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New York Rangers Fan Club

The Fish Bowl
by Toby Ivey

Sunday, March 7 2004

Future Forward: Center

Updated 3/13/2004

With all that has gone on this season, the Rangers faithful are desperate for whatever silver lining they can lay their hands on.  While many are happy that the organization looks as if it is finally heading in the right direction, it'll be the future on which the Rangers will have to depend for their success.  In the follow-up to "Dark Days", we take a look at what is in the stable as far as the Rangers are concerned.

In this first edition of the future watch, we take a look at a position that at least on paper, was one of strength for the Rangers over the past couple of seasons appears to be more one of question marks in the prospect ranks with a definite lack of size and perhaps no identifiable first line center in their mix.

Bobby Andrews  -  6'1" 188lbs  -  26 years old
45GP 9G 11A 20Pts 22PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
It seems unlikely that Andrews will have an NHL career although he has at times shown talent.  Having moved over to wing for part of this season with the Wolf Pack, Andrews is another defensive minded pivot who can chip in some goals, albeit on an inconsistent basis.  Depending on how the CBA negotiations work out, it would not seem unlikely that Andrews might find himself struggling to keep his job next year as some of the Sather draftees begin to join the pro-ranks. 

Blair Betts  -  6'2" 205lbs  -  24 years old
20GP 1G 2A 3Pts 10PIM with Calgary Flames (NHL)
A hard working centerman with NHL size, Betts has shown some scoring ability, but is probably best known for his work on the defensive side of the puck.  Blair made his NHL debut last season and appeared in 20 games with the Flames before being struck down with what appears to be a season ending shoulder injury.

Betts has had some scoring success in the minors and in juniors, and is actually the career leader for points with a star-studded Prince George team of the WHL.  At this stage of his career Betts is seen as a 3rd/4th liner in the mould of a Jed Ortmeyer, he'll play hard and do what is asked of him but is probably not a game-breaker.

Ivan Dornic  -  6'1" 190lbs  -  18 years old (19 In April)
54GP 6G 8A 14Pts 28PIM with Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The son of the former an Edmonton Oiler draft pick with the same name, Dornic appears to be a long shot to make it to the pro ranks in North America, but did come over to play for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season.  He is considered a hard worker and a player who can chip in at either end of the ice, but like so many prospects will need to gain size if he hopes to make it to the NHL.

Benoit Dusablon  -  6'1" 207lbs  -  24 years old
3GP 0G 0A 0Pts 2PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
34GP 10G 14A 24Pts 18PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
19GP 10G 10A 20Pts 2PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
Signed as a free agent two years ago, Dusablon has had a surprising rise through the ranks.  A smooth skater, Dusablon has struggled through injuries in the last three seasons, but did spend some time on a successful line with Lundmark and Barrett Heisten before an injury shortened his season.  Benoit is probably best suited as an energy forward although there is some chance that he could score some at the NHL level.

Mike Green  -  5'11" 190lbs  -  24 years old
2GP 0G 0A 0Pts 2PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
11GP 0G 1A 1Pts 2PIM with Florida Panthers (NHL)
45GP 12G 23A 35Pts 16PIM with San Antonio Rampage (AHL)
The number of moves at the trade deadline forced the Rangers to pick up a couple of extra forwards to fill out the roster.  Mike Green was one of those players, flying into Atlanta less than an hour before his New York Ranger debut.  The energetic Green broke into the NHL this season as a 4th line center and may be hard pressed to get beyond that in his career.

With fair speed and energy, Green is not really known for his offense though he did manage 43 goals in his final year with the Kootenay Ice.  Mike will need to show something in the final handful of games with the Rangers, though he could end up with the Hartford Wolf Pack next season if he doesn't add some offense.

Sven Helfenstein  -  5'11" 176lbs  -  22 years old
41GP 5G 8A 13Pts 8PIM with ZSC Lions (SWI)
At the time he was drafted, Helfenstein was ranked 15 amongst European draftees but was passed over because of his size.  Since then Helfenstein has developed slowly and has made little impact in the Swiss League, where he is currently playing as a depth forward.  At 22 years old, there's still some hope, but it appears unlikely that Helfenstein will make it to the NHL at this stage of his career.

Dwight Helminen  -  5'9" 185lbs  -  20 years old
34GP 14G 11A 25Pts 4PIM with University of Michigan (CCHA)
Acquired in the trade that sent Nedved and Markkanen to Edmonton, Helminen is a player in the same vein as his former team-mate Jed Ortmeyer.  Solid in the face off circle, Helminen is a two way centerman who plays hard on the penalty kill and makes the most of his opportunities in the offensive zone.  Once again the biggest question for Helminen is whether he has the size to survive the rigors of the NHL and many feel that he's not up to the task.

But while Helminen does have his doubters, he does play bigger than his size suggests and some who have seen him play are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  At any rate, Helminen will likely finish out his two years of eligibility with the NCAA.

Kim Hirschovits  -  6'1" 183lbs  -  21 years old (22 in May)
56GP 7G 12A 19Pts with HIFK Helsinki (FNL)
Hirschovits came to North America with the hope of gaining visibility for the NHL draft.  His 6 games in the USHL developmental was enough for the Rangers to take a flyer on him in the late rounds of the 2002 NHL entry draft.  A free skating forward, Hirschovits has yet to make much of an impact with Helsinki, but has continued to progress slowly.  Kim will need to continue to work on his game in Finland before attracting much attention from the Rangers.

Jarkko Immonen  -  6'0" 187lbs  -  21 years old (22 in April)
52GP 23G 26A 49Pts 28PIM with JYP Jyväskylä (FNL)
Acquired in the Leetch trade with Toronto, Immonen appears to be starting to establish himself in the Finnish National League.  In 52 games with JYP Jyvaskyla, he has registered 23 goals and 26 assists to lead the team in goals and points, a marked improvement over last year's numbers.  One person who was impressed by Immonen before the season began was none other than Joe Nieuwendyk, who said he would be a future NHLer after he had a successful European Tour with the Leafs.

Again the knock on Immonen is his size, listed generously at 6', Immonen is probably an inch or two less than that and again doesn't have the break away speed that a player like Martin St Louis has, although he may be a little stockier with some sites listing him as high as 202lbs.  There appears little word from inside the Rangers as to what they think they've got in Immonen, but if his play continues he could well be a surprise in camp next year.

Cory Larose  -  6'0" 188lbs  -  28 years old (29 in May)
1GP 0G 0A 0Pts 0PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
57GP 11G 28A 39Pts 50PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Larose has established himself as a reliable scoring threat in the AHL through his hustle and hardwork.  A smallish centerman, Larose puts energy into every shift and has a fair vision on the ice for offensive opportunities.  Cory was rewarded for a strong camp and some solid play this year with his NHL debut, but managed just one game before being sent down again.

At 28 years old, Larose will become a Group VI free agent this summer and will have to make the choice as to whether he remains a part of the Rangers organization.

Jamie Lundmark  -  6'0" 195lbs  -  23 years old
42GP 2G 5A 7Pts 27PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
After experiments with putting him on the wing and playing him in a defensive role, it's time for the Rangers to give him his wings back (no pun intended).  Lundmark will probably not live up to the hype, but he has shown glimpses of what he can be last year and has struggled through a knee injury this season, something that should not be overlooked when assessing his performance.

Lundmark appears best suited to be paired with a couple of offensive minded wingers, something that is yet to occur in his tenure with the Rangers.  He has good vision when it comes to setting up plays, a useful shot and plays responsibly on defense.  The biggest drawback to his game is his lack of strength and breakaway speed.  Jamie must continue to battle hard if he wants to make an impact at the NHL level, and a few extra pounds wouldn't hurt.  Lundmark and the Rangers (including their fans) need to put the past behind them and start to try and expand Jamie's role in order to build his confidence.

Jan Marek  -  5'11" 175lbs  -  24 years old
50GP 21G 30A 51Pts 62PIM with HC Praha (CZE)
A late developer, Marek came to prominence last season with 32 goals and 62 points for Trinec of the Czech Extraliga.  The performance earned him a late draft selection by the Rangers who made an effort to bring him over to North America last summer, but perhaps wisely, Marek chose to stay in the Czech Republic signing with Sparta Praha.  Following on from his performance last season, the playmaking center looks like he may once again draw the interest of the Rangers front office in the off-season. 

Observers of Marek question whether his lack of strength and aversion for playing in traffic and taking the body might impact his ability to perform in the NHL, but his speed and soft hands combined with his hockey sense might give him a chance..

Nathan Martz  -  6'3" 197lbs  -  23 years old
25GP 4G 19A 23Pts 39PIM with Hartford (AHL)
A tall lanky forward, Martz has managed to put up some fairly impressive numbers centering a line of Saviano and Collins.  But while the numbers look impressive, Martz has been more of a beneficiary than the driving force on a fairly strong UNH team.  Martz is not overly fast and has a fairly slow and weak shot for a big player.

Martz will finish up his NCAA at the end of this season and will try and win a contract with the Pack in order to try and prolong his career.  He would be considered a long shot to make the NHL.

Dominic Moore  -  6'0" 180lbs  -  23 years old
5GP 0G 3A 3Pts 0PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
53GP 11G 16A 27Pts 54PIM with Hartford (AHL)
Moore is probably more of a scorer than Lundmark, and has been kept down in the AHL in order to work on his defensive game and to learn the pro-level at his natural center position.  A cameo appearance earlier in the season gave Ranger fans a taste of what he can do when he had three assists in his first game.  Moore has not had a statistically stellar season, but continues to develop down in Hartford and is making the adjustment all players must make from the college and junior ranks to the Pros.

One thing Dominic has over Lundmark is perhaps a little added maturity which should serve him well in the coming season.  Moore is also a little quicker with his hands than Lundmark, but he lacked the defensive responsibility that the Rangers were looking for from their younger players (Note: standards were applied differently based on age at the NHL level).  Moore too could use a little additional strength, and one wonders whether he'll be able to deal with the traffic at the NHL level at even strength.  There's a chance Moore could be a 1st line centerman, but I'm predicting a 2nd liner with some impact on the power play.

Petr Prucha  -  5'10" 160lbs  -  20 years old
48GP 11G 13A 24Pts 24PIM with Pardubice (CZE)
Prucha's main challenge to making the NHL will be his size and strength, but the Rangers brass like what they see by the young Czech pivot.  A quick skater with good hockey sense, the offensive aspect of his game is what drew interest from the Rangers, but Prucha still has yet to break out for his Czech club.

Layne Ulmer  -  6'1" 211lbs  -  23 years old
61GP 18G 12A 30Pts 18PIM with Hartford (AHL)
Ulmer had impressive numbers in juniors but has had difficulty translating the success to the Pros.  Ulmer doesn't really use his size to his advantage and prefers to try and score off the rush or from the perimeter, rather than in and around the net.  Ulmer is having his best year this season and has become known as the player to deliver the wins, with 8 game winning goals.

It seems unlikely that the Rangers will see Ulmer soon, unless he improves his ability to drive to the net and score the dirty goals.

RJ Umberger  -  6'2" 200lbs  -  21 years old (22 in May)
Has not played due to contract impasse
There's no questioning the talent that Umberger showed will playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  To some extent the offense was Umberger, or at the very least built around him.  Unable to work out a contract with Vancouver, the Rangers acquired the skilled forward and now look to sign him before the June 1st deadline.

Umberger has size, speed and the strength for the NHL and has quick hands, useful for converting those rushes up ice and working through traffic in and around the net.  McKeen's Hockey sees Umberger as having 1st line potential and considers him an A prospect.

The center position could well be considered one of the weakest areas in the future of the organization.  There appears some quality defensive pivots, and may be one or two scoring options in the mix, but overall the team will probably have to look elsewhere to bridge the gaps, either via trade, free agency or the draft.  Lundmark and Moore remain the best options in the near future with depth provided by Betts, Dusablon and Larose in the short term.  Of the remaining, perhaps only the newly acquired Immonen has a shot an impact at the NHL level.

Update: The addition of Umberger adds some important depth to the Center position and providing he signs, gives the Rangers a quality forward prospect in their system.

Depth Chart In Terms Of Potential
RJ Umberger - Has not yet signed a pro contract
Jamie Lundmark - Currently in the NHL
Dominic Moore - Likely to challenge next season
Jan Marek - A late bloomer may yet make an impact
Jarkko Immonen - Will be one to watch in camp
Petr Prucha - Rangers like their 2002 draft pick
Blair Betts - Should return next season from injury
Mike Green - Waive claim is looking for a contract
Benoit Dusablon - Useful depth player
Cory Larose - Could leave this summer
Dwight Helminen - Still at least two years away
Bobby Andrews - May shift to wing permanently
Nathan Martz - Has to win a job in Hartford first
Ivan Dornic - Playing in North America will help him
Kim Hirschovits - Needs to continue to improve
Sven Helfenstein - Likely to remain in Switzerland


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3/8/2004 Kubera55 More Centers
3/8/2004 Toby Ivey Roche and Prucha
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3/10/2004 Shut yer hole Don S blow it out yer ass
3/10/2004 Don S... my bitching?
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August 19th, 2021

Earlier this year the Rangers won by a margin of nine goals as they beat the Flyers 9-0. How many times has the margin been bigger?

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