Lundmark nor Brendl “made” the team last year, it’s as simple as that. Lundmark hit a whole new level last year and Brendl needed to grow up. It shouldn’t be overlooked that Radek Dvorak and Jan Hlavac both because legit scoring threats under Low, that Thomas Kloucek became an NHL player and that Manny Malhotra finally appears to have his niche in the NHL. Say what you will about York but his ice time was almost identical to his rookie seasons, and possibly that rookie season was about his top end. Coming out of college no one expected that kid of scoring from the 5’9, 180 pound York and seeing him play the full 82 game schedule was amazing. York is very talented but he is also very small and playing in the Eastern conference. While it’s possible he did have an off year, one most also consider that quite possibly his rookie year was an aberration on what might be a solid though unspectacular career.

As for the goaltending situation I feel that Holmqvist is as talented as any of the goalies the Rangers have and stands a good chance. His first year of playing pro makes him that much more prepared and NHL ready. He didn’t light the world on fire last season but he also had some young and developing defenseman in front of him. I’d give Holmqvist the inside track right now but that can change by the time the season starts. As for Chris Tererri he is an option if none of the youngsters prove ready, but he is definitely a last resort.

5. You don’t seem to be a big fan of Mike York why is that?

It’s not that I am not a fan of his, it’s just I think that his rookie year might have set unfair comparisons for him. I think he has a ton of talent but at 5’9, 180 pounds I don’t know how long he’ll last in the NHL, specifically in the Eastern conference. I think he will be a solid contributor but that his 56 points from the 2000 season might also be his top end. Coming out of college not many people expected that kind of output from him and I was taken by surprise by it as well. Don’t get me wrong I like Mike York but I don’t know if can last in the Eastern conference and if he really fits into long term plans for the Rangers.

6. How big are Jamie Lundmark and the other Ranger prospects right now?

Well Lundmark checks in at around 6’0, 195 and has physically matured since draft day. His playing weight at the start of his draft year was 174 and by draft day he was up to 180. Last year he checked into camp at 185 and this year figures to enter the season close to 200 which should be about his max weight. He was seen as a needing time back when he was drafted and I felt he’d play at around 200, to which many people thought I was crazy. Well, two years later it’s looking more like 200 seems accurate. In terms of size development it is comparable to the way Tony Amonte and Jeremy Roenick grew. As for Pavel Brendl he should play at around 210 and checks in at close to 6’2. Manny Malhotra is probably bigger then listed and is probably closer to 6’3, 215. Filip Novak is around 188 and figures to play at around 205. Mike Mottau is around 200, Dan Blackburn is around 185 and Jason Labarbera checked in at 212 which is very good for the prospect who actually won the backup job during last year’s camp.

7. What type of player do you Novak becoming in time?

I don’t think he is top defenseman but he should be a solid top three type of guy. He is a superior version of Kim Johnsson and maybe similar to a Matt Schneider.

8. Do you think Thomas Kloucek can really develop into a Scott Stevens type?

Yes and no. He can be a dominate version of Scott Stevens in his later years when his offense wasn’t as much a force in his game, but he’ll never put up the numbers Stevens did in the 80′s and early 90′s. Still Kloucek is bigger then Stevens in time might actually turn out to be a more dangerous hitter if you can believe that. I don’t see his injury hurting him as much as some people think, granted I don’t think we’ll see him reach the top of his game till late in the season I still believe he is the physical mobile defenseman that EVERY team needs in this league.

9. Why Jamie Lundmark over Pavel Brendl in your ranking?

It’s simply that I believe Lundmark stands a better chance of making the NHL. Brendl has all the talent in the world but his head isn’t screwed on right. Lundmark works hard everynight and when he doesn’t score he chips in other ways, if you take Brendl off the score sheet you might as well have replaced him with the stickboy in your lineup. I think Lundmark has proven again this off season that he is mature and willing to work to make it to the big leagues and stay there. Jamie can do just about anything you ask including put up points. Two years ago I stated that Lundmark could play Ryan Smyth to Brendl as Jason Bonsignore and I still stand by that statement {even though I’ve seen it copied by certain journalists for major newspapers who will remain nameless at this time}.

10. What do you see Jamie Lundmark’s future as in the NHL?

Well I think he is a definite top 9 forward at the very least and very likely a front line center. Say what you will about his size but at 6’0, 200 pounds he will be okay just so long as the Rangers actually have a checking center to throw at the other teams big boys, but then again it doesn’t matter if you’re first line center is 5’11 or 6’5 you need that anyway.

11. What are your impressions on Garth Murray?

I think he is hard working center, albeit not the most talented. Still I think he has a future as an winger rather then a center in the NHL and should be a solid third line contributor similar to a poor man’s Adam Graves only with more size.

12. What do you think of Malhotra’s move to the wing? Good or bad?

I think it is where he belongs. I don’t think he is a center in the NHL but I do think he can make a very good second/third line winger who if paired with a creative center can net 20, maybe 25 goals and create room for him and protect him from time to time. He isn’t a star nor was he ever considered one, but he is a solid player who adds speed, size and versatility to a lineup.

13. Who are your sleepers for the Rangers?

Dominic Moore is definitely one of them. He isn’t very big nor is he flashy but he gets the job done and gives it his all. If David Inman played like Moore, Inman would be an NHL player already. I think he could jump from college to the NHL when he is done. I also like Nathan Martz a lot and I’d advice keeping an eye on him. He is a big kid with raw skills and as he develops you could see a very impressive physical specimen arrive for the Rangers.