Rangers training camp opens

By Leslie Treff

With the retirement yesterday of the 25-year veteran and two-time captain of the New York Rangers, Mark Messier, the team today turned their full attention to the 2005-06 season. Players were to report to training camp by Monday morning, a day which saw off-ice practice and physicals. On-ice practice at the main training camp began today.

Off-Season Signings

The Rangers have been engaged in a signing flurry since the July 30, 2005 entry draft. Their significantly thinned out roster needed bolstering, especially on the blue line, and the Rangers have attempted to take immediate and long-term steps to remedy their weaknesses. Hannu Pikkarainen was signed as a free agent and fourth round pick in 2001 Bryce Lampman (23, 6’1, 193) was signed to a rookie contract. Thomas Pock was also re-signed.

Rangers 2003 first-round pick, forward Hugh Jessiman signed a professional contract shortly before the 2005 draft. Jessiman, one of the bright spots in the Rangers’ organization, is a 6’5 220 lbs forward, who attended rookie camp and will be skating at the main training camp. The team also came to terms with rookies Petr Prucha and Jarkko Immonen, both of whom are also attending the team’s main training camp. Another prospect that was re-signed include Jozef Balej.

Just prior to the draft, the Rangers signed University of Michigan standout Al Montoya to a professional contract. Largely regarded as a future No. 1 goalie, Montoya attended the Rangers’ rookie camp and has been invited to the main camp. Prospects Henrik Lundqvist and Chris Holt, who both signed Ranger contracts over the summer, also attended rookie camp and are now part of the Rangers’ main training camp.

Prospects in camp

Forty-one players attended Rangers’ rookie camp, which was held at the Madison Square Garden Training Center from September 7th through September 11th. Twenty-nine of the rookie camp players were invited to the main training camp.

All three goalie prospects (Montoya, Lundqvist, and Holt) that were participating in the rookie camp were invited to the main training camp. Prior to the start of training camp, it appears that Holt and Montoya will both be sent to Hartford, with Lundqvist starting the season in New York.

Al Montoya (20, 6’2, 193), drafted sixth overall in 2004, left the University of Michigan prior to his senior year to sign with the Rangers. In 2004-05, Montoya posted 30 wins, a goals-against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .895 at Michigan. Henrik Lundqvist (23, 6’1, 187) played for the Swedish team Frolunda HC in 2004-2005. In the 44 games he played, he registered 6 shutouts and a 1.79 GAA.

Chris Holt (20, 6’2, 230) appeared in 34 games for the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2004-05. Holt posted a 17-13-4 record, along with a 2.85 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.

The rookie goalies are joined in camp by rookie defensemen Ivan Baranka, David Liffiton, Jonathan Paiement, Hannu Pikkarainen, Thomas Pock, and Jake Taylor. Pock and prospect Maxim Kondratiev have the best chance to break camp as defenseman with the NHL club. Thomas Pock (24, 6’1, 208) appeared in 6 games for the Rangers in 2003-04, after signing as a free agent in March. During that short stay, Pock tallied 2 goals and 2 assists. In 2004-05, Pock split his time between Hartford and Charlotte, totalling 8 points in 53 games. Maxim Kondratiev (22, 6’1, 190) split his 2004-05 ice time between Hartford and Lada Togliatti in Russia. While playing for Hartford (13 games), Kondratiev registered 5 points.

Of the defensemen most likely to be sent to Hartford to start the season, David Liffiton (20, 6’2, 205) was traded to the Rangers in 2004, after being chosen as Colorado’s first choice (63rd overall) in the 2003 entry draft. Last season Liffiton divided his time between Hartford (AHL) and Charlotte (ECHL) garnering 3 points in a total of 49 games. However, because Liffiton’s real value is not in his scoring capabilities, but in his large physical presence and crease-clearing abilities, which he continued to improve last season, he has been invited to the Rangers’ main training camp.

Hannu Pikkarainen (22, 6’1, 187) was acquired this summer as an unrestricted free agent. Last year at HIFK Helsinki, in the SM-Liiga Finnish league, Pikkarainen scored 20 points in 49 games. Pikkarainen has an outside shot at obtaining a roster position with the New York club.

Jake Taylor (22, 6’4 222) is a stay-at-home defenseman, who spent the 2004-05 season split between Hartford and Charlotte. He appeared in 54 games and registered 5 points, and served 187 penalty minutes. It is most likely that he will be sent to Hartford to begin the season.

Ivan Baranka (20, 6’2, 196) was the Rangers second round pick, 50th overall in 2003. In 2004-05, Baranka played for Everett in the WHL, registering 7 goals and 16 assists, along with 64 penalty minutes in 64 games. Baranka’s performance in training camp will determine whether he is headed for Charlotte or Hartford.

Jonathan Paiement (20, 6’1, 209) has been a consistent performer in the QMJHL and seeks to make the jump to the next level. A Lewiston defenseman for the last 2 years, Paiement registered 65 points in 2003-04, and 62 points in 2004-2005. Depending on the skating and scoring skills he shows in training camp, Paiement will be sent either to Hartford or Charlotte.

Rookie forwards Zdenek Bahensky, Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, Lee Falardeau, Colby Genoway, Bruce Graham, Dwight Helminen, Ryan Hollweg, Jarkko Immonen, Hugh Jessiman, Rick Kozak, and Petr Prucha were all also invited to skate in the main training camp.

Hugh Jessiman (21, 6’5, 220) is a power forward who was the Rangers first pick (12 overall) in the 2003 entry draft. Jessiman, skated in 12 games for Dartmouth College in 2004-05, registering one goal and one assist for two points, along with 18 penalty minutes (his season was shortened when he sustained a tear of the deltoid ligament in his right ankle and missed 24 games). Although there is an outside chance that Jessiman will leave camp with the big club, it is likely that he will begin the year with Hartford.

Jarkko Immonen (23, 6’0, 209) is a hot prospect, who played for JYP, in the Finnish league, last season. The center played 54 games, scored 19 goals and garnered 47 total points. If he is unable to break camp with the big club, which is a possibility if he shows off his skills in training camp, he will be sent to Hartford.

Lee Falardeau (22, 6’4, 215) was the Rangers first choice in the 2002 entry draft (2nd round, 33rd overall). A former Michigan State Spartan, Falardeau played in Charlotte for most of last season. In 55 games at the ECHL level, he registered 35 points and served 52 penalty minutes. He is ready for the move up to Hartford, where it is most likely he will start the season.

Colby Genoway (21, 6’1, 201) is a former North Dakota forward, who scored 13 goals and 31 assists in 44 games in 2004-2005 for the Fighting Sioux. He was signed to a professional contract by Hartford in April 2005, and will probably begin the season there.

Dwight Helminen (22, 5’10, 191) played in both Hartford and Charlotte in 2004-05. In Hartford (41 games), Helminen tallied 9 points; in Charlotte, he registered 21 total points. He is likely to begin the season in Hartford.

Ryan Hollweg (22, 5’10, 210) is a gritty forward, who played for Hartford in 2004-05, and served 239 penalty minutes in 73 games (he scored 8 goals and accumulated 14 total points). It appears that Hollweg is headed back to Hartford to begin the season.

Bruce Graham (19, 6’6, 235) was selected in the second round (51st overall) in the 2004 entry draft. He spent the last four seasons playing in Moncton (QMJHL). In 2004-05, Graham scored 23 goals and garnered 42 total points in the junior league. He will probably be sent to Hartford to begin the season.

Petr Prucha (23, 5’11, 172) was a member of HCMoeller Pardubice in the Czech League last year. He skated in 47 games, notching 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) and 24 penalty minutes during the 2004-05 season. Prucha will probably begin the season in Hartford.

Zdenek Bahensky (19, 6’2, 195) is a speedy, pesky forward who spent last season playing for Saskatoon of the WHL. In 2004-05 he tallied 31 points and 101 penalty minutes. Although Bahensky has bulked up some, he is still a bit undersized and may be sent to Charlotte to start the season.

Ryan Callahan (20, 5’10, 180) is a diminutive two-way player with excellent stick-handling skills. In 2004-05, he was a member of the Guelph Storm (OHL), where he scored 28 goals (58 total points) and served 108 penalty minutes. Nigel Dawes (20, 5’8, 185) scored 50 goals last year at Kootenay of the WHL. He registered a total of 76 points with 30 PIM. A prolific scorer in the WHL for three seasons, the question on the Rangers’ mind is whether at his small size, Dawes can be effective at the next level. Both of these players have a good chance of starting the season in Hartford, if they are able to show the coaches that their skating, shooting and grit can overcome their size deficiencies.

Rick Kozak (20, 6’2, 210) played in 51 games at Prince Albert (WHL) in 2004-05. A battler, Kozak registered 27 points and 185 penalty minutes during his stint at Prince Albert last year. He will most likely spend 2005-06 with Hartford or Charlotte.

Other prospects likely to play in New York after training camp are Fedor Tyutin and Josef Balej.

Late adds

Late adds to the roster included Marc Staal, the Rangers first round pick in the
2005 entry draft (12th overall). Staal, an 18-year-old (6’3, 196)
defenseman, played last year at Sudbury in the Ontario Hockey League. He is a long shot
to make the NY Ranger roster this year, but he is a solid player, and with
time, the Rangers expect he will make an impact.

Other defensemen invited from
rookie camp to the main training camp are Dayln Flatt (18, 6’3, 215) who was
selected in the 3rd round (77th overall). Flatt played at Saskatoon (WHL) last
year, garnering 19 points in 72 games, and will return to junior.

Michael Sauer (18, 6’2, 198) was another 2005 entry
draft pick (2nd round, 40th overall). Sauer also played in the WHL last year,
garnering 13 points in 32 games with Portland. Rory Rawlyk (22, 6’3, 195) skated
with Charlotte and Hartford last year. In Charlotte, where he played in 67
games, he scored 9 goals and registered 30 total points, while serving 91
penalty minutes. He is expected to start the season in Hartford. The final rookie
invited to camp is Bryan Rodney, who is there on a try-out basis.

Four additional rookie forwards were also invited at the last minute to
training camp. On a try-out basis, the Rangers invited Daniel Sparre and Tommy Maxwell.

2005 fourth
round pick Tom Pyatt (18, 5’11, 180) notched 48 total points (18 goals) in 57
games in Saginaw (OHL) last season. He will likely return to junior. Finally, Roman Psurny (18, 6’1, 170) is in the main
training camp. Psurny, a playmaker, registered 49 points (including 21 goals)
last year at Medicine Hat (WHL). Not afraid to throw his weight around,
Psurny still needs to bulk up more and will return to junior.

Preseason Schedule

9/20 Rangers @ Islanders 7 pm
9/25 Rangers v Bruins 5 pm
9/27 Rangers @ Devils 7:30 pm
9/29 Rangers v Islanders 7 pm
10/1 Rangers @ Boston 7 pm
10/2 Rangers v Devils 5 pm

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