Richard Scott

Future Forward: Left Wing

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.

Left Wing
The “off” wing has proven to be a tough position to fill in the last few seasons for the Rangers, with few quality left wingers available and traditionally little coming up through the system.  The good news is that things may be starting to turn around for New York, with a couple of solid prospects in the system.

Alexei Bulatov  –  6’2″ 185lbs  –  26 years old
Unavailable
Appears to have no future pro career in North America. 

Nigel Dawes  –  5’8″ 175lbs  –  19 years old
54GP 45G 22A 67Pts 31PIM with Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The only reason that Dawes lasted until the third round of the draft was his size, yet Dawes has been doing everything he can to rub it in the face of the doubters.  While he is not the quickest skater, he is agile on his skates and can accelerate quickly to get around defenders in order to unleash a fairly impressive shot.  Nigel had a great World Junior Championships, despite Canada’s loss to the US in the gold medal game, and has been challenging for the scoring title in the WHL.

Dawes hockey sense, vision and skating could well earn him a spot in the NHL although he will have to continue to overcome the preconceptions. 

Alexandre Giroux  –  6’3″ 197lbs  –  23 years old
2GP 1G 0A 1Pts 2PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
59GP 19G 23A 42Pts 79PIM with Binghamton Senators (AHL)
Coming over from the Ottawa Senators as part of the Greg de Vries trade, Giroux made an instant impression with the Pack scoring a goal in his second game with Hartford.  A scorer in his days in the OHL, Giroux needs to increase his offensive production a little at the AHL level before he’ll press for an NHL roster spot.

Evgeny Gusakov  –  6’6″ 235lbs  –  23 years old
Unavailable
Appears to have no future pro career in North America. 

Marcus Jonasen  –  6’4″ 220lbs  –  19 years old (20 in April)
41GP 12G 14A 26Pts 28PIM with Tri City Americans (WHL)
Considered a project when he was drafted, Jonasen came to North America this summer and was drafted by the Tri City Americans of the WHL.  Exploding out of the starting gate, Jonasen used his size to dominate his smaller opponents before suffering an injury that caused him to miss a good part of the season.

Jonasen still has some way to go before he makes it to the NHL, but now that he is North America he is working on the transition to the more physical game on the smaller rinks.

Lucas Lawson  –  6’4″ 220lbs  –  19 years old (20 in April)
19GP 1G 2A 3Pts 21PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
26GP 11G 13A 24Pts 10PIM with Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)
Signed as an undrafted free agent after finishing up his career with the University of Maine Black Bears, Lawson has spent most of his time in the ECHL adjusting to the pro game.  A defensive mind forward, Lawson has added a few goals at the ECHL level, but is yet to make much of an impression for the pack.  Lawson is probably unlikely to make it to the NHL at this stage of his career, and may find himself without a contract after the recent influx of prospects into the Rangers organization.

Garth Murray  –  6’2″ 205lbs  –  22 years old
9GP 0G 0A 0Pts 9PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
58GP 10G 10A 20Pts 133PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
A heart and soul kind of player, Murray has rebounded from an injury filled year with the Pack last season to put together a string of solid performance.  Not really known for his offensive ability, Murray nevertheless will score some goals in and around the net as he uses his big frame and strength to cause havoc in front of the opposition netminder.

Garth Skates fairly well for a bigger player and is more than willing to use the body and to drop the gloves and stand up for team mates when necessary.  Murray could still use some work on his defensive game, but it is encouraging to see him playing with the Rangers after last year’s tough season.

Pontus Petterstrom  –  6’1″ 183lbs  –  21 years old (22 in April)
39GP 12G 17A 29Pts 18PIM with Skellefteå (SWE-2)
Petterstrom’s potential has declined substantially since being drafted and he now finds himself unable to gain a job in the Swedish Elite league.  It appears unlikely that Petterstrom will make it to North America.

Ken Roche  –  5’11” 185lbs  –  20 years old
36GP 8G 9A 17Pts 14PIM with Boston University (HE)
Roche looks and plays bigger than his size suggests, being fairly strong on the puck and along the boards, but displayed inconsistency in his first year in the NCAA as he shifted to the left wing for the Terriers.  Always looking to get a shot on net, Roche sometimes doesn’t take full advantage of his speed and appears slow at times.

A hot offensive start to the season, cooled off quickly and the Rangers will be looking for more next season as both BU and Roche look to improve on a so-so season.  Roche has three more years of college eligibility left.

Richard Scott  –  6’2″ 205lbs  –  25 years old
49GP 3G 11A 14Pts 18PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
There’s not much question as to why Scott is in the line-up, and that’s simply his ability to provide some toughness.  Scott returned to the NHL this season, but had his season ended at the end of an Eric Cairns punch, yet another serious injury in recent seasons that may now put his career in jeopardy.

Scott will take this summer to attempt to recover from post concussion syndrome and may find himself a free agent if he chooses not to retire.

Juris Stals  –  6’3″ 210lbs  –  21 years old (22 in April)
49GP 3G 11A 14Pts 18PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
A smooth skating forward with good size, Stals drew enough attention at training camp to get an extended look and a pro contract.  Stals has struggled on the offensive side though this season and found himself a victim of the numbers as the Pack set their playoff roster this week.

Stals does not have great hands or a strong shot which will continue to limit his ability to step up to the next level.  Some additional work in the gym might help, but at this stage it seems unlikely that Stals will become and NHL player.

Mike Walsh  –  6’2″ 194lbs  –  21 years old
35GP 11G 9A 20Pts 44PIM with Notre Dame (CCHA)
A sizable forward with an unusual skating style, the Rangers feel they may have a power forward prospect in the making in Walsh.  Has okay speed and is willing to mix it up in and around the net where he gets the most mileage.

Walsh had a forgettable debut season in the NHL, breaking his jaw and missing much of the year before finishing goalless for the season.  Eager to back in the swing, Walsh started the year with some much needed finishing before slowing down as the year progressed.

Chad Wiseman  –  6’0″ 190lbs  –  22 years old (23 later this month)
4GP 1G 0A 1Pts 0PIM with New York Rangers (NHL)
55GP 21G 23A 44Pts 41PIM with Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Coming over this summer from San Jose, Wiseman is yet to earn a regular job in the NHL, but has continued to improve his odds by switching to the left wing.  Chad earned an AHL all-star berth this year with a great season, and leads the Pack in goals and points.  Wiseman has good speed and is starting to show a goal scoring ability that was not necessarily evident in his junior career.

Wiseman will need to continue to improve his defense and play away from the puck but could challenge for a roster spot with the Rangers next season.

Summary
Many of these players have made the switch from center to the left wing (including Jonasen, Wiseman and Roche) in order to gain playing time and fill roster gaps.  The Rangers as a result look to have several players who could make it to the big leagues and to contribute.

Depth Chart In Terms Of Potential
Nigel Dawes – Solid prospect trying to overcome height questions
Garth Murray – Trying to establish himself with the Rangers
Chad Wiseman – Has now played 8 NHL games in two seasons
Alexandre Giroux – Will look to make the jump to the NHL next season
Marcus Jonasen – Solid start cut short by injury
Mike Walsh – Shows some signs of what he might be capable of
Ken Roche – Will be looking to improve next season
Richard Scott – Career now in jeopardy
Juris Stals – Needs to work on his puck handling and shot
Lucas Lawson – Needs to make it out of the ECHL first
Pontus Petterstrom – Will undoubtedly stay in Europe
Alexei Bulatov – Will remain in Russia
Evgeny Gusakov- Like Petterstrom and Bulatov, unlikely to make the transition to North America

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