Watching a prospect development camp is similar to watching a gaggle of geese fight over a bread crumb. The lack of form as they climb over each other, swatting at the puck without set plays, or a familiarity with one-another makes it incredibly difficult to stand out and all the more impressive if you do. On Thursday in Westchester, a few New York Ranger prospects were able to stand out.
The first was newly drafted third-round pick Anthony Duclair. The Quebec Remparts forward showed a few flashes of skill in his time on the ice, but he was most noticeable with his feet. While a lot of guys skated hard, none of them skated like Duclair. His feet were constantly moving, as he furiously fore checked. He was picking spots and skating to them and skating hard.
A lot of time, young athletes struggle with their skating decisions. It may not seem like a lot, but when Chris Kreider struggled for the New York Rangers, it was partly because of decision making with his feet. It's important to note a player's path to the play, because if they aren't making good decisions with their feet, they will be caught out of position, or simply blown by.
Duclair will certainly need a lot of seasoning both in the QMJHL and likely in the AHL, but he is a prospect that displayed a unique talent with his feet. The rest of his game just needs to follow suit.
He mentioned after the training session that he hopes to bring a lot of speed and energy to teams he plays for. He also added that he plans to bring offense wherever he goes, and tries to focus on that aspect of the game.
Dylan McIlrath, who started his career at the distinct disadvantage of not being Cam Fowler, showed that he is not far away from competing for a spot in the New York Rangers top-six. His skating will never be elite, and it showed at camp. A few times, some of the speedier players had an angle on him, and blew past him.
What he did show however, was a vision that has not been talked about. He was decisive with the puck, something not a lot of young defenseman can say. Young defenseman fall into the trap of making the quick play too often. Whether it be ringing it back around behind the night, or a weak chip out. It's not a bad thing by any means, it's just safe.
McIlrath moved the puck with conviction. He picked his spots, he made tape-to-tape passes and he made them quickly.
He is also huge.
Pavel Buchnevich was considered a wildcard when the Rangers drafted him solely because not too many people have seen him play. With only 12 KHL games under his belt according to Elite Prospects, there is not much of a sample size for teams to look at.
While it was likely lazily written that he is a lazy player and doesn't have a "high compete level," he showed nothing to suggest that. Case in point: he was in New Jersey for the draft and came to prospect camp. Sure there are concerns, but that alone should show detractors how committed interested he is in playing in the NHL.
Buchenvich skated circles like he had the puck on a string. He used his frame to protect himself and the puck, and it seemed that the puck followed him like a loyal, well-trained puppy.
He also dazzled with some shootout moves.
Among the players management was probably hoping would make an impression but did very little to distinguish themselves was Michael St. Croix. Perhaps on other days he displayed that skill he showed in the WHL, but on Thursday he was very quiet on the ice.
He skated well enough, but he just blended into the crowd of players.
It's clearly difficult to tell how good a player is going to be from a prospect camp, especially when a lot of the players that are competing are never going to be NHL caliber players. It is however a good opportunity for players to show management why they should get a full training camp invite.