Red, White and Blueshirts


Prospect Spotlight: Derek Stepan

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Derek Stepan, Center
6-0, 168 lbs.
Date of Birth: 06-18-1990
Drafted in 2nd Round of 2008 NHL Draft

Stepan is an intelligent playmaker who possesses an all around game and loves to play along the boards and in the corners. After leading his prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s in scoring (44 goals and 67 assists) during the 2007-08 season , Stepan was drafted by the Rangers. This past season he attended the University of Wiscoinsin and posted 9 goals and 24 assists in 40 games as a freshman. Where Stepan really impressed his coaches was off the ice as the freshman showed the ability to work hard, pick up on the coaching and be a team leader by example. The Rangers scouts see his maturity as a sign of things to come and project him to be a future second line center and possibly claim a leadership role upon his entry at the NHL level.

What the Scouts are saying:
“Derek Stepan has the ability to make plays and score goals. He understands how to do all the little things defensively that are such an important part of winning hockey games.” Ray Clearwater, Rangers’ amateur scout.

The word so far on Stepan has been that he is “consistent, hard working and a leader”. Sounds alot like another Rangers prospect who has graduated to a spot with the big club and shown his value to the franchise over the last two seasons, Brandon Dubinsky. If Stepan continues to develop physically and sticks to building his all around game, he could grow into the type of player that could pay huge dividends in the second line center spot for the franchise. Here is some video of Stepan during his freshman season at Wisconsin (He assists on the first goal, then scores the second on a shot from in front):

Next Week: Ryan McDonagh

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Roster Reshaping Continues

In a surprising flurry of  activity after a quiet weekend, The Rangers continued their recent roster overhaul by re-signing one of their core youngsters and sending another one packing to the desert.

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Earlier today, The Rangers agreed to terms with RFA F Ryan Callahan on a 2 year deal worth 4.6 miilion dollars. If you were to ask most Rangers fans what signing they were hoping to see sooner than later, it would be Callahan’s. The 24 year old right wing  enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09 scoring 22 goals and posting 40 points while becoming one of the team’s most physical forwards. The signing helps the team to avoid having to go to arbitration against one of it’s up and coming stars. It also may give the team a comparable starting point in negotiations with fellow RFA and young star C Brandon Dubinsky, whom the team is also interested in signing to a long term deal. The deal also leaves Nik Zherdev as the only remaining player headed for arbitration with the club.

Later in the day, The Rangers moved one of their youngsters to Phoenix in an exchange of  players with seemingly bright futures. Lauri Korpikoski, who enjoyed a fine first season with the Blueshirts (but was recently the subject of reports linking him to interest from teams in the KHL), posted 14 points in 68 games while excelling on the team’s highly ranked PK unit was sent to the Coyotes in exchange for Enver Lisin, a 23 year old 6-1, 190 lb. right wing who scored 13 goals in 48 games last season.

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

As I watched this offseason play out and began formulating possible line combinations in my head, I often found myself wondering where Korpikoski would fit amongst the newly acquired forwards and most of the time I didn’t see a strong fit. It looks like the front office did not either. While Korpikoski was sound defensively, he did not give the Rangers much in terms of offensive upside (much like Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom, who have also been jettisoned this offseason). Lisin gives the Rangers another speedy winger with the potential to put pucks in the net either at the NHL or AHL level and another option to look at in camp (or another chip should the Heatley situation rear it’s head again) if Zherdev is not brought back next season. I think this was a good deal by Sather to get something promising for Korpikoski before his offensive shortcomings became fully realized by other GM’s around the league.

Here is a highlight video of Enver Lisin from Youtube:

 

I didn’t get the chance to catch up on much local news while in New Orleans over the weekend but there were some interesting reads on the web beginning with Larry Brooks’ artcle in the NY Post here and his interview with new Rangers sniper Marion Gaborik here. The Dallas Morning News puts in their two cents on both the Brad Richards and Sergei Zubov rumors here. The Rangers also re-signed RFA Dane Byers and G Chad Johnson over the last few days. The official releases are here and here.

I hope that gets everybody caught up. Tomorrow we will continue our Prospect Spotlight series. If anything else happens, we will have it for you right here.



Prospect Spotlight: Evgeny Grachev

This is the first in a weekly series of profiles on the youngsters currently in the Rangers organization who will be counted on to contribute in the future.

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Evgeny Grachev, Center/Winger

6-3, 212 lbs.

Date of Birth: 2-21-1990

Drafted in 3rd Round of 2008 NHL Draft.

Evegeny Grachev is currently considered by many to be the Rangers top prospect in the minor leagues.  After scoring 40 goals and 40 assists for 80 points in 60 games and sporting a +48 rating for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, Grachev was announced as the winner of the OHL Rookie of the Year award. He was invited to the Rangers Prospect Development camp last week and by all accounts was the strongest skater to participate. Known for his strength and creativity with the puck, Grachev will need to improve on his play away from the puck to impress the Rangers brass both during the upcoming Traverse City Tournament and in training camp later this summer. Grachev will be given every opportunity to win a spot with the big club in camp (especially if forward Nik Zherdev leaves the team) and will be counted on to contribute immediately should he be given the chance. If he does not make the team in camp, Grachev will be expected to continue improving his game (most likely with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack) and will probably be the team’s first call up in case of an injury or in response to a slow start at the NHL level.

What the Scouts are saying:

Grachev is a top prospect with size, a physical presence and good hands. An above average skater with a pro shot and the ability to protect the puck, Grachev has transitioned from being a center to being a winger. Expected to be a power forward at the next level, Grachev will need to work on giving the team a consistent effort throughout the game, but there is no question that he has all the skills to be a top-six forward in the NHL. – Hockey’s Future

Everything we’ve heard or seen about Grachev has been positive so far and it seems this young man could be the one to fill the void of an offensive juggernaut in the Rangers organization after the tragic passing of the talented Alexei Cherapanov last season. Here is a video of Grachev during his award winning season with the Brampton Battalion:

Next Week: Derek Stepan



Gomez Gone

After 2 disappointing seasons on Broadway, the Scott Gomez era is over. The Rangers have traded their big free agent prize from the summer of 2007 to the Montreal Canadiens for Smithtown, L.I. native LW Christopher Higgins.

Gomez, who came to the Rangers after years of winning Stanley Cups across the river in New Jersey, could never find the right fit here with the Rangers in his two seasons on the team. After being brought in to center perennial all-star Jaromir Jagr, the two players found they both needed to control the puck too much to be a match as linemates. Numerous other attempted pairings for Gomez would only produce more of the same and eventually it seems the Rangers have decided to give up on trying to find players to mesh with him, instead moving him out and starting over and in the process, freeing up some much needed cap room entering into tomorrow’s free agency signing period.

In Higgins the Rangers get a player coming off a disappointing season of his own due to nagging injuries but also a player who will probably fit better into John Tortorella’s up tempo attacking style.

 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The other players involved in the deal are minor league forward Tom Pyatt and defenseman Mike Busto heading with Gomez to MTL and defensive prospects Ryan McDonagh (who was MTL’s No.1 prospect) Pavel Velentenko and Doug Janik come to the Rangers with Higgins.

Analysis: This deal was a no brainer and absolute steal for Sather and the Rangers. Gomez is a very good player but it was evident towards the end of last season that it wasn’t going to work here in Manhattan. I was surprised to see Sather actually back up his strong proclamation of changes coming after last season’s embarassing loss to Washington in the first round of the playoffs but he finally kept his word. Not only did he keep his word but he didn’t just dump Gomez and his albatross of a contract, he actually got back a serviceable winger in Higgins and a top prospect in McDonagh (which has Habs fans blazing up the internet with rage towards GM Bob Gainey seldom seen from them) that could pay dividends for the organization now and in the future. This move also made us players in the upcoming free agency period by freeing up cap room to possibly land Gomez’s replacement at center or a top scoring winger the team so desperately lacked since the departure of Jagr.