Rangers AHL prospects update

By Leslie Treff

The New York Rangers currently have 13 prospects on the roster of their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Those prospects, as well as other young players that the Rangers have assigned to Hartford, are the heart of a team that is looking to return to the Calder Cup playoffs this year. The Wolf Pack was defeated in a semi-final playoff game last year, and with several high-power additions assigned by the Rangers this season, has high hopes. Their record stands at 13-6-2-4, tied for third in their division.

The following is the assessment of the Rangers’ prospects after the 25th game of Hartford’s season.

Forwards

Jarkko Immonen (6’0, 209) was acquired by the Rangers as part of the March 3, 2004 trade that sent Brian Leetch to Toronto. Signed by the Rangers on August 22, 2005, he had an excellent training camp, and hoped to begin the season with the Rangers. He did not play exceptionally well in the preseason games, however, and the 23-year-old was sent down to Hartford to start the year. Immonen has responded to the challenge by registering 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in 25 games. He is tied for the team lead in total points and leads the club in power play goals with five. He remains one of the Rangers’ top prospects.

Nigel Dawes (5’8, 190) was the Rangers’ fifth round pick (149 overall) in the 2003 entry draft. After accumulating 76 points (50 goals, 26 assists) last year in 63 games for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, and playing for Team Canada in last year’s U20 World Junior Championships, at 20 years old, Dawes was ready to step into professional hockey. After an exceptional training camp, he began the preseason with the Rangers and was one of the later reassignments to Hartford. In 24 games at Hartford so far this season, Dawes has garnered 17 points (10 goals, 7 assists), including four power play goals. His plus/minus is +9. Dawes’ excellent hands, ability to finish, and hard work continue to compensate for his lack of size. His continued his offensive prowess at this level enables Dawes to remain a top prospect for the NHL club.

Dwight Helminen (5’10, 191) was acquired from Edmonton in the March 3, 2004 trade that sent Petr Nedved to the Western Conference. Known as an agitator, with good speed, Helminen spent last season in both Hartford and Charlotte (ECHL). This year, the 22-year-old has taken his game up a notch, taking the role of goal scorer for the Wolf Pack. In 24 games, he has scored 12 goals, including one power play and one shorthanded goal. He has also registered five assists, and carries a +8 plus/minus. His offensive production and gritty play, combined with low penalty minutes, are drawing the attention of the coaches. Helminen’s stock has risen this season.

Lee Falardeau (6’4, 215) was the first pick of the Rangers in the second round (33 overall) of the 2003 entry draft. Last year Falardeau spent most of the season in Charlotte of the ECHL. While there, he registered 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 55 games. The 22-year-old once again began the season in Charlotte but was quickly called up to Hartford. Since his promotion on November 8, Falardeau has played in 14 games and accumulated six points (2 goals, 4 assists) with a plus/minus of +4. However, he has not registered any points and has been –2 in his last five games. It remains unclear whether Falardeau will develop into the NHL checking center that he has the potential to become.

Bruce Graham (6’6, 235) was selected by the Rangers in the second round (51 overall) in the 2004 entry draft. Last year, Graham registered 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in 47 games while playing for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After assigning Graham to Hartford’s training camp, the Rangers chose to sign him rather than send the 20-year-old back for an overage year in juniors. This season, Graham has played 23 games for the Wolf Pack, accumulating seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) and a +4 plus/minus during that time. However, Graham has not registered any points since November 23, and has a negative plus/minus during that time. Graham’s size is a huge asset, but he must continue to develop consistent offensive skills to have a future in the NHL.

Juris Stals (6’3, 207) was the Rangers ninth round (269 overall) pick in the 2001 entry draft. Stals was called up to Hartford this past Monday after playing 20 games in Charlotte. During that time, the 23-year-old Stals accumulated 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists). A third-year professional, Stals played 54games in Charlotte and registered 30 points (19 goals, 11 assists) last season. He spent the previous year playing in Hartford, and was not productive.

Defensemen

Thomas Pock (6’1, 208) first signed with the Rangers as a free agent on March 23, 2004 and was re-signed this past summer. Pock joined the Rangers for six games in 2003-04, and promptly picked up four points (2 goals, 2 assists). It appeared that Pock was ready to join the NHL club straight out of college, which made his 2004-05 season all the more disappointing. Fighting off injuries, Pock only registered six points (1 goal, 5 assists) in 50 games with Hartford. This year, however, the 24-year-old Pock is healthy again and is on track for a great year. In 23 games for Hartford, Pock has registered 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games. His scoring has been consistent and he is playing in all situations. Pock is an offensive defenseman in a system that is not deep at that position, thus could be called up to the NHL club at any time.

Bryce Lampman (6’1, 193) was the Rangers fourth round pick (113 overall) in the 2001 entry draft. The 23-year-old defenseman has played most of the last three seasons in Hartford (he played eight games with the Rangers in 2003-04). In 2004-05, he registered 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) in 74 games. This year he returned to Hartford after Rangers training camp, and has accumulated five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 11 games, with a plus/minus of +6. He was also called up by the Rangers and played in 1 NHL game early this season. However, in mid-November he injured his left shoulder and has not played since. Over the four seasons he has played in Hartford, Lampman has shown himself to be a steady defenseman, who takes care of his own end. Whether that will translate into an NHL career remains to be seen.

Jake Taylor (6’4, 222) was selected by the Rangers in the sixth round (177 overall) of the 2002 entry draft. The former University of Minnesota defenseman, who racked up the penalty minutes in college, played in both Hartford and Charlotte last year. He likes to stay at home and enjoys the physical aspect of the game; last year, he took 156 PIM in 43 games with Hartford. This year, the 22-year-old Taylor has played in 24 games for the Wolf Pack, and has garnered four points (1 goal, 3 assists), has a +3 plus/minus, and has taken 54 PIM (17 minutes of which occurred in one game). Taylor is strong on his skates and can take punishment, which are great assets for a defenseman that stays in his own end. With more development, he could become an NHL third pairing defenseman.

David Liffiton (6’2, 205) was acquired by the Rangers from Colorado on March 8, 2004. Liffiton is in his second year of professional hockey; he split his time last year between Charlotte (ECHL) and Hartford without much offensive production, but racking up the penalty minutes. In 49 games, he took 92 PIM. The 21-year-old is a stay-at-home defenseman. This year in 22 games for the Wolf Pack, he has 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), a plus/minus of +4, and 68 PIM. After sitting in the sin bin for 57 minutes in November, Liffiton has only taken two minutes of penalties in the five games this month. Liffiton has a realistic chance to play in the NHL in the future.

Ivan Baranka (6’2, 196) was selected by the Rangers in the second round (50 overall) in the 2003 entry draft. Baranka played with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey league for most of last year (64 games, 23 points, 64 PIM). On April 18, 2005, Baranka was signed to an Amateur Tryout Agreement with Hartford. He then found himself playing for the Wolf Pack in Game 1 of the AHL Divisional semi-final against Lowell.

This season, the 20-year-old defenseman has played 23 games for Hartford and registered four points (1 goal, 3 assists), including one power play goal. Although he is another stay-at-home defenseman, Baranka does have more offensive skills (strong skating, sees the ice well) than some of his counterparts. His competition has more defensive grit though, and it remains to be seen whether Baranka can move up to the next level of play.

Goaltending

The Rangers have had a revolving goaltending door with their AHL and ECHL affiliates this season. As of today, Al Montoya (6’1, 190) is playing in Hartford and Chris Holt (6’2, 230) is playing in Charlotte. Montoya was the Rangers first round pick (sixth overall) in the 2004 entry draft. Montoya had missed 12 games after breaking a finger on his catching hand. The 20 year-old former University of Michigan Wolverine has posted a .929 save percentage in six games for Hartford. Holt selected in the sixth round (180 overall) in the 2003 entry draft has played in Charlotte, Hartford, and New York this season. Out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Holt has played three games with the Charlotte Checkers (ECHL), making 101 saves, allowing 11 goals against, and posted a .902 save percentage. Holt has posted a .876 save percentage while playing seven games in net for the Wolf Pack.

Outlook

In addition to the 13 Ranger prospects currently on the Wolf Pack’s roster, there are three other prospects signed to Hartford contracts that are contributing to the team. The most notable is Colby Genoway (6’0, 205), a forward out of the University of North Dakota. The 22-year-old Genoway currently has 14 points (9 goals, 5 assists) in 24 games for the Wolf Pack. Genoway is being closely watched by the Rangers coaching staff, but as of yet, the Rangers have not made the moves it would take to sign him. The other two young players that are playing well for Hartford are forward Daniel Sparre (5’10, 180) and defenseman Dan Girardi (6’1, 205).

In 25 games so far this season, Hartford has won 13 and gotten 1 point in 6 others. Once the team stabilizes its goaltending situation, it will be well on its way.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorials staff.