Back in the Fold: Ray Giroux
BackgroundRay had the distinction of being drafted right out of high school. The Flyers took him with their 7th choice (202nd overall) in the 1994 Entry Draft. Due to his excellent scholastic and athletic ability, Ray attended Yale University. Over a four period at Yale, Ray scored 83 points in 124 games, including leading the ECAC in assists with 30 in 35 games in 1997-1998. He was also named to the ECAC All-Star First Team and NCAA East First All-American Team.In August of 1998, the Islanders acquired Ray from the Flyers for their 6th round pick in 2000. He came to training camp in 1998 and was assigned to the Isles AHL affiliate in Lowell. He scored 32 points (13 goals and 19 assists) in 59 games for the Lock Monsters. He was named
to the AHL All-Star Team for his efforts.Again assigned to the Lock Monsters in 1999-2000, Ray contributed well. He scored 33 points (12 goals and 21 assists) in 49 games. Late in the 1999-2000, due to the lengthy list of injured defensemen on Long Island, Ray was called up for 14 games. He acquitted himself well, playing his regular shift and on power plays. His passing skill was
quite evident as he collected 9 assists in the 14 games. He also finished with an even plus/minus. Due to his speed and puck skills, Butch Goring even used Ray at left wing for a short time.Unable to come to terms with the Islanders on a new contract for the 2000-2001 season, Ray took his considerable skills to Finland. He ended up playing 22 games for HIFK Helsinki and 24 games for Jokerit. He was able to amass 25 points in the 46 games between the two clubs. Even better for Ray, he was able to work on his positioning. He was widely considered one of the most reliable and offensively talented defensemen in the Finnish Elite League.Ray recently resigned with the Isles and will be in camp in September.
TalentRay is a quick and agile skater. He has excellent vision and is a very good passer. He is the kind of rushing offensive defenseman that every team would love to have. Although the left-handed shooting defenseman doesn’t have a booming shot, it is hard and usually on target. His passes are crisp and accurate. Because of these attributes, Ray can be a very good point man.The only thing holding Ray back is his size. Although he is not small (unless compared to the rest of the redwoods on the Isles D) at 6’0 190 lbs, he is not big enough to defend against legitimate power forwards. Ray is very strong on his skates and is hard to knock down. He might be physically mismatched against a player, but Ray doesn’t back down from them. He’s got heart and skill, those two things alone will get Ray into the NHL on a more permanent basis, it’s just a matter of when.Ray’s time in Finland was well spent. He became a more reliable player at both ends of the rink. He also increased his knowledge of positional hockey. Ray was already a very good player well he left. He should now be able to read plays better and respond quicker. That quickness will allow him to play the position and not the body when he defends.
What the Future HoldsRay probably became a more complete player in Finland, but with the Islanders playing so poorly last year, Ray missed out on an excellent chance to show the Isles what he could do. At one time the Isles had Aris Brimanis and Evgeny Korolev playing the point on power plays. They
played admirably, but were out of their element. Ray could have instantly added a spark to the lifeless PP and solidified a position with the organization. He now has to fight for a spot again.Being that Ray is a more well rounded player, he should have a much better chance at making the Isles roster. The Isles starting four defensemen will be Hamrlik, Jonsson, Aucoin and Cairns. Competition for the last three spots will be intense. In addition to veterans Kevin Haller and Ken Sutton, Ray will also have to fight it out for one of the last spots with promising youngster Branislav Mezei. Ray is much more offensively talented than all of them (Haller, Sutton and Mezei).With Hammer and Aucoin manning the top power play unit, Ray could be teamed with Kenny Jonsson to form an effective second pairing. Ray has already shown the ability to play point on the power play, with 7 of his 9 career assists coming on the PP. Paired with the defensively conscientious Jonsson, Ray would be able to roam a little bit more and
get creative.Personally, this one is a tough call. Unless Ray comes in and has a very good camp, the Isles will probably go with the previously mentioned seven defensemen. If the Isles’ power play falters early in the season, in order to spice it up Ray will probably be one of the
first call-ups. As he did in Lowell, Ray will excel at Bridgeport. Ray has the talent to play in the NHL, now he just needs a break to show it off. Hopefully for the Islanders and their fans, Ray will become the next Brian Rafalski.
Next article: Juraj Kolnik