Can these prospects finally make it?

By Jon Philpot
What the Rangers would look like if they actually kept most of the prospects that we have drafted over the years? A team with Kovalev, Amonte, and Weight, playing with Lindros, Bure, Leetch, etc. would only make it look better. Why does the team never play our young players anymore. With the likes of Jamie Lundmark and Garth Murray ready to pounce on a roster spot, why does the team play the Oliwa’s and the Rucinsky’s ahead of our talented young players.

Now, with the addition of a new coach in Brian Trottier, the team can look forward at seeing some of these young players finally break into the lineup this year instead of just rotting in the minors for years on end. Ridding the Rangers of the older, slower bums would give it an increased drive for winning and newfound speed we haven’t seen in a while.

There are definitely players in the Rangers system who are ready to challenge for a roster spot this season, as there are still quite a few holes in the lineup that need patching very quickly. Lets take a look at some of the youngsters who are waiting in the wings this year and may very well be playing in their make or break seasons.

Jamie Lundmark, C/RW

Lundmark started off last year in Hartford for his rookie campaign playing center. He looked fairly good, but he didn’t seem to be able to handle the position in the faster pro league and seemed to falter quite often. Once he was moved to right wing, his play clearly increased and he seemed much more relaxed on the wing than playing the “thinking man’s” position. He was able to concentrate more on his playmaking and shooting than have to make sure that he was the first offenseman back when he was a center.

Just looking at the Rangers lineup shows that he won’t make the team as a center (at least not this year), with about 4 players (5 if Messier resigns) ahead of him. His position will most likely be the right wing. With Dvorak out of the lineup, this gives Lundmark a better chance at making the team this year from the start. But it has been clear to him that the position is not his from the beginning to lose. He must clearly show the staff that he is ready to play in the NHL if he wants the job. Tom Renney seems to be quite impressed with his play in the Calgary rookie camp and that is a good sign.

You may see Jamie on the team opening night, but the position is still uncertain. Though many feel he will make the team as a right wing, some see him playing top line left wing with Lindros and Bure. He has the skills and has shown that he is ready to play.

Rico Fata, RW

Many people thought that GM Al Coates of Calgary ruined Fata by having him play in the NHL right away instead of being sent back to juniors after his draft year. It seemed basically true, and Fata was sent to the minors. Glen Sather jumped at the chance to have Fata, an enigma up until this point, for the Wolf Pack and possibly the Rangers in the future and picked him up off of the waiver list before he had cleared it.

Fata has blazing speed and seems to play with a lot of drive and courage every shift on the ice. His main problem is that he cannot control the puck very well at all and clearly panics when he is in traffic. He played tremendously when he was in Hartford last season and never had a fair shot at making the Rangers when Ron Low was still the coach. He was reduced to 4th line ice time and nothing more.

If Fata is to make the team this year, it might be best to have him playing with a defensive center and/or winger so they would be able to cover for him if he gets lost in the play and cannot rush back. His speed is blinding, even at NHL level, and if he does get a fair shot this year, he could very well produce if paired with the right people. This is definitely Fata’s make or break season with NYR, but after playing so well in Hartford last year he might get another chance to prove himself. If he can outplay Lundmark or any other players in training camp, expect to see lots of Fata if he can play the same in New York as he did in Hartford.

Garth Murray, C/LW

Garth Murray may very well be the saving grace for the Rangers organization, as no one else in the prospect depth chart can play the body and create plays as well as Murray can. He is a very determined player and constantly uses his body along the corners and in front of the net. He is not afraid of anyone and will even drop the gloves if he thinks the team needs that. Basically, he is the epitome of a 2nd/3rd line grinder player who will chip in points as well.

Murray may very well be the most impressive Ranger’s prospect this year in the development camp. It also helps that he plays left wing, which is, by far, the Rangers worst position in terms of depth. That should definitely increase his chances of making the Rangers before taking a step in Hartford. But, again, nothing is being handed to him at all. He must impress enough to win the job.

Murray may make the team right away this year as top line left wing, complimenting Lindros and Bure. It couldn’t hurt to have him play at least a season in Hartford before he makes the jump, but with the glaring hole in the left wing position, he might be the best player for the job.

Fedor Tjutin, D

Tjutin’s junior GM has considered him possibly the best player to ever be produced by the Guelph Storm. That is a major compliment, considering some of the players that have come out of that program include Todd Bertuzzi and Jeff O’Neill. He has great puck handling abilities to go along with his large frame and great checking abilities. He not only has the ability to score, but also to clear the crease in front of the net.

Tjutin is far and away the best defensive prospect that is in the Rangers system. He possesses just an incredible amount of skill and does seem to have the heart and drive to use that skill and potential to its fullest. Tom Renney feels that he might, like Garth Murray, be able to crack the Rangers lineup without even stepping foot in Hartford first. He definitely has the skill to do it.

In Tjutin’s case, that it is clearly best for him to make a stop in Hartford to first learn the pro level speed. Defenseman generally take longer to develop, and a year in Hartford can do nothing but help him in the long run. With all the skills he possesses, he could very well find his way on the Rangers as the 5th or 6th defenseman, but he really does need to spend some time in Hartford before he steps in. Maybe he can teach Dave Karpa the art of hockey.

Mike Mottau, D

No prospect has been given less of a shot at the team than Mike Mottau. He was seemingly the best player that the Rangers had drafted in a long time, but he has been stuck rotting in Hartford for the last two seasons. He clearly has what it takes to play, since his offensive abilities and checking should clearly put him ahead of people like Sylvain Lefebve and Dave Karpa.

This is definitely Mottau’s make or break season. He must be able to show that he belongs on the Rangers and must do it from beginning to end. I have a feeling that the staff is getting tired of him and is basically looking for a way to trade him. On any other team than New York (with the exception of a few), he would be in the starting 6. He has all the skills to do it.

Mottau probably will not make the team and will be out of the organization by Christmas. He won’t get a real chance to prove himself as long as Lefebve and Karpa are on the roster. With Tjutin passing him on the depth charts now, that may spell the end for Mottau’s tenure with the Rangers organization.