The annual eight-team prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan has come and gone once again. This year’s champions, the Minnesota Wild, finished with a perfect 4-0 record edging the Rangers’ prospects 5-4 on their way to defeating the host Detroit Red Wings in the final game.
Although they finished fifth in the eight-team tournament, the Rangers are pleased with the play of their young talent. In the final game for the Blueshirts in Traverse City, the up-and-coming stars opened up the scoring floodgates against the Dallas Stars, putting up seven goals and allowing only two on 27 shots.
The impressive scoring clinic was shared between seven different goal-scorers. In the first period Andrew Yogan and Derek Stepan put the Rangers up 2-0 off the bat. Adding two more in the second was Jason Bast and Sam Klassen. The unrelenting offensive onslaught continued in the third where three more goals were added by Jason Wilson, Evgeny Grachev and Ethen Werek. Goaltender Scott Stajcer finished the day with 25 saves securing the victory.
“I saw some pretty good things there especially in terms of how they played with the lead and managed the score,” said Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander, who coached the Rangers prospects. “They were watching out for one another and everybody had one another’s back. I think these kids did a good job of playing as a team tonight, and hopefully, in the future they will play together quite a bit.”
Stepan, who was recently named the number 16 ranked hockey prospect by the 2010 Hockey News Future Watch edition, had an excellent tournament scoring four points in the Rangers’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a three point game just days later.
“I felt in the zone all week, to be honest,” Stepan said. “I think it was just from signing this summer and then itching to get back into playing games. You play summer hockey all summer, but it’s just not the same. You’ve got to be able to play against guys with different jerseys on and stuff like that. I was just itching to get back in the game and it was a great tournament to get my feet wet.”
Both Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath had great performances as well finishing with a plus-4 rating and contributing in the scoring when needed.
Overall the Rangers saw what they needed to see from their young players in this tournament. Which of these players will be on the ice in the regular season is still a question, but I would not be surprised if Stepan gets a shot at the second line from the ability and effort he has shown. McDonagh and McIlrath are two of the most promising prospects in the Rangers’ organization and I’m sure we’ll see them in action during the 2010-11 season.