Rangers training camp progress report

By Leslie Treff

On Friday, the Rangers played their first scrimmage games. They broke into four teams and played two games; half the squad played a full game in the morning and half in the afternoon. Cuts were announced Friday evening, which sent seven players back to their former teams.

Fifty-nine players remain in camp as of Saturday morning, with more cuts expected over the weekend. On Saturday three teams will skate, with an afternoon scrimmage to follow. Sunday there will be no scrimmage, instead the remaining players in camp will be divided into two groups, and each will have a practice and off-ice training.

Players Reassigned

Late yesterday, the Rangers reassigned Dayln Flatt, Hannu Pikkarainen, Michael Sauer, Zdenek Bahensky, Dane Byers, Roman Psurny, and Tommy Pyatt to their respective clubs. Sauer, Pyatt and Pikkarainen had all impressed the Rangers coaching staff and had good camps. Pikkarainen, whose contract with the Rangers was filed too late to meet the league’s deadlines, was returned to his Finnish club. The others were sent to their junior teams for the year.

Remaining Prospects

The following is a review of how some prospects that continue with the team performed on Friday.

Al Montoya – As part of the team that suffered a 7-4 loss, Montoya did not look comfortable and, although the Rangers coaching staff is very high on him and he has generally had a good camp, yesterday was not his shining day. That said, it is likely that he will survive the weekend cuts, although his performance on Saturday may ultimately determine whether he will be with the team for the first preseason game on Tuesday.

Brandon Dubinsky – Something of a surprise in camp, Dubinsky has really impressed the Rangers. Dubinsky, the Rangers second round pick in the 2004 draft, came to camp at 6’1, 197 lbs. His gritty style and great effort was apparent to all who watched him play.

Marc Staal – Staal has had a stellar camp, really impressing the Rangers coaching staff. Despite his large size, he has shown excellent agility and quickness. His hockey instincts are superb, and Friday his positioning showed maturity beyond what would be expected of a player of his experience.

Henrik Lundqvist – Lundqvist is almost sure to be Kevin Weekes’ backup goalie and he performed admirably in yesterday afternoon’s scrimmage game. Although he did not let in any soft goals, neither did he look particularly sharp in net. He will need to show more of what he is capable of in the next few weeks.

Maxim Kondratiev – Kondratiev was expected to be a real possibility of staying with the Ranger club and he has not disappointed. He is quick and sure handed. On Friday, he showed off his passing skills on a beautiful goal past veteran Kevin Weekes.

Dwight Helminen – Helminen was all over the ice during Friday afternoon’s scrimmage, putting in the extra effort on every play. Although his puck handling skills are a little loose, and he is not likely to make the Rangers, his efforts did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.

Bruce Graham – Graham is a very large presence in front of the net and often plants himself right in front of the opposing goalie and stays there. He is very strong and difficult to move. Although not expected to make the team this year, his goal scoring abilities have indicated a lot of promise, and with some seasoning, he is a player that may be a force in the league.

Jarkko Immonen – Immonen has played very well throughout the week. He has a very good shot and a quick release, scoring a goal Friday afternoon on a beautiful low shot. His play indicates that he is ready for the NHL level, but it remains to be seem whether the Rangers find a spot for him on the roster.

Petr Prucha – The Rangers coaching staff has been very impressed with Prucha. He has high energy, great puck handling skills, always seems to be in the right position, and skates extremely well. The question with Prucha has always been his size, and although he has grown to 6’0, however, he still is only 169 pounds. An exciting offensive player, he will need to develop some defensive skills to play on the NHL level. If he can do so, he could be a tremendous addition to the Rangers.

Hugh Jessiman – A disappointing day for Jessiman, the team’s first round pick in 2003. The collegian just turned pro was completely ineffective and lacked energy. Hopefully, he can show more to the Rangers’ coaching staff over the weekend.

Other News

Former top prospect Dan Blackburn, who is attempting to return from a career-threatening left shoulder injury, was hurt on Thursday during a scrum in front of the net. He sustained an MCL strain in his left knee. Blackburn, who because of nerve damage from the injury plays with two blockers, will be out for two more weeks. Once touted as the next great Rangers goalie after his selection 10th overall in 2001, Blackburn’s return to the NHL is unlikely barring a miracle.

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