Hartford has a Champion

By Evan Andriopoulos

The State of Connecticut and the New York Rangers have a Champion in the
Hartford Wolf Pack, the top minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers.
Not only did the Rangers of New York win… but the state of Connecticut and
the city of Hartford, the former home of their beloved “Whale”, have won. After a
season of up and down crowds, usually nearing 6,000, the Pack held the season
records for attendance per game in the finals drawing 11,000 and 12,000 in
their last two home games and much to the ire of Hurricanes Owner Peter
Karmanos, who fled Hartford for the southern climates of North Carolina
three seasons ago, and the NHL for allowing such a move. These crowds would
have made both the NHL and Peter a very happy party.

After 25 years of professional hockey, minus the last few years when the
Whalers played under its last ownership… Hartford has a champion, and
it was brought in by Ex Rangers-Whalers player and current Pack GM Don
Maloney.

Hartford skated to a 4-1 win over Rochester in the Calder Final on away ice
giving the brass and new GM in New York hope of future riches with this win.
Sadly enough as the face on minor league hockey continues to mimic it`s NHL
parent many of these players will be gone via expansion, retirement, release
or what have you… but for at least a summer… everyone has something to
smile about.

Fittingly enough former Connecticut High School Star and Hartford Whalers
Draft Selection Todd Hall scored the 2nd Pack goal which proved to be the
game winner. Hall a player that adjusts nightly to Wing, Center or Defense
would have been a nice injection of fresh blood into the “could care less
2000 Rangers”. Perhaps 2001 will bring him the chance to make the NHL with
or without the Rangers.

Top Rangers AHL prospects Derek Armstrong (AHL Playoff MVP), and Johan
Witehall scored in addition to Hall to make it 3-0. JF.Labbe has continued
to turn eyes on himself as a “real” NHL goalie. Labbe has now won two Calder
Cups in a matter of a few seasons. He will definitely make an impression on
the new Rangers management in New York.

Armstrong and Brad Smyth both had 23 points in the playoffs to lead the Baby
Rangers. Both have had cups of coffee in New York but were placed in
Checking Roles at the NHL level in New York.

For at least a time… there are smiles in New York. My personal assessment
of the younger Rangers….and some older ones in Hartford.

2000-01 NHL Interest:


Worthy of a Shot at the NHL Level

PLAYER COMMENT
HOW/WHERE


Derek Armstrong - Gutty Center, High Scoring AHLer #3/4 NHL center
(Expansion)

Jason Dawe - Former NHL up and comer may have earned another shot at NHL
(Expansion)

Jason Doig - Tough Defender No. 5-7 Defenseman
(New York)

Todd Hall - Two way Player, Hard Worker, Versatile
(AHL)

Tomas Kloucek - Future Anchor or Rangers Defense? Tough Def.Dman
(New York)

JF Labbe - Top level AHL goalie. Strong Candidate for no.2 Status
(New York / Expansion)

Manny Malhotra - Full of Question marks, confidence returning. no.3,4
(New York or Trade)

Dale Purinton - Hard Nose Dman, Playing Better. Physical Presence for NYR.
(New York / Hartford)

Brad Smyth - Sniper at AHL level, trouble adjusting to NHL game. no.3 Wing
(Hartford / Expansion)

PJ Stock - Hard Nose Fan Favorite no.4 center
(Hartford / Expansion / New York)

Johan Witehall - NHL caliber player. Should be in NHL now. No.3 Wing
(New York / Hartford)

Chris Wells - Big Center with no.4 NHL ability Now...
(Hartford/Expansion)

Milan Hnilicka - Intl level Goalie. NHL skills no.2
(Hartford / New York / Trade)

On the bubble

Chris Kenady - Blood and Guts Player, No.4 NHL wing
(Hartford)

Mike Harder - AHL Veteran, Hard worker
(Hartford or elsewhere in AHL)

Falling Out
Drew Bannister - EX NHLer, Role Player
(Release-Elsewhere in AHL/IHL)

Alex Vasiliev - Started Strong on Defense Struggled in the big game, no.6 D
(New York / Hartford)

Benjamin Carpentier - gutty player, AHL/ECHL level
(ECHL, Hartford)

Francois Fortier - Smallish skilled center, No room at the inn.
(ECHL, Hartford / Elsewhere in the AHL)

Jeff Heil - No.3 AHLer
(ECHL)

Tony Tuzzolino - Purchase Player for Offense, AHL player
(AHL)

Daniel Goneau - Former prize, but AHL prospect
(Expansion, Elsewhere)

Stefan Cherneski - Former ONLY prospect, Injured "could have been"
(ECHL, Hartford, Injured)

Terry Virtue - Tough team leader, Solid AHLer, Fill in NHLer
(Expansion)

Ken Gernander - A favorite, had his cup in the NHL, now a leader in AHL
(Hartford)

Key:
Expansion - gone via.... that club will decide what to do...

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