Rangers NCAA prospects update

By Leslie Treff

The holiday break has ended, and the 10 New York Ranger prospects currently enrolled in college have returned to classes and the rink. Several of them are off to a very promising start, and the Rangers, who already have a good complement of former college players on both their NHL team and AHL affiliate, are closely watching the collegians’ progress. Below is an update on each NCAA prospect’s play during the 2005-06 season.

Forwards

Three of the Rangers seven collegiate forwards play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association; three play in the Hockey East; and one winger plays in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Darin Olver (6’0, 170) is a junior at Northern Michigan University (CCHA). Drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2004 NHL entry draft, Olver responded to his selection by leading Northern Michigan in scoring with 43 points last season. In 2004-05, he played in all of Northern Michigan’s 40 games, and was tied for first in the CCHA and fourth in the nation with 34 assists. Olver, a natural center, has recently been moved to the wing, and in 23 games, he has registered 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists). His total of three game-winning goals leads the team. If Olver continues at this pace, he will have no trouble moving on to a professional career after the 2006-07 collegiate season.

Mike Walsh (6’2, 221) is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame (CCHA). The 23-year-old left winger, known for his physical presence and scoring ability, was a Ranger fifth round draft pick (143rd overall) in the 2002 NHL entry draft. After a very promising sophomore year in 2003-04 (12 goals, 13 assists, in 39 games), the Rangers had high hopes for Walsh. However, he had a very disappointing 2004-05 (2 goals, 8 assists in 36 games). The big winger has improved his offensive production somewhat in 2005-06 (5 goals, 4 assists in 22 games), but the talent the Rangers saw in Walsh when they drafted him out of the North American Hockey League in 2002 has not really been evident at this level. He must step up his play significantly if wants to play professional hockey next year.

Joey Crabb (6’2, 190), a Colorado College (WCHA) senior right winger, was recently named MVP of the 2005 Great Lakes Invitational holiday tournament. Registering seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in two games at the tournament, Crabb was also named National College Player of the Week by InsideCollegeHockey.com. On the season, Crabb has 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 25 games for the Tigers during regular season play, and is used in all situations. The Rangers seventh round pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft, Crabb has steadily improved his play in each of his college years. He should be able to make the jump to professional hockey next season without any problem.

Jordan Foote (6’3, 205) is a sophomore left winger at Michigan Tech University (WCHA). A 2004 Rangers’ sixth round draft pick, Foote only played 13 games in 2004-05. He missed the last 24 games with an undisclosed injury. In the 13 games in which he played, Foote accumulated 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist). This year, Foote has played in 19 of Michigan Tech’s 24 games. However, he has registered only two points (both goals), and has a plus/minus of -11. Foote is only a sophomore and has some time to develop, however, he needs to improve his play if he hopes to move to the next level.

Greg Moore (6’1, 214) is the senior captain of the University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East). Traded to the Rangers from the Calgary Flames in 2004, the big physical right winger played in all 40 of Maine’s games in 2004-05. After registering 23 points (14 goals, 9 assists) last year, Moore has continued his offensive production this season. He has played in 22 games and is tied for the team lead with 20 points (15 goals, 5 assists). He also has taken the most shots on goal (94) on the Black Bears in 2005-06 and scored seven power play goals. Moore is having a stellar senior season, being used in all situations, and performing well in all areas of the game. Barring injury, he should be joining the professional ranks by next fall.

Billy Ryan (6’0, 171) is a sophomore center, also playing with the University of Maine Tigers. A third round pick in the 2004 NHL entry draft, Ryan played in 34 games last year and registered 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists). He has played in 16 games in the 2005-06 season and garnered 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists), with a plus/minus of +4. Ryan has been sidelined since the end of December with a knee injury that he suffered in the Florida College Hockey Classic Holiday Tournament. The date of his return is uncertain.

Ken Roche (6’0, 207) plays center for the Boston University Terriers. A junior at BU, Roche was selected by the Rangers in the third round (75th overall) of the 2003 NHL entry draft. After poor production in his freshman and sophomore years, there was doubt that Roche would reach his potential. In 19 games this season, he has registered 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists). After a somewhat slow start, this past weekend, Roche scored 3 goals and 1 assist in 2 games against the University of Maine. Hopefully this weekend’s display of skill will give Roche the confidence he needs to continue to produce the rest of this season and into his senior year. A professional career will depend on it.

Defensemen

Although most of the Rangers’ defensive prospects play in the Canadian Hockey League, the team has three that are currently playing in the collegiate ranks: Nate Guenin at Ohio State, Corey Potter at Michigan State, and Dylan Reese at Harvard.

Nate Guenin (6’2, 210) a senior, is captain of The Ohio State University Buckeyes (CCHA). A fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 2002, Guenin has participated in the Rangers’ rookie camp the last three years. Nicknamed “Nasty,” Guenin plays a gritty, in-your-face game. After registering 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) in 41 games, while accumulating 136 PIM (second in the nation), and a +5 in 2004-05, Guenin was selected to be a member of the CCHA All-Conference Second Team. He is off to a good start this season, although in 24 games in 2005-06, Guenin has registered only six points (all assists). The Buckeye has only served 55 PIM, and has a plus/minus rating of +10. Although Guenin has continued to work on his offensive production, and still needs to develop that side of his game, it is not what the scouts saw as his potential prior to the draft. Guenin’s toughness coupled with the increase in Guenin’s plus/minus rating and decrease in penalty minutes is significant progress in his game. A stay-at-home defenseman with a nasty streak who does not take unnecessary penalty minutes is always a welcome addition to the professional ranks.

Corey Potter (6’3, 191) is a senior defenseman at Michigan State University (CCHA). A fourth round selection in 2003, Potter was named alternate captain for the 2005-06 season. Although not particularly offensively productive in his first three years in college, his defensive skill level has been very high throughout his college career (in 2004-05, Potter’s plus/minus rating was +15). In recognition of his defensive skill, he received Michigan State’s Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player Award after both his sophomore and junior years. This season, Potter’s offensive production is up (25 games, 10 points), and although he has sacrificed some defensively to jump into the play (plus/minus is currently +3), this change is necessary for Potter’s development. Because Potter is becoming more of a complete player, he is considered to have a good chance to play professionally next year.

Dylan Reese (6’1, 205) is in his junior year at Harvard University (ECAC). A seventh round pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, Reese is an offensive defenseman, who knows how to take care of his own end. In 2004-05, Reese played in 34 games and registered 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists), while accumulating a plus/minus of +24. Thus far this season, Reese has garnered seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 17 games for the Crimson of Harvard, and his plus/minus is not as impressive. However, Reese’s statistics must be seen in context, as two other Harvard defensemen departed for professional hockey after last season. Reese has outstanding skating and transitioning abilities; if he is to make it to the professional ranks, Reese must continue to work at becoming a complete player on both ends of the ice.

DJ Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.