Looking At Day Two Of The 2020 NHL Draft

Will Cuylle of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images

Day two of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft turned out to be a mostly solid day by the New York Rangers. There was some addition by subtraction but also so reaches and a couple of picks that clearly must be viewed as projects.

If you were looking for a draft where the Rangers addressed all their needs, then you were disappointed. Still, as much as I am no fan of Jeff Gorton, he and his staff deserve some stick taps for a job that was mostly well done.

The Rangers started day two with no pick in the second round but took care of that by sending Lias Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings for the 60th pick in the draft. The Rangers then used that pick on offensive weapon left wing William Cuylle of the Windsor Spitfires.

Cuylle a 6’3 203 power forward likes to play a physical game but stresses that he isn’t a guy who plays dirty despite citing Tom Wilson as one of his role models. The best thing to like about Cuylle is that he hasn’t met a shot that he wasn’t afraid to take.

Whether it is off the rush, a set play, on the power play or any situation, if Cuylle sees a chance to shoot the puck then he will. An old school player who doesn’t think you need to make several passes to score, get the puck to the net and good things can happen.

Cuylle is no slouch when it comes to the defensive game either. He is known as a hard backchecker who prides himself on playing the whole 200 ft. game.

Oliver Tarnstrom

At 92 the Rangers selected center Oliver Tarnstorm of AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan or Second Division) and I must wonder a bit about the pick. Those who ranked him had him around 170 which is more fifth to sixth round.

The best one can say about Tarnstrom is that he is a playmaker who can create offense for his teammates with or without the puck on his stick. Also is good on defense as he is not at all shy at using his body to make defensive plays

I just don’t see him coming over to play in North America for at least two to three years which isn’t a bad thing given that he is just 18. Very much a sleeper pick who if he develops gives the Rangers a solid playmaking center.

Dylan Garand (Allen Douglas)

The Rangers went with a goalie Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers when they picked at 103 in the fourth round. Not the Benoit Allaire prototypical goalie at just 6’1 172, Garand is a very completive player who was having a very good season before it was stopped by the pandemic.

During the WHL season, Garand was third in wins (28-10-2-1), goals against (2.21), and save percentage (0.921). What is to like the most about Garand is that he is very calm under pressure as nothing seems to bother him during the game. Very good at keeping his emotions under control. Was invited to attend Hockey Canada’s summer virtual Under 20 evaluation camp and has a good shot at making the 2021 World Under 20 team.

Evan Vierling (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Rangers then made a trade with San Jose to add the 127th pick and used it on center Even Vierling of the Barrie Colts. Vierling is a grinder who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work in the corners to fight for the puck. Most likely a future defensive specialist/energy player, Vierling is a smart kid who still has room to grow as a player.

With their own fifth-round pick, the 134th, the Rangers used it on Brett Berard a 5’9 left-wing from USU18. The difference between USNU18 and USNTDP is that USNU18 plays exhibition games against NCAA Division one hockey teams.

Wanted to say that before mentioning that Berard was 16-18-34 in 41 games against those who were bigger and, in several cases, much older than he is. Heading to play at Providence College in the Hockey East, think a more thinking man’s, Brad Marchand. If he was over 6’ then he was a second or third-round pick, but teams were scared off by his 5’9 163 size. I look at his passing skills and think Mats Zuccarello as someone must get the puck to the goal scorers.

In the sixth round, the Rangers went from tiny to a giant as they selected 6’8 240 center Matt Rempe of the Seattle Thunderbirds. I saw him play four times last season and there wasn’t anything that stood out for me. Those who I also know cover the WHL say that Rempe vastly improved over the second half to make this selection a good risk. I also know that the Rangers have Tanner Glass (player personnel) and Steve Konowalchuk (pro scout) based out of Seattle Washington so they most likely saw a lot more of Rempe than I did.

Seattle was kind enough to get the following on Rempe from GM Bill La Forge and Coach Matt O’Dette

“It is a pleasure to see a player like Matt get rewarded for his hard work and perseverance,” said GM Bill La Forge. “It is a testament to his character and our team’s dedication to player development that sees him selected by the Rangers in the NHL draft.”

“Matt burst onto the scene this year and was an integral part of our team,” said head coach Matt O’Dette. “The work he put in and improvement that followed was eye-popping. To see it culminate into being drafted by the Rangers is fantastic.”

Rempe was named the Thunderbirds “Most Improved Player” for the 2019-2020 season. I still think of him as a project prospect but there are a lot of folks out here who really like him.

Finally, with the 197th pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers selected goalie Hugo Ollas of Linköping HC J20. Ollas is a monstrous 6’8 240 and still growing. I will quote what Elite Prospects says about Ollas since I know nothing about him.

Ollas style in net is like a typical modern well-schooled goaltender; he goes down on his knees extremely early and uses his substantial 6’8 frame to stop pucks and to cut off shooting lanes. He never made any unnecessary movements and has a close to a robotic way to handle himself.

Overall, it is hard to find fault with the Ranger’s draft picks unless one wants to seriously look for warts.  Alexis Lafreniere alone makes it a winning draft, but the Rangers also added a power forward, a couple of playmakers, and a defensive specialist.

For now, I say A-.

Learning From Their Past Mistakes

Braden Schneider (Brandon Wheat Kings)

Look I will get straight to the point, I do understand why people are not happy with the New York Rangers trading to move up to 19 and then selecting defenseman Braden Schneider. Why Schneider you ask? I have this gut feeling that the Rangers took a hard look at their defensive prospects and didn’t like what they saw.

Is there talent there? Yes, very much so in Nils Lundkvist, Matthew Robertson, Hunter Skinner, Yegor Rykov, Libor Hajek, Zac Jones, and K’Andre Miller but only Rykov or Lundkvist are ones that I would trust on the ice in the last minute of a close game.

All the others are pretty much one-way talents who specialize in offense and are very suspect on defense. And sorry to have to point this out but the position is called defense because they are supposed to help prevent the other teams from scoring.

I am not wanting to gloat since I wanted Braden Schneider to begin with, but it had to do with seeing a solid two-way defender who was also right-handed which seems to be rather rare in today’s NHL. I also remember being in Los Angeles back in 2010 when the Rangers selected Dylan McIlrath and Gordie Clark the Ranger’s Director of Player Personnel defending the selection by saying “it was because Michael Del Zotto was so bad defensively”.

I have known Clark since 2005, meeting him at the Vancouver draft and he has always been brutally honest about those he has drafted. I also know that K’Andre Miller is still a very inexperienced defenseman having only converting to the position about four years ago.

Miller is an awesome offensive talent, but he is highly suspect on defense. Having a Schneider to partner with would make Miller that much more dangerous on offense. Miller would be able to go on the attack knowing that his partner was protecting him if he got caught pinching on offense.

There is more to Schneider than just that, how many times did you the reader get angry when the other teams could freely setup in the crease and no Ranger defender would clear it? Think of Schneider as a smaller but just as snarly Jeff Beukeboom who will empty the crease physically.

Schneider also can jumpstart the offense with the kind of first-pass that David Quinn wants of his defenseman. Toss in a lethal and accurate point shot and Schneider does become worthy of the third-round pick the Rangers gave up jumping past New Jersey in the draft to pick him.

Now you guys wanted a center to have an insurance policy if Mika Zibanejad decides to become a free agent after the 2020-2021 season. Sorry folks that player wasn’t in this draft as none of the centers available at that spot will come close to being another Mika.

Mika was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft and while there aren’t any centers who can replace him in this draft, there is a player who might replace his scoring in Alexis Lafreniere. He may be a left-wing, but he might be the best player the Rangers have drafted not named Henrik Lundqvist since Brian Leetch.

If the Rangers are smart and don’t spend to the salary cap, they should have enough money to either keep Mika or find a replacement on the free-agent market.

But in the meantime, give Braden Schneider a chance, pretty sure the first time you get to see him knock a Crosby into next week you will love him.

I already do.

Back To Work With The Ranger’s Draft Picks

Alexis Lafreniere (NHL.com)

Hello folks, it has been forever since I had something of value to post so hope you all are well and excited about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. Since everyone else has done what they feel is the Rangers picks then why not add my own $0.02?

Let us be honest here as the New York Rangers remain suspect regarding how good their recent draft picks have been. So, if you want an answer as to what are the team’s biggest needs are then my answer is everything.

The Rangers need to select the best possible player regardless of their position to build up their prospect pool. Other than the very first pick, the Rangers need to address holes at every position.

1- Alexis Lafreniere LW Rimouski Oceanic: Seriously if by now that you haven’t heard anything about Lafreniere then where have you been? We are talking a true generational player here who went 35-77-112 in just 52 games which is 2.15 points per game. He becomes the first player that the Rangers have selected in the first round from the QMJHL since 1977.

22- Braden Schneider RHD Brandon Wheat Kings: NYR needs more right-handed defenseman and he is best of the bunch as after this they get smaller in size and less physical. Schneider is 6’2 210 very physical defense first type of player. He can skate, make the first pass out of the defensive zone, and will join the attack when needed. He will be K’Andre Miller’s protector allowing Miller the freedom to put his offensive skills to best use.

Other options: Tyson Foerster (C), Kaiden Guhle (LHD), Connor Zary (C)

71- Drew Commesso G NTDP U18: So, you are thinking that this is a mistake to take a goalie here but there is no such thing as too many good goalies. This is the best American prospect goalie available and the second-best overall available for this draft. 6’2 185 lefty butterfly goalie who Benoit Allaire loves to coach. He is heading to Boston University (David Quinn’s old school) so the Rangers can leave him there for three-four years and develop. And to be blunt the other options here all come with warts, so this is the best player available

Other Options: William Cuylle (LW), Simon Kubicek (RHD)

91-Jack Thompson RHD Sudbury Wolves: This one is a very under-rated prospect, but Thompson is a solid skating defender who plays all 200 feet. His skating is excellent, and his shot is lethal, Thompson is lethal with his shots whether it is a blast from the point or a wrist shot that rarely ever is off-target. An excellent power-play quarterback, Thompson will be a very strong utility player for the Rangers.

Other Options: Brandon Coe (RW), Joel Blomqvist (G)

102- Jack Finley C: Everyone else will be scared away by his skating but trust me it is very fixable. Here is your massive physical presence in the middle. 6’6 210 has soft hands and a very high Hockey IQ. Brian Boyle but better finisher. Finley by all rights should be long gone by this pick but if he is here then grab him.

Other Options: James Hardie (LW), William Dufour (LW)

133- Cross Hanas LW: NYR fans will love this bulldog of a player. If you like Casey Czikas then you will love this guy. GRINDER who goes after the puck and comes away with it. The sneaky offensive skill set can play the off-wing too. An excellent skater and passer who wears his heart on his sleeve.

Other Options: Logan Morrison (C), Artem Shlaine (C)

164- Cage Goncalves C: Goncalves at this spot is a steal but not as a center but as a wing. He plays a 200 ft game with great hands and a very high on ice IQ, Goncalves falls here because he is toothpick thin. Put on muscle and you will have a monster. Top scorer on a defensive-minded Everett team.

Other Options: Alex Jefferies (LW), Michael Krutil (RHD)

195- Noah Ellis RHD: Think old school Jay Wells type, Solid defensive defender who has excellent reads to disrupt an offensive attack either with the body or intercepting passes. He is heading to UMass where he will most likely be paired with 2019 third-round pick Zac Jones.

Other options: Lucas Ramberg (LHD), Patrick Guay (LW)

196- Ben Steeves RW: He falls here because he is a “roll the dice” pick. He has tremendous offensive upside, but he is a tiny 5’8 146 player. If he was 6′ 200 then he would be a 3rd-4th round pick. Still growing but badly needs the weight room. That he is heading to Minnesota Duluth one of college hockey’s top programs is what sold me on him. Comes from a family of players as brothers Matthew and Alex play for Notre Dame.

Other options: Adam Wilsby (LHD), Declan McDonnell (RW)

205 Jake Ratzlaff RHD: The only reason why the Rangers will find him here is that Ratzlaff hasn’t made up his mind what sport he is going to play; hockey or football. When the NHL Draft was delayed, Ratzlaff decided he was going to play football. When his High School football season was delayed, he decided to head back to the USHL to play hockey. Ratzlaff is excellent at both sports but hockey gets the first crack at him since they can draft him first. Think if the Rangers pick him then he will attend Minnesota to play hockey or head to the OHL.

Other Options: Victor Mancini (RHD), Kabor Dunn (RHD)

Now On the Bleav Network

Say hello to the newest podcaster on the Bleav Network

https://bleav.com/podcast/episode-1-draft-rankings-russ-cohen/

Check us out, please.

When something involving the Ranger prospects happen I will still post here

The Miller Watch Starts

K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin Badgers)

The day after for K’Andre Miller and his Wisconsin Badgers was quiet other than the expected “Miller will have offers” comment from Wisconsin hockey coach Tony Granato.  The was also this part from the same article written by Todd D. Milewski of the Wisconsin State Journal:

      Miller has played two seasons in college as a first-round pick of the New York Rangers. Like the others contemplating a pro future, he has had bright spots mixed in with challenging periods.

It is known that the Rangers had a couple of scouts at the series watching Miller and odds are Jeff Gorton and John Davidson along with the player development staff will have a decision to make. I still am sticking with my own belief that Miller is going to leave school and sign with the Rangers.

I believe that Miller thinks he is ready to turn pro and there is nothing at Wisconsin left for him to do. Besides if Miller says he wants to turn pro there really isn’t much the Rangers can do to stop him.

It also makes sense for the Rangers to bring Miller to Hartford on the ATO now while they have games to play. Let’s find out where Miller really is in his professional development and what he has to work on to improve his game.

Game Action

Tyler Nanne (Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Tyler Nanne and his Minnesota Golden Gophers earned a trip to the Big Ten Semifinals after defeating Notre Dame in game three of their first-round series. The Gophers won two straight games to earn a trip to the semi-finals on the road against Penn State next Saturday.

The senior defenseman, Nanne was scoreless with two blocked shots in his final game as a player on Minnesota home ice. Nanne gets to leave a winner on home ice but beating Penn State in a one-game playoff might be a different story.

Nico Gross and his Oshawa Generals traveled to London (Ontario) to face his fellow prospect Hunter Skinner and his London Knights. Both teams were on streaks going in the opposite directions and London’s 3-1 win extended both streaks.

Neither player scored but both were first pair defenders used on both special teams.  Gross had one shot while being a -1 with a tripping minor.

Skinner was credited with two shots and was a +1. London extended their winning streak to seven games while Oshawa saw their winless streak extend to four games (0-2-1-1).

Playoff Matchups

ECAC- Best Of Three

Morgan Barron (Cornell Athletics)

Morgan Barron and his top seed Cornell will host Princeton starting on Friday starting at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

Simon Kjellberg and fourth-seed Rensselaer will host fifth-seed Harvard also on Friday at 7 PM/4 PM

All games of both series will be streamed via the ESPN+ app (4.99 a month subscription but well worth it)

Hockey East -Best Of Three

Zac Jones and second seed Massachusetts will host Riley Hughes and seventh-seed Northeastern with game one on Friday starting at 7:15 PM/ 4:15 PM.

Tyler Wall and third-seed UMass-Lowell will host Boston University starting Friday at 7:15/4:15.

These games will be streamed live via the CBS All-Access app (5.99 monthly)

Big Ten- Semifinals (Single Elimination)

Tyler Nanne and fourth-seed travel to Penn State to face the top-seed Nittnay Lions next Saturday starting at 7 PM/4 PM. The game will be shown on the Big Ten Network and streamed on the Fox Sports App.

Is Miller Hartford Bound? I Think He Is

K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin Badgers)

With just five New York Ranger prospects in action, the focus was in Columbus Ohio where 2018 first-round pick K’Andre Miller and his Wisconsin Badgers were facing elimination from the Big Ten conference playoffs. Taking on 11th-ranked Ohio State, the Badgers were hoping to force a third game on Sunday with a game two win.

After losing 9-1 in game one of the series, the odds appeared against the Badgers. Wisconsin made game two a much more competitive game but in the end, they lost 2-1 in the first overtime and were swept in the series 2-0.

Miller was scoreless and wasn’t even credited with a shot in what I believe was the last game as a Wisconsin Badger.  While others will disagree with me on this, I just did not see Miller move forward as a player.

Yes, there was some improvement on his defensive side but his main value is always going to be for his offensive skills and that did not show growth. On that part, I blame the Wisconsin coaching staff as Miller wasn’t used to his fullest potential.

Miller belonged on the point running the offense when on the power-play not standing in the crease using his body as a forward. It also has a ton to do with which coach is better equipped to turn Miller into the player the Rangers need.

Kris Knoblauch (Photo by Len Redkoles)

In that case, I believe that Kris Knoblauch is way better equipped to develop K’Andre Miller into the player he should become. Don’t believe me? Then go look at Knoblauch’s resume of players who he coached in the juniors.

From Connor McDavid to Alex DeBrincat to Adam Pelech to Andre Burakovsky and more, Knoblauch is the guy I trust with Miller’s development. And a lot of this decision has to do with whether or not one believes that Wisconsin’s program is ready to be a winner.

Sorry Badger fans but 14-20-2 say this program has a lot of work to do and it makes zero sense for K’Ander Miller to stay. Anyone who knows me knows that I normally never say that a kid should leave school early.

Miller is a different story as he was close to being ready after last year but his overall progress was retarded this season. Pack his bags and send him to the Wolfpack so he can get a jumpstart on his future NHL career.

Tyler Nanne (Brad Rempl)

Tyler Nanne and his Minnesota Golden Gophers forced a game three against Notre Dame after defeating the Fighting Irish 2-1 in game two to tie the series at 1-1. Nanne was scoreless on three shots with a +1 and blocked three shots.

The next loss for the Gophers will mean the end of Nanne’s college career so hopefully, Nanne and the Gophers will keep going with a win.  If you have Fox Sports 2 (or the Fox Sports app) then you can watch this game starting at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

Riley Hughes and his Northeastern Huskies needed a win in the “Dog Bowl” against the Boston University Terriers to guarantee that they would make the Hockey East playoffs. They got that win 2-1 and will enter the Hockey East playoffs as the seventh seed.

Hughes started the game as the third-line right-wing but as the game went on saw less and less action as Northeastern shortened their bench in the third period. Hughes didn’t record any stats but his freshman season did not end on Saturday.

Hunter Skinner (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Hunter Skinner was scoreless on one shot and a +1 as his London Knights defeated the Owen Sound Attack 3-1. The win was the Knights’ sixth straight as they lead the OHL’s Western Conference by five points with seven games left in the regular season.

The Knights lead the OHL’s Midwest Division by seven points also with seven games left to play.

Matthew Robertson set up his Edmonton Oil Kings only goal of the game just 40 seconds into the contest but that was the only offense the Oil Kings had. They were beaten 4-1 by the Medicine Hat Tigers and missed out on a chance to clinch both the WHL’s Western Conference championship and the Central Division title as well.

For Robertson who already leads the Ranger prospects, his assist improved his prospect leading totals to 13-34-47. The Oil Kings who have just four regular-season games left lead the Tigers by 11 points.

The Oil Kings need just two more points and they will own home-ice advantage for all of the WHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs.

Check us out on Sunday as we will find out if Tyler Nanne’s college career is over and just the second matchup of the season between Nico Gross’s Oshawa Generals and Hunter Skinner’s London Knights.  We will also know all of next week’s college playoff matchups.

Ranger Prospect March Madness

A wild Friday night for the seven New York Ranger prospects who saw action. A combination of regular-season games and college conference playoffs saw possible additions to the Hartford Wolfpack either get closer to joining them or in the case of some extend their current season that much longer.

Tyler Wall stopped 31 out of 32 to lead his 12th-ranked UMass-Lowell River Hawks to a 3-1 win over the UConn Huskies. The win clinched third place in the Hockey East conference and home-ice advantage for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

Wall stopped 13 shots in the first period and in the second carrying a shutout into the third period but lost the shutout bid at 7:54. Wall would make eight saves in the third period as his regular-season career with the River Hawks comes to an end.

For Wall, the win improved his season record to 18-8-6, 2.10 goals against (tie 16th NCAA), and 0.931 save percentage (tie 8th NCAA). The win over UConn was Wall’s 58th career win, the most by a UMass-Lowell Division One goalie.

The River Hawks will host whoever earns the sixth seed in Hockey East. A fun fact for you is that the River Hawks have not played a road playoff game in the last eight years, they are the only team in the Hockey East who can make such a claim.

As for Wall, it is hard to see the Rangers not sign him to an NHL entry-level contract mainly because there is no such thing as having too many NHL quality goalies. Adam Huska has had his struggles at Hartford and Olof Lindbom hasn’t shown that he is ready to come over from Sweden.

I don’t see UMass-Lowell not making it to the Hockey East semifinals and if they do that then they would pretty much be a lock for the NCAA tournament. According to the College Hockey News and their Pairwise Probability Matrix, the River Hawks were 13th in Pairwise with a 58% chance of making the NCAAs.

And that was before they clinched third place and home ice for the first round. If the River Hawks lose sooner than the faster it will be for Wall to join the Wolfpack

K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin Badgers)

K’Andre Miller maybe just a college sophomore but if his Wisconsin Badgers play like they did in their 9-1 loss to 11th-ranked Ohio State then he will be leaving school by Monday. Horrible performance by the Badgers in game one of their Big Ten playoff series doesn’t need anything added to it.

I would bet the house that once Wisconsin loses their next game that Miller will announce that he is leaving school and turning pro. I would expect him to report to Hartford as soon as next Tuesday.

In my eyes, Miller and Wisconsin are a poor fit for each other. Why should Miller risk the next two seasons on a team that has a lot of rebuilding to do? The answer is he shouldn’t and given that he needs some polish to his skill set then why not start on it right away?

I think Kris Knoblauch will do more to prepare Miller for his eventual NHL career than the coaching staff at Wisconsin.

Tyler Nanne (Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Tyler Nanne’s college playing career is now just one loss away from ending after his Minnesota Golden Gophers dropped game one of their Big Ten playoff series to Notre Dame 1-0. Nanne didn’t record a shot on goal and had one blocked shot.

Minnesota needs a win on Saturday to force a game three on Sunday. The senior Nanne who was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft isn’t NHL material so it would be a miracle if he was offered any kind of pro contract by the Rangers.

If Glen Sather was still running the Rangers then I could see Sather giving Nanne an ATO so he could play a game or two with his cousin Vinnie Lettieri at Hartford. Both are grandchildren of former longtime NHL GM Lou Nanne.

Nanne had to overcome a heart ailment just to play college hockey is a great person and I hope he goes into coaching as he has a lot to offer the game.

Riley Hughes (Northeastern)

Riley Hughes was scoreless as his Northeastern Huskies lost to Boston University 3-0. Hughes was a -1 on two shots as his Huskies lost their fifth straight.

With just one game left in their Hockey East season, Northeastern is in eighth place of the Hockey East. Win on Saturday and the Huskies jump up to seventh place and into the playoffs. A loss and they will need help from Boston College defeating New Hampshire.

Hughes spent most of the season on Northeastern’s fourth line so he isn’t going anywhere after just his freshman season. He is a project that remains a long way away from even an AHL contract.

Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Matthew Robertson had a secondary assist on Edmonton’s final goal of the game as they defeated the Swift Current Broncos 4-1. For Robertson, the assist gives him a season total of 13-33-46 which pretty much assures him of being the leading prospect scorer in North America.

Robertson despite signing his ELC with the Rangers is not eligible to join the Wolfpack this year as he missed the cutoff birth date by nine days. His Oil Kings though are about to clinch home-ice advantage for the WHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs so it is doubtful that Robertson would have joined them anyway.

Hunter Skinner was scoreless as his London Knights won their fifth straight 4-1 over the Sarnia Sting. Skinner was credited with five shots on goal and had a high-sticking minor for the game.

Now because the Rangers drafted Skinner while he was intending to attend Western Michigan, Skinner is eligible to sign an ATO and join the Wolf Pack. But London has the second-best record in the OHL, it is hard to see Skinner’s season coming to an end in time to join the Wolf Pack.

Nico Gross had a primary assist but his Oshawa Generals lost via the shootout to the Guelph Storm 4-3. Gross earned his assist on Oshawa’s first goal as he has been on an assist binge with 10 assists in his last 10 games.

Overall Gross is 9-24-33 in 52 games this season. This is his second year as a Ranger’s draft pick but right now it is a question mark whether the Rangers will sign him or not.

I think given the depth at the position, I just don’t see the Rangers signing him to an NHL ELC.

Waiting Their Turn

Morgan Barron and top-ranked Cornell along with Simon Kjellberg and Rensselaer got to enjoy the week off after earning first-round byes in the ECAC playoffs. Cornell (first seed) and Rensselaer (fourth seed) will begin playoff play next Friday against teams to be determined.

Zac Jones and his ninth-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen finished their regular season on Thursday clinching second in the Hockey East. They will have home-ice and will host whoever the seventh seed in the Hockey East is.

Jones Two Assist Game Helps Minutemen Clinch Home Ice

Zac Jones(Jerrey Roberts/Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Zac Jones had a two-assist game as his ninth-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen held off the UConn Huskies 4-3. The win clinched home-ice for the Minutemen in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

Jones had the primary assist on the Minutemen’s second goal, a power-play goal at 10:10 in the second period which at the time put his team up 2-1. In the third period with the Minutemen up 3-2, Jones earned the secondary assist on the team’s fourth goal at 16:41.

It was a key goal because UConn would score just 13 seconds later closing the gap to 4-3 and the Minutemen would hold on for the win. For Jones, the two assists came with just one shot on net for the freshman defender.

And with those two points, Jones improves his season totals to 3-19-22 which is third-best on the team while the 19 assists lead the team. And the news is even better as Jones is the leading freshman defenseman scorer in the Hockey East (fifth overall) and the eighth-best freshman scorer in the league.

One last Jones note and that is he has a three-game scoring streak going (0-4-4) and is 0-8-8 in his last six games. UMass can clinch second place with a win in their regular-season finale next Thursday against Vermont.

Tyler Wall stopped 26 out of 28 shots as his 15th-ranked UMass-Lowell River Hawks held off New Hampshire 3-2 in Hockey East action. The win improved Wall’s record to 17-8-6 with a 2.14 goals against (18th NCAA) and a 0.930 save percentage (10th NCAA).

The win puts the River Hawks in third place of the Hockey East Conference with one game left in the regular season. That game is next Friday against 4th place UConn with home-ice advantage in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs at stake. The River Hawks can finish as high as second or fall as low as fifth.

Matthew Robertson (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Matthew Robertson had the primary assist on the game-winning goal as his Edmonton Oil Kings shutout the Red Deer Rebels 4-0. Robertson was 0-1-1 on one shot with a minor for “unsportsmanlike conduct”.

The assist extends his scoring streak to four games (0-5-5) and improves his overall numbers to 13-32-45. The win extends the Oil Kings unbeaten streak to four (3-0-1) as they try to hold on to the WHL’s best record with just seven games remaining.

Robertson has points in 14 out of his last 16 games going back to January 19th (5-15-20).

Simon Kjellberg was scoreless as his Rensselaer Engineers finished their ECAC regular-season with a 4-1 win over Dartmouth. Kjellberg was credited with two shots, a +1 and one blocked shot as the Engineers finished with a four-game winning streak.

The win streak is their longest since 2012-2013 means that the Engineers finished in fourth-place of the ECAC and earn a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs. The Engineers are off until March 13th when they will host an ECAC quarterfinal series.

K’Andre Miller and his Wisconsin Badgers played to a 3-3 overtime tie on the road with 10th-ranked Ohio State to finish their regular season with a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1). Miller was scoreless on four shots and a -1 as the Badgers get to return to Ohio State next week.

Wisconsin finished the Big Ten Conference season in last place and will face second-seeded Ohio State in a best-of-three playoff series. Don’t count Wisconsin out as they finished the season by going 4-1-1 over three different Top Ten ranked teams.

Tyler Nanne (Brad Rempl)

Tyler Nanne was scoreless on three shots and blocked two on defense but his Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to the Michigan Wolverines 2-1. It was the final regular-season game of Tyler Nanne’s career at Minnesota as the senior captain led the team in blocked shots with 62.

The loss means that Minnesota finishes the regular season as the fourth-seed in the Big Ten Conference. They will host fifth-seeded Notre Dame in a best-of-three series starting next weekend.

Riley Hughes had the primary assist on his 12th-ranked Northeastern Huskies’ only goal as they dropped a 3-1 decision to lowly Vermont. Hughes would pick up his third assist of the season on the game’s first goal at 1:38 of the second period.

But the lead didn’t even last a full minute as Vermont would score 58 seconds later to tie the game and then add two more goals to send Northeastern to their fourth-straight loss. The loss puts Northeastern in a huge whole as they are barely hanging on to the last playoff spot in the Hockey East with two games left both against Boston University next weekend.

Hughes improves to 1-3-4 on the season after his 0-1-1, one shot and +1 game. Can’t see Northeastern making the Hockey East playoffs and even if they did, they would wind up facing top seed Boston College who swept them last weekend.

The Race For The Playoffs Prospect Style

Morgan Barron (Cornell Athletics)

Morgan Barron and his second-ranked Cornell Big Red knocked off St. Lawrence 5-0 for their eighth straight win. Coupled with Clarkson settling for a tie with Colgate and Cornell clinches the ECAC regular-season title for the third straight year.

Barron was scoreless on three shots with a blocked shot and a 3-0 record on faceoffs. Barron saw his seven-game scoring streak come to an end (5-6-11) but pretty sure he doesn’t mind after being part of the first Cornell team in school history to win three straight ECAC regular-season championships.

Barron and Cornell finish off their regular season with an important game against Clarkson. A win tomorrow can affect their NCAA seeding as they have a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs.

Simon Kjellberg (RPI)

Simon Kjellberg and his Rensselaer Engineers shut out Harvard 2-0 in ECAC action. The win puts Rensselaer in a tie for fourth-place with Harvard with one game remaining in the ECAC regular season.

Kjellberg was scoreless with no shots but took an almost costly slashing penalty at 17:28 of the third period with his team up just 1-0. Now Rensselaer faces Dartmouth on the road Saturday and a win earns them a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs. Lose and they need help from Union who plays Harvard.

Tyler Wall (UMass-Lowell)

Tyler Wall stopped 24 out of 26 shots as his 15th-ranked UMass-Lowell River Hawks played to a 2-2 overtime tie with the New Hampshire Wildcats. Wall surrendered a power-play goal in the first and an even-strength goal in the second.

Still, Wall and company needed this win as the tie drops them into a tie for fourth place in Hockey East when a win would have put them in a second-place tie with two regular-season games to go.

Wall is 16-8-6 with a 2.14 goals against (tie NCAA 17th) and a 0.930 save percentage (tie NCAA 7th). UMass-Lowell plays New Hampshire on Saturday in a pretty much must-win for the River Hawks.

K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin Badgers)

For a last-place team, K’Andre Miller and his Wisconsin Badgers are making life miserable for ranked teams. Miller was scoreless on one shot with one blocked shot and was 0-1 on faceoffs as the Badgers defeated 10th-ranked Ohio State 3-2.

For the Badgers, it was their third straight win against a Top-Ten team and it sets up a regular-season finale that could determine which team they face in the Big-Ten playoffs.

Tyler Nanne was scoreless on one shot with a -1 and three blocked shots as his Minnesota Golden Gophers played to a 2-2 overtime tie with Michigan. Michigan earned the bonus point by winning the shootout 1-0.

The tie means Minnesota can’t win the Big Ten regular-season championship as Penn State holds the tiebreaker over them. Currently, Minnesota is in second place with one last game remaining with Michigan. A loss to Michigan combined could cost Minnesota home ice in the first round of the Big Ten playoffs.

Hunter Skinner (London Knights)

Hunter Skinner was scoreless on one shot with a -1 with a cross-checking minor as his London Knights defeated the Soo Greyhounds 4-2 in OHL action. The Knights are in a four-team dogfight for the top seed in the OHL’s Western Conference.

The Knights lead the Kitchener Rangers by one point (one game in hand) for the conference lead (and Midwest Division lead). They lead the Flint Firebirds by two points (two games in hand) and the Saginaw Spirit by three points (one game in hand).

Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Matthew Robertson had the only points by a Ranger prospect as he had two secondary assists in his Edmonton Oil Kings 5-4 shootout loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Robertson earned his assists on the Oil Kings’ first and second goals of the game.

For Robertson, the assists give him a Ranger prospect best 13-31-44 record on the season. His Oil Kings lead the WHL with a 40-10-6-4 90 points record with just eight WHL regular-season games to go.

Riley Hughes was scoreless on no shots but a -2 as his 12th-ranked Northeastern Huskies suffered an embarrassing 4-2 loss to previously winless (in Hockey East) Vermont. Yes, Northeastern is badly depleted by injuries but to lose to a team that was 0-17-4 in conference play is unacceptable.

Even worse for Hughes and company, is that they are holding on to one of the last two spots in the Hockey East playoffs after at one time leading the conference. They have just three regular-season conference games remaining and could wind up not making any playoffs despite winning the Beanpot this year.

Zac Jones (Massachusetts Athletics)

Zac Jones had a primary assist and a blocked shot as his ninth-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen lost 3-2 to the UConn Huskies. The Minutemen let a 2-1 lead disappear in the last 1:31 of regulation to lose the game.

Jones had set up teammate John Leonard’s power-play goal at 9″03 of the third period giving the Minutemen a 2-1 lead. The loss drops the Minutemen in a tie for second place in the Hockey East standings with the Huskies and pretty much cost them any chance of winning the regular-season championship with just two games left in the regular season.

Jones improves to 3-17-20 as the young freshman defenseman takes over the team lead in assists and is eighth in overall scoring in the Hockey East for defensemen. The same two teams play on Saturday evening.

Nico Gross was scoreless as his Oshawa Generals lost 4-1 to the Ottawa Generals. Gross was a -1 with a “delay of game” minor.

A Fun Night In Prospectland

Morgan Barron (Cornell)

Eight New York Ranger prospects hit the ice on Saturday evening in what was an entertaining as well as a critical night of hockey. As teams jockey for playoff seeding, a win (or loss) could determine where a team starts their postseason.

Just when you think Morgan Barron has shown you everything, he gives you another reason to root for him. The junior co-captain of the second-ranked Cornell Big Red, Barron sealed his team’s 3-0 win over the Brown Bears with a hustling play that ended any hope Brown had of getting back into the game (the play starts at 1:29).

Cornell wins its seventh-straight game as Barron extends his scoring streak to seven games (5-6-11). Barron improves to 14-18-32 as Cornell’s leading scorer has his team poised to earn a second straight ECAC regular-season championship if they can earn a win over Clarkson next Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Defencemen #66 Nico Gross of the Oshawa Generals

Nico Gross set up two goals as his Oshawa Generals defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-2. The two-assist game helped the Generals pull to within two points of the Peterborough Petes for the third seed of the OHL’s Eastern Conference.

Gross would earn the primary assist on Oshawa’s first and fifth goals as the Generals extend their unbeaten in regulation streak to six games (3-0-1-2). The Swiss defender sets a new career-best in assists with his 18th and 19th of the season as he improves to 9-19-28 overall (also a career-best)

Matthew Robertson (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Matthew Robertson earned the secondary assist on Josh William’s game-winning goal coming with just 47 seconds remaining in overtime as their Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the Regina Pats 2-1. Robertson is the leading scorer among the North American Rangers prospects improves to 13-28-41 on the season.

The win brings the Oil Kings into a tie with the Portland Winterhawks for the best overall record in the WHL. The Winterhawks do hold two games in hand over the Oil Kings.

Tyler Wall (UMass-Lowell)

Tyler Wall set a career-high in saves with 45 but it was not enough to prevent his 15th-ranked UMass-Lowell River Hawks from losing to Zac Jones and his eighth-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen 5-3. Wall surrendered four goals as his River Hawks were pretty much outplayed for most of this game.

The Minutemen dominated the shots on goal 11-7 in the first, 20-3 in the second, and 19-8 in the third as Wall was pretty much the only reason why the River Hawks even were in this game in the third period. It is almost unfair that Wall saw his record fall to 16-8-5 with a 2.15 goals against (16th NCAA) and a 0.930 save percentage (tie 7th NCAA).

Zac Jones (Hockey East)

Zac Jones only record a secondary assist on Minutemen’s third goal but he had five shots, a +1 and a blocked shot for the game. Jones was a major force for the Minutemen as he played well at both ends of the ice.

This game helped the Minutemen take sole possession of second place in the Hockey East conference, two points behind first-place Boston College and one point ahead of third-place Maine. The loss hurts the River Hawks who fell out of a tie for second place into a tie for fourth with UConn with three games left in the season.

Simon Kjellberg (Liz Brady)

Simon Kjellberg and his Rensselaer Engineers blasted the Yale Bulldogs 7-1 in ECAC action. Kjellberg was scoreless on three shots with a +2 as the Engineers moved into fifth place in the ECAC standings just two points behind Harvard.

For the Engineers, this is important because they face Harvard next Friday and they need to win by four or more goals. Do that and then win on Saturday against Dartmouth and the Engineers earn a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs.

Right now if the playoffs started tomorrow, Rensselaer would host St. Lawrence in the first round.

K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin Badgers)

K’Andre Miller and his Wisconsin Badgers made it two straight wins over ninth-ranked Arizona State thanks to a 6-2 win. Miller was scoreless on three shots and a +3 and two blocked shots giving him 46 blocks on the season.

Tyler Nanne and his Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to 10th-ranked Penn State 3-2 after leading 2-0. Nanne was scoreless on two shots with a -1 and a game-high nine blocked shots which were one more than the entire Penn State team for the game.

Tyler Nanne (Kristin Ostrowski)

However, the loss was costly as it drops Minnesota into a second-place tie with Ohio State in the Big Ten Conference. Minnesota can’t finish better than second-place but if they drop both games to Michigan next weekend could drop as low as fifth.

The nine blocked shots give Nanne 57 on the season which is tops on the Gophers. The senior defenseman has earned a lot of respect for coming back from a heart ailment to become a captain as well as a defensive standout for the Gophers.