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Hartford Wolfpack

Hartford Has The Building Blocks

Kris Knoblauch (NHL.com)

It took what seemed to be forever to put a coaching staff in place for the Hartford Wolfpack but it was well worth the wait. The hiring of Kris Knoblauch as head coach and Gord Murphy as associate head coach gives the Wolfpack in my book the best combo to develop the Ranger prospects that they have had in years.

Knoblach has coached at the junior level taking two different teams to their league championship as well as being an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a teacher who has a proven track record as someone who develops NHL players something that has been lacking in Hartford.

But the biggest key is that Knoblach wins and after years of the Wolfpack not making the playoffs will be a welcome change. Hartford has missed making the AHL playoffs for four straight seasons and six of the last seven.  It won’t happen overnight but expect Hartford to start winning again.

Gord Miller (HockeyDB)

Gord Murphy played 13 years in the NHL as a defenseman and has been an assistant coach in the NHL since 2002. He is the right guy to help develop the young defensive prospects that the Rangers have. Murphy worked with Knoblach the last couple of years with the Flyers so they know each other and have a solid relationship.

Add in Pat Boller who serves as the assistant general manager for the Wolfpack, Eric Raymond the goaltending coach (and Benoit Allair disciple),  and Mark Cesari and Kevin Gately who serve as the strength and conditioning coaches and you have possibly the best staff Hartford has ever had.

This will also be the group that will be leading the prospects when they take part in the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament in September.

Traverse City

Speaking of the annual prospect tournament, one thing that will need to happen will be the prospect Rangers start winning at the tournament. Yes, the main goal remains to start building chemistry among the prospects and to see how well they have done with their offseason work.

But doing better than finishing at the bottom of the tournament is a confidence builder, it helps give the prospects a positive sign that the David Quinn system works. For the majority of the prospects, they won’t see exhibition games with the Rangers and are returned to their junior teams or sent to the Hartford camp.

So winning sends a great message to these prospects.

Not to mention to the Ranger fans as well.

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Why No Hartford Wolf Pack Staff?

Steve Konowalchuk (Seattle Thunderbirds)

Am I the only one who finds it rather strange that it is the middle of July and the New York Rangers still have yet to hire staff for the Hartford Wolf Pack? It is almost three months to the day since Keith McCambridge and Joe Mormina were let go from the Wolf Pack and one would think to replace them would not be this hard.

Now those who have followed me know that I think the Rangers should name former NHLer Steve Konowalchuk as the head coach of the Wolf Pack. For those who don’t know who Konowalchuk is, he played close to 800 games in the NHL mainly with the Washington Capitals. After retiring from the NHL, Konowalchuk spent two seasons as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche and then six seasons coaching the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) where his teams made the WHL finals twice (winning once).

After Seattle, Konowalchuk spent a season as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks before joining the Rangers as an amateur scout covering the WHL. What the Rangers badly need in Hartford is a teacher, someone who will help turn Hartford into a place where the Rangers can count on for talent. Having watched Konowalchuk take Seattle to the top of the WHL, this is the right guy for the job.

Konowalchuk is someone I got to see a lot of when he was a WHL coach. He is a proven teacher to go along with his NHL background and the Rangers badly need a teacher in Hartford. But Konowalchuk is just the start, if it was up to me then I would add two more assistants to the Hartford staff. The Wolf Pack already have Eric Raymond as their goaltending coach but I would add someone who can coach the forwards and one for the defense.

And at least one of those coaches it would be helpful if they had some European hockey background in them as several of the Ranger prospects are coming over from Europe and having someone who is familiar with the European lifestyle would help these younger players adapt to life in North America.

Skinner Changes Plans

Hunter Skinner (Lincoln Stars)

In case you missed it Hunter Skinner who the Rangers selected with the 112th pick in the 2019 NHL Entry draft has changed his mind about attending Western Michigan. Skinner signed to play with the London Knights of the OHL and it is a good move for both the Rangers and Skinner. Skinner who is a righthanded defenseman will get to play for former NHL player and coach Dale Hunter which will help speed up his development.

Dale Hunter whether you like him or not is an excellent junior coach who has a proven track record as a developer of prospects. Skinner will get lots of ice time playing for Hunter. Skinner because he joins the Knights after being drafted can sign with the Rangers and play in Hartford before he is 20 which is good for the Rangers.

It is interesting to note that the Rangers will only have four prospects playing in the CHL (three in the OHL, one in WHL) but eight playing NCAA hockey and nine prospects playing in Europe. Ten years that few playing Canadian junior hockey would have been unheard of.