In the chaos of free agency we really didn't get an opportunity to update you guys on what was going on during prospects camp this past week. Below is an assortment of notes and quotes from camp:
- One of the biggest standouts in camp was Rangers third round pick (75th overall) in 2013 Pavel Buchnevich. Buchnevich took major strides last year in the KHL and is entering the final year of his two-year pact in Russia. There is an expectation the Rangers are going to lock Buchnevich up once his contract ends and bring him across the pond. Due to the "gentleman's agreement" between the NHL and the KHL the Rangers need to wait (they don't have to but they probably will) before they can bring him over. There's no doubt, however, they want him here as soon as they can get him.
- Anthony Duclair looked really good the couple of days he skated, but a minor groin injury kept him from skating through one of the scrimmages, so that kind of hampered any focus on him. When he was skating, however, he was impressive. I think he might be one of the guys who gets a look this year. Remember the Rangers have nine NHL games to look at a CHL prospect before it costs them a year of his ELC.
- Brady Skjei -- first round pick in 2012 -- admitted during the week that Gordie Clark had requested he go pro and that he was ready. In an interview with Andrew Gross, Skjei said he was thinking about it but his tone made it seem like he wanted another crack at the NCAA Title with Minnesota. Here's a few tweets from Leslie Treff (who was covering camp) about Skjei:
Skjei with a bomb from the point, but stopped. He looks pro ready to me.— Leslie Treff (@HFNYRangers) July 2, 2014
Skjei is shooting pucks at o'connor invitee. What a quick release.— Leslie Treff (@HFNYRangers) July 2, 2014
I think it says a lot about Skjei that the Rangers are trying to get him to go pro, and it's quite clear he took a major step forward at the NCAA level last year. My guess -- based off his comments -- is he waits to go pro until next year, but these improvements have to be music to the Rangers' ears.
- Of all the prospects drafted this year, Daniel Walcott seemed to open the most eyes. He was very creative offensively and was letting bombs go from the point. He wasn't perfect by any stretch, but he did show off the skills that made him an attractive pick for the Rangers as the draft went on.
- 2014 second round pick Brandon Halverson was also impressive, stopping all the shots he faced through two periods of his first scrimmage and playing very well in his second. Halverson is tabbed as an elite puck handling goalie who can act as the team's third defenseman. He's a big body and moves around the ice well, which helps him make some more difficult saves. The knock on him -- and it was apparent in prospects camp, too -- is his rebound control needs a lot of work. He's still very young for a goalie, so there's no panic here at all, but that's an area that's critical to improve if he wants to make it to the NHL.
- 2014 fifth round pick Richard Nejezchleb scored a couple of goals around the net and made his presence felt there. He's certainly a player to keep an eye on. Injuries derailed his first two WHL seasons and he's expected to be an overage this year. I'd expect him to make some noise.
- Two of the bigger NCAA free agent signings the Rangers made this year -- Ryan Haggerty and Mat Bodie -- attended camp. Bodie was tabbed as a very creative puck-moving defenseman while Haggerty showed off his bullet of a shot. I'm not sure either of them are ready for the big time, just yet, but there were encouraging signs.
Overall, not a bad day for the prospects. Remember, for most of these guys it's their first opportunity to showcase their skills before Traverse City and training camp, so it is a good opportunity.