March has been a very busy month for New York Rangers prospects. The NCAA tournament has begun, and the CHL playoffs will commence within the next week. Several professional prospects have seen action with higher-level teams, and one has returned from injury to assist in the Rangers’ charge into the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers’ Petr Prucha returned from a knee injury on Mar. 12, and has continued his offensive prowess. Since he re-entered the blueshirts’ line-up, Prucha has registered two goals and four assists in four games. Despite missing several weeks with his injury, Prucha currently stands eighth among rookies in scoring with 27 goals and 13 assists.
Nigel Dawes is currently ranked sixth in scoring among AHL rookies (30 goals, 23 assists, in 64 games). The Hartford WolfPack winger was named a candidate for AHL Rookie of the Month in February, and was awarded the honor of AHL Player of the Week on Jan. 16. At Hartford’s Mar. 3 game in San Antonio, Dawes registered his first AHL hat trick, scoring one power play goal and two even strength goals on the night.
Jarkko Immonen has been scoring all season for the AHL WolfPack. A first-year AHL player, Immonen ranks 14th in total points in the league (29 goals, 37 assists, in 67 games). The scoring highlight of Immonen’s season came on Feb. 4, when he scored five goals. Each month Immonen gets more and more comfortable playing in North American and his point total per month rises; thus far this month, the Finnish center has garnered 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists) in nine games.
On Feb. 28, Thomas Pock was recalled by the Rangers to shore up the injury-depleted NHL defense corps. Pock played in two games and registered two points (1 goal, 1 assist). He has played in five games for Hartford since his AHL return, registering three assists and a plus/minus of +2.
Goaltender Al Montoya is having a very disappointing month. He has only appeared in three games since Mar. 1, and in two of those games, he was replaced during the game for poor play. He remains second among rookies in GAA, at 2.60, and a save percentage of .908.
Two Rangers prospects began the season in Hartford, but have spent time on the roster of the ECHL Charlotte Checkers. First-year professional Hugh Jessiman returned to the WolfPack on Jan. 18, after spending close to three months in Charlotte. Injuries shortened his game time with the Checkers, but Jessiman played well with the ECHL team, and continued to do so upon his return to Hartford. However, despite registering 12 points in 18 games upon his AHL return, Jessiman has only two points (assists) in nine games in March. Both of those points were registered on Mar. 4. Jessiman has taken three fighting majors in the nine games this month, including two in the last two nights. Bruce Graham, also a first-year professional, has struggled with his adjustment to the professional game. Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 30, Graham registered 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 16 games with the ECHL team. Recalled on Mar. 13, Graham has played in two games in Hartford since the recall and not registered a point or a shot on goal.
Ontario Hockey League prospects Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Tom Pyatt and Jakub Petruzalek all received mention this past week in a poll of the league’s best players conducted by the OHL coaches. The poll results were tabulated based upon the conference of the player’s team. In the Eastern Conference, Staal was voted second best offensive defenseman in the conference, and third hardest worker. Petruzalek, who has played 28 games in his overage year with the Barrie Colts, was voted second best skater. In the Western Conference, Callahan was named in three categories. He was named the second smartest player, the second best defensive forward, and the third most dangerous in the goal area in the conference. Pyatt, the only Ranger prospect to come in first in any category, was named the best defensive forward in the Western Conference.
Portland Winter Hawks alternate captain Brandon Dubinsky returned from a knee injury on Feb. 17. Despite missing approximately five weeks of games, Dubinsky remains in the top 20 in scoring in the Western Hockey League (21 goals, 46 assists in 51 games). Since returning to action, the Winter Hawks center has registered 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in as many games, and has a plus/minus rating of +4.
Northern Michigan University junior forward Darin Olver played in four CCHA playoff games over the last two weekends. Olver scored one goal in yesterday’s consolation game, and one assist in each of last weekend’s two second-round Northern Michigan playoff wins against Nebraska-Omaha. Northern will not take part in the NCAA tournament.
The Rangers have five college seniors who will soon be joining the professional ranks. Joey Crabb, a senior at Colorado College, played on the Tigers’ top line last weekend in three WCHA playoff games against St. Cloud State University. Crabb did not register any points in the games, and the Tigers lost the first-round series to St. Cloud State (the eventual runner up at this weekend’s WCHA Final Five Championship). Colorado College and Crabb will be playing next weekend at the NCAA Midwest Regionals in Green Bay, WI. Crabb’s professional career appears to be only weeks away.
Ohio State senior Nate Guenin received honorable mention all-CCHA accolades last week. He just missed being renamed to the All-CCHA Second Team, and it was little solace after Ohio State was swept by Ferris State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs two weekends ago. A scholar-athlete, Guenin is expected to graduate and begin playing professionally later this spring.
Greg Moore, currently a senior at the University of Maine, has been named to the Hockey East All-Star First Team. Additionally, this past week, it was announced that Moore is a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, Moore is a three-time Maine Scholar-Athlete, who is due to graduate in May. He is expected to play professionally by summer’s end. The Maine Black Bears were defeated by Boston College in the Hockey East semi-finals this past Friday night, but Moore scored three goals and two assists in the conference semi-finals against the University of Massachusetts Lowell last weekend. This morning the University of Maine was named the third seed in the NCAA East Regional, which will take place in Albany, NY next weekend.
Michigan State defenseman Corey Potter is a core part of the CCHA tournament-winning Spartan team. His one goal and four assists helped Michigan State get past University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the first round of the tournament during the first weekend in March. Potter had an assist in the semi-final game against Michigan, as well as initiating the first pass in the game-winning goal against the University of Miami in yesterday’s final. Potter will continue to play NCAA tournament hockey, as Michigan State has drawn the top seed in the NCAA East Regionals next weekend in Albany, NY. It is expected that Potter will turn pro later this spring.
Mike Walsh’s University of Notre Dame was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Walsh is expected to receive recognition for his four years of hard work at the school at an awards ceremony on Apr. 9. He is expected to begin his professional career this spring as well.
Underclassmen Rangers prospects Ken Roche and Billy Ryan both play for teams in the Hockey East Conference that have received a draw into the NCAA Regionals. Ryan, a sophomore at the University of Maine and a teammate of Greg Moore, had the primary assist on the game-winning goal against University of Massachusetts-Lowell last weekend. Roche, in his junior year as a member of the Hockey East championship-winning Boston University Terriers, had a goal and an assist in second quarterfinal game against the University of Massachusetts last weekend.
Dylan Reese was named to the ECACHL Second Team All-League this past week. The Harvard University junior defenseman responded by registering a goal and two assists in yesterday’s 6-2 2006 ECACHL Championship win over Cornell. Harvard is the second seed in the NCAA East Regional and will play Maine next weekend in Albany, NY.
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