When the Wolf Pack took the ice in Cromwell tonight, there were very few players who were on last year’s team. Yet, after initially looking a little tentative, they took over the game and defeated the Sharks 5-2.
Goals for Hartford were scored by ex-Rangers prospect Brodie Dupont, Tyler Gjurich, and Brandon Hynes (2). Michael St. Croix then topped off the victory with an empty netter with 39 seconds left in the game. Worcester goals were potted by Josh Kidd and Marek Viedensky.
The game really was not close, as toward the end of the first period, the Wolf Pack took over the play and never looked back. It was the third and the fourth line that did most of the scoring, with two goals from the third and one from the fourth line. The team played short one skilled forward, after Angelo Esposito was hit hard early in the first period and did not return. Had that not happened, the Pack might have won by an even larger margin, as the other members of that second line were going well tonight.
The lines for the game:
Starters: Ryan Bourque/Brodie Dupont/Shawn O’Donnell
Josh Nicholls/Angelo Esposito/Michael St. Croix
Andrew Rowe/Sean Ambrosie/Brandon Hynes
Jason Wilson/Jean-Phillip Chabot/Tyler Gjurich
Starters: Brendon Nash/Sam Noreau
Brad Cole/Charlie Dodero
Mike Marcou/Bretton Stamler
Starting: Jeff Malcolm
The first thing you will notice regarding this lineup is how few names you have ever heard of. Many of these players are new and on either ATOs or PTOs. In other words, they are playing for a contract during the pre-season. With probably another five to seven players coming back to Hartford during or soon after the weekend, several of these guys will not be here next week. So, it is no wonder that the level of intensity was high tonight.
Let’s focus on a few of players that either stood out or are Rangers’ prospects:
Malcolm: We should all agree that without Malcolm, Yale would never have won the NCAAs last season. I am not an NCAA expert, but its not likely that the Elis will repeat this year without him. Malcolm, who signed an AHL contract in July, is looking for a job at this level, and although, with Cam Talbot coming back and Jason Missiaen here, Malcolm is likely to play in the ECHL to start, he played well tonight. Malcolm uses his height very well and is very quick, and he is willing to stop the puck with any part of his body (tonight he stopped one of the pucks with his head), but generally the former Eli plays too deep in net and moves around too much. Malcolm does not go out to challenge the shooter often (even though when he does, he is successful), and sometimes, he goes down too early. He has the potential though to be a successful goalie at this level though and with some goalie coaching by Benoit Allaire, Malcolm could be an NHL prospect.
Noreau: Noreau is a work in progress. Tonight, he often got caught out of position, but is he very good with his very long hockey stick. At 6’5″, Noreau has an excellent wingspan, and he knows how to place his stick in a position to break up plays. Several times, I saw an opposing player go around Noreau and for him to reach back and in and break up the play. I am not sure that this would work at the NHL level, but the rookie will have a couple of years to learn more about playing D–maybe at this level, maybe in Greenville.
Bourque–He played in all situations tonight. There is no question that Bourque has the speed to play at this level. He made a couple of beautiful moves and excellent passes, where his teammate shot the puck and either missed the net or it resulted in a save. He was very active tonight and played very well with returning player Brodie Dupont. They seemed to have chemistry, which likely will be explored further in coming games. Bourque’s challenge seems to be strength on the puck. He is easily knocked over and the puck stripped from him–when he is caught by a defender. He has his work cut out for him in this contract year, but he does have a chance if he can build more upper body strength.
Dupont–The former Rangers’ draftee is back on a PTO and should earn himself a contract for the season. A good AHL veteran leader, Dupont brings both face off ability and maturity and leadership to this young team–not to mention offensive production. He could be the next captain of the Wolf Pack.
St. Croix–St. Croix scored an empty netter and assisted on the other third period tally (by Hynes). He seems to attract the puck and to make things happen with it. We shall have to see what happens when he has a full complement of skill players on his line, but St. Croix has the potential to stand out this year and get a real chance with the NHL team nexgt season.
Nicholls–No points, no mention anywhere, but he showed very good ice awareness and hockey IQ tonight. Nicholls did the little things that do not show up on the scoresheet. I was very impressed with his awareness and poise on the ice.
Hynes–Here on an ATO after completing 5 years in the Q, Hynes is a very small player, who has great hands and a nose for the net. He can be explosive and has a high hockey IQ. Hynes can finish and can wind up being one of the go to guys on this team. Expect Hartford to sign him before the beginning of the season.
Just a final word–Rangers prospects Kyle Jean and Scott Stajcer were scratched tonight due to injury.
See you tomorrow night in Hartford. You can also follow me on twitter @HFNYRANGERS.