Fedor Tyutin

Future Forward: Defense

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.

It has seemed for sometime that the Rangers have had a good stable of defensive prospects, and yet we’re only just starting to see whether that is indeed true.  The emergence of Fedor Tyutin along with the signing of Thomas Pock has brightened what already appears to be the most solid position in the Rangers organization.

Patrick Aufiero  –  6’2″ 186lbs  –  23 years old (24 in July)
5GP 0G 0A 0Pts 4PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
12GP 0G 2A 2Pts 8PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
Injuries hurt Aufiero in what needed to be a break out year.  The former Boston U Terrier blueliner was unable to score a goal and may find himself without a contract for next season, or in Charlotte at best.

Ivan Baranka  –  6’2″ 185lbs  –  19 years old
58GP 3G 12A 1 5Pts 69PIM with Everett Silvertips (WHL)
After a promising performance in last year’s world juniors, the Rangers took a flyer on the young Slovak defenseman and drafted him in the second round.  Baranka the sought out some playing time in North America and was drafted by the expansion Everett Silvertips who were coached by former NHL bench boss Kevin Constantine.  The Silvertips proceeded to make the most of their inaugural season going to the WHL finals before their Cinderella run was ended.

On the way Baranka worked hard on the defensive side of his game, beginning to earn a reputation as one who fights back.  The young defenseman appears to have begun to make an impression so far and it will be interesting how he follows up his solid freshman performance in 2004-05.

Premysl Duben  –  6’3″ 220lbs  –  23 years old
20GP 0G 0A 0Pts 47PIM with Jihlava (CZE)
12GP 0G 1A 1Pts 12PIM with Havlickuv Brod (CZE-2)
After a brief stay in North America, Duben returned to the Czech Republic and appears unlikely to have a future professional career in the NHL.

Jayme Filipowicz  –  6’3″ 212lbs  –  27 years old (28 in June)
63GP 2G 6A 8Pts 116PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Filipowicz joined the Wolf Pack training camp on a try-out basis hoping to win an AHL contract.  As it turned out, he did manage that and further cemented himself as a regular in the line-up particularly after John Jakopin went down to injury.  The stay at home defenseman was a solid member of one of the best defenses in the AHL and may have done enough to earn himself another contract if there is no NHL hold-out this summer.

Philippe Furrer  –  6’1″ 187lbs  –  18 years old (19 in June)
0GP 0G 0A 0Pts 0PIM with Bern (SWI)
A late round draft pick in the 2002 draft, it was never a certainty that Furrer would ever make it to the NHL, a year later and it appears that Furrer might actually be further away from his dream.  The Swiss defenseman missed the entire season due to injury.

Ilja Gorokhov  –  6’1″ 185lbs  –  26 years old
39GP 0G 3A 3Pts 20PIM with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (RUS)
2GP 2G 0A 2Pts 0PIM with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (RUS-3)
Gorokhov appears to have no future in the NHL

Martin Grenier  –  6’5″ 245lbs  –  23 years old
12GP 0G 2A 2Pts 105PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
7GP 1G 0A 1Pts 9PIM with Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
38GP 5G 4A 9Pts 145PIM with Manitoba Moose (AHL)
Grenier first played himself onto and then off of the Hartford Wolf Pack playoff roster, and in the process may have hurt his chances to move up.  The towering defenseman amassed an impressive 105 penalty minutes in just 12 games after coming over in the trade that sent Martin Rucinsky to Vancover.

At this stage it appears that Grenier will be nothing more than a goon and will remain at best in the Hartford organization until he can show an ability to get his temper under control and provide more than just his fists.

Nathan Guenin  –  6’2″ 191lbs  –  21 years old 
29GP 2G 15A 17Pts 9 2PIM with Ohio State (CCHA)
When Guenin first stepped on to the ice for the Buckeyes in 2002 he looked very much the rookie that he was.  A year later and Guenin has earned the nickname “nasty” and is considered one of the better defensive prospects in the CCHA.  Guenin is a mean defensive defenseman who added some surprising offense early in the season past, although a late injury forced him to miss the playoffs and may have contributed to his team’s early exit.

Nate has two more years of college eligibility remaining in the NCAA and it appears the Rangers will be content to let him continue to polish his game.  With the progress he has made so far, it appears he has a good shot at a future spot with the Rangers.

Tomi Kallarsson  –  6’3″ 194lbs  –  25 years old
It appears that Kallarsson has fallen off of the map…

Matt Kinch –  5’11” 185lbs  –  24 years old
67GP 1G 19A 20Pts 38PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Kinch entered his third professional season looking to finally translate his junior success to the AHL.  On the defensive side, he certainly delivered, but once again the former scoring ace from the WHL failed to light the lamp and found himself on the reserve list by the time the playoffs came around.  Given the increased competition for spots on the Wolf Pack roster, Kinch may be hard pressed to find a spot on next year’s squad.  Only promotion for some of his rivals will allow Matt to continue his quest for an NHL debut which appears to be a long-shot at this stage of his career.

Maxim Kondratiev  –  6’1″ 181lbs  –  21 years old
7GP 0G 0A 0Pts 2PIM with Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
18GP 3G 5A 8Pts 10PIM with St Johns Leafs (AHL)
29GP 2G 3A 5Pts 83PIM with Lada Togliatti (RUS)
Acquired in the deal that sent Brian Leetch to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kondratiev is seen by the Rangers brass as the best part of the deal to date.  A talented defenseman, the young Russian surprised many and made the Maple Leafs roster out of camp before he was sent down to the AHL and ultimately decided to head back to Europe to play in Russia.

The offensive minded blueliner is likely to return to North America in 2004-05 providing there isn’t a lock-out and will take a shot at making the Rangers depleted roster.

Arto Laatikainen  –  6’1″ 198lbs  –  24 years old
55GP 4G 20A 24Pts 30PIM with Espoo Blues (FIN)
The 1999 7th round draft pick had his best professional season with Espoo, but the chances of him coming to New York appear to remain slim.

Bryce Lampman  –  6’1″ 193lbs  –  21 years old (22 in August)
8GP 0G 0A 0Pts 0PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
68GP 4G 11A 15Pts 50PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
The 21 year old defenseman became the fourth player from the Rangers 2001 draft to play in the NHL with an 8 game run at the end of the season.  The young defenseman showed poise at time although ultimately he appears to still need some work on the defensive side of the puck before he’ll be able to cement a roster spot for good.

Lampman’s strength remains his positional play and ability to tie up the opposition, not overly strong he nevertheless often times finds a way to get the job done.  In his brief professional career, Lampman has focused on his conservative defensive side, but he does have some ability on the offensive side as well as  demonstrated by his overtime game winner in the AHL Conference Finals.  Next season, Lampman is likely to start the year with Hartford with the possibility of a call-up in the event of injury.

David Liffiton  –  6’3″ 205lbs  –  18 years old
44GP 2G 9A 11Pts 85PIM with Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Sent to the Rangers as part of the deal that saw Barnaby go to Colorado, Liffiton appears to be one of the players that the team apparently targeted for the 2004 deadline deals.  A strong stay-at-home defensive type, Liffiton has been one of the key players for Plymouth and got so far as to practice with the Wolf Pack as the Rangers decided what next to do.

There is a chance that Liffiton could be signed for next season and join the Rangers in camp.  With the CBA still up in the air and the prospects of a hold-out very real, it may turn out that he returns to Plymouth for one more season. 

Steven MacIntyre  –  6’6″ 257lbs  –  23 years old (24 in August)
3GP 0G 0A 0Pts 0PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
61GP 1G 4A 5Pts 217PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
6GP 0G 2A 2Pts 18PIM with Jacksonville Barracudas (WHA-2)
There’s one reason that MacIntyre is in the line-up and his 212 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Checkers attests to his role.  MacIntyre is first and foremost an enforcer.  The gigantic blueliner has spent his career intimidating the opposition and it appears he will continue to do so if the Rangers decide to bring him back next year.

Lawrence Nycholat  –  6’0″ 192lbs  –  24 years old
9GP 0G 0A 0Pts 6PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
72GP 6G 26A 32Pts 130PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired  last year in exchange for Johan Holmqvist, Nycholat finally made the jump to the NHL at the age of 24.  A strong season with the Pack lead to a Ranger debut in which he looked decidedly shaky, before settling down into what was a fairly solid, if not spectacular, 9 game cameo with New York.

The smallish defenseman has good puck handling skills and brings some offense, but lacks a little on the strength side at the NHL level.  It seems likely that Nycholat will return for the Wolf Pack next year, though he may see some time if there are injuries or to provide some offense from the blueline.

Ales Pisa  –  6’0″ 194lbs  –  27 years old
31GP 1G 10A 11Pts 44PIM with Grasshopper Club Zurich (RUS)
Glen Sather made a mistake when he failed to qualify Pisa at the appropriate value and ultimately allowed the Czech defenseman to return to Europe.  After only limited opportunity with the Rangers, it seemed highly likely that Pisa would opt for the move and so off to Russia he went.

With the purge of veterans the Rangers made at the trading deadline, there appears to be an outside chance that Pisa will return to New York and take another shot at the NHL, though this may prove to be a long-shot given that he is far from a lock for an NHL roster spot.

Thomas Pock  –  6’1″ 208lbs  –  23 years old
6GP 2G 2A 4Pts 0PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
37GP 16G 25A 41Pts 48PIM with UMass-Amherst (HE)
Pock started his hockey career as a left winger and has only been a defenseman for two years with UMass-Amherst.  In those two years, the young Austrian has managed to put up 78 points in just 74 games to become one of the most effective blueliners in the NCAA.  When the season finished, the Rangers were quick to offer him a contract and immediately inserted Pock into their line-up where he scored in his first professional game.

With 4 points in the final 6 games of the season, Pock appears destined for a roster spot to start the 2004-05 season, but while his offensive side is certainly not in question there will remain some question over his ability to play defense until he has spent some more time in the NHL.

Jeff Paul  –  6’3″ 210lbs  –  26 years old
17GP 0G 5A 5Pts 38PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
57GP 2G 6A 8Pts 174PIM with San Antonio Rampage (AHL)
Tough defenseman picked up at the trade deadline, Paul is no more than a depth stay at home defenseman who will drop the gloves if called upon.  The veteran AHLer may not have done enough to stay with the Pack for 2004-05.

Corey Potter  –  6’2″ 183lbs  –  20 years old
38GP 0G 8A 8Pts 63PIM with Michigan State (CCHA)
US junior coach, Mike Eaves saw Corey Potter as a defensive specialist whom he relied on to protect the front of the net, as it turned out he was a good judge as Potter and the US team won the gold medal.  The young defenseman meanwhile has been toiling with the Michigan State Spartans and is used primarily as a leader on the blueline and a penalty killer, relying on Potter’s strength and willingness to mix it up in front of his net.  With two years of eligibility remaining, Potter will once again return for the Spartans next season. 

Rory Rawlyk  –  6’3″ 175lbs  –  19 years old
5GP 1G 0A 1Pts 2PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
67GP 9G 23A 32Pts 24PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
Signed as a free agent after making an impression at the last prospect camp to be held in Kitchener, Rawlyk spent his first pro season with Charlotte for the most part and quickly established his offensive credentials on the blueline.  The lanky offensive minded defenseman played well enough to get a look at Hartford, but ultimately was returned to the Checkers.  Rawlyk still has some work to do if he hopes to move to the next level and will likely start again with Charlotte barring a big camp.

Dylan Reese  –  5’11” 195lbs  –  19 years old (20 in August)
21GP 1G 4A 5Pts 18PIM with Harvard (ECAC)
Selected for the US junior team that ultimately went on to win the gold medal, Reese was unable to join the team after an early season injury caused him to miss almost half the season.  The offensive minded defenseman finally returned and ultimately scored his only goal in the playoffs.  Dylan has three more years of college eligibility and will return to Harvard to try and get a full season in.

Martin Richter  –  6’1″ 196lbs  –  26 years old
14GP 0G 0A 0Pts 33PIM with CSKA Moscow (RUS)
16GP 2G 2A 4Pts 16PIM with Sparta Praha (CZE)
At one time it appeared that Richter was close to making his NHL debut as a late pre-season cut.  Several injuries and a bout of homesickness later and Richter returned to the Czech Republic where it appears he will remain for the rest of his pro career.

Jeff State  –  6’6″ 235lbs  –  24 years old
10GP 0G 0A 0Pts 28PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
48GP 0G 10A 10Pts 72PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
The burly defenseman took somewhat of a step backward after his freshman pro season.  The stay at home defenseman found himself playing the majority of the season with the Checkers and must now work his way back to the AHL if he ever hopes to make the jump to the big league.

Jake Taylor  –  6’4″ 203lbs  –  20 years old (21 in August)
39GP 2G 6A 8Pts 68PIM with U of Minnesota (WCHA)
After a one year delay to play out his career with Green Bay, Taylor finally made his debut with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.  The rough and tough defenseman quickly made his mark as a no-nonsense blueliner drawing more than his fair share of penalty minutes as he took things into his own hands on more than one occasion.  With the Minnesota blueline in a mess, Taylor worked his way into more playing time and ultimately earned some penalty killing time before an injury prematurely shortened his season.

Taylor has three more years of eligibility with the NCAA remaining and will return to Minnesota for his sophomore season. 

Fedor Tyutin  –  6’3″ 202lbs  –  20 years old (21 in July)
25GP 2G 5A 7Pts 14PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
43GP 5G 9A 14Pts 50PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
The NHL debut of Fedor Tyutin was eagerly awaited by many Ranger fans, and unlike several prospects before him Tyutin lived up to the billing.  The young Russian almost made it to the NHL earlier in the year, but a leg injury delayed his start until after the NHL All-star game.  Tyutin’s first goal in the big leagues came on a 3 on 5 short handed goal and he was often amongst the leaders in shots on goal.  A poised player, Tyutin will without a doubt be a core member of the blueline going forward next season.

Craig Weller  –  6’2″ 180lbs  –  23 years old
68GP 5G 9A 14Pts 86PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
After playing most of his first year in the ECHL, Weller capped off a strong training camp with an entire season with the Pack.  Starting the season as a blueliner, the former Kootenay Ice defenseman found himself used at wing including during the playoffs.

Weller’s versatility should enable him to return to the Pack line-up for 2004-05, paradoxically that same flexibility may hold him back from making the NHL.

Leonid Zhvachkin  –  6’0″ 185lbs  –  21 years old
18GP 0G 0A 0Pts 36PIM with Krylya Sovetov (BLR)
After a brief stay in North America, Zhvachkin now finds himself playing in Byelorussia and likely never to return to North America.

The Rangers have a good mix of defensive prospects with perhaps a tendency towards two way and offensive minded blueliners.  The immediate future can be seen in the likes of Tyutin, Pock and to a lesser extent Lampman, Liffiton and Nycholat, with Baranka, Guenin and Taylor worth watching.

Depth Chart In Terms Of Potential
Fedor Tyutin – The best prospect within the Rangers system
Thomas Pock – Smart pick up, Pock looks to have good offensive instincts
Maxim Kondratiev – Eagerly awaited rookie, the Rangers will give him a chance to play
Bryce Lampman – Still needs some work, but has a solid work ethic
Nate Guenin – Promising defenseman still a couple of years away
Corey Potter – Quiet, yet steady defenseman
David Liffiton – Has drawn some positive comments
Ivan Baranka – Under the watchful eye of Constantine, Baranka will refine his play
Jake Taylor – Rough around the edges, but promising future
Lawrence Nycholat – Smallish defenseman may be able to provide depth
Dylan Reese – Still looking for upside after a season cut short by injury 
Craig Weller – Needs to specialize on the blueline if he hopes to make it
Ales Pisa – Will he return from Europe?
Martin Grenier – Tough defenseman already falling out of favor
Jayme Filipowicz – Veteran blueliner who was steady in his time with the Rangers
Jeff Paul – May have a future as an AHL defenseman
Matt Kinch – Fighting for his job, Kinch needs to find his offense
Rory Rawlyk – Young defenseman has a nice first pro year
Jeff State – Took a step back and will need to come out firing in 2004-05
Phillippe Furrer – Wasted year due to injury
Steven MacIntyre – Tough guy unlikely to progress
Patrick Aufiero – Injuries may force him to look elsewhere for a job
Martin Richter – Home sickness will keep him in Europe
Arto Laatikainen – Solid season, but unlikely to come to North America
Premysl Duben – Fading prospect
Leonid Zhvachkin – Byelorussia is not one step away from the AHL let alone NHL
Ilja Gorokhov – Non-factor in the future
Tomi Kallarsson – If anyone’s seen Tomi, let me know

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