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Nico Gross

Now That’s A First Impression

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Seriously what more can someone add after watching 2019 first-round pick Kaapo Kakko carry the Baby Rangers on his shoulders to an impressive 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild prospects? As much as I am a fan of Vitali Kravtsov, watching Kakko with a 1-3 effort was pretty jaw-dropping. Kakko led a third-period comeback as the Baby Rangers had to rally from being down 0-2 and 2-3 to earn the win.

The Rangers entered the third period trailing 2-0 but working on a five-minute power play after the Wild’s Drake Pilon bloodied the Rangers Lewis Zerter-Gossage with a cheap shot to the head. Vitali Kravtsov got the Rangers going with his first goal at 1:06 with assists going to Karl Henriksson and Kakko. Henriksson got to be the center between Kravtsov and Kakko showed that he could hang with the very talented first-round picks so file that piece of news for the future.

If the Rangers were hoping that Kakko and Kravtsov would start developing some kind of chemistry then they did not have to wait long. Kakko set up Kravtsov for his second goal of the game with a very nice cross-ice pass that Kravtsov “one-timed” past the Stars Hunter Jones at 2:44 of the period. Forget which line these two will play on but rather ask which center will get the luxury of playing between them.

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The Wild were able to regain their lead but after the Rangers pulled goalie Igor Shesterkin for the extra attacker. Kaapo Kakko made it a three-assist game for him when he got the puck to Patrick Newell who scored his first goal of the tournament tying the game at 3-3 and forcing overtime. Kakko, as you saw in the first clip, did the rest to help the Rangers win.

So for the first time since the 2016 tournament, the Rangers have 2 wins and will play for the fifth-place trophy. They will face the St. Louis Blues prospects starting at 12:30 PM/9:30 AM and for those outside the MSG viewing area, the game will be streamed on Fox Sports GO.

Thoughts:

Forgive me if I am confused but it seems silly that a prospect’s tournament would be subject to the same blackout rules as an NHL game. I hope those of you who got to watch the Rangers stream go someone to do the play-by-play. If not then I strongly suggest that the Rangers copy what the Minnesota Wild did and send their AHL broadcasters or even better John Giannone.

The Wild guys to their credit treated the broadcast as professionals and it made the game a lot easier to follow. Stick taps to them and the Wild for giving their fans a solid broadcast.

Igor Shesterkin (Russian Hockey Federation)

Igor Shesterkin played much better against the Wild stopping 20 of 23 shots including some very good saves keeping the Rangers in the game during the first two periods. That said I would give him the start against St. Louis as a test to see how he handles back to back games. Adam Huska also knows how to play in the smaller North American rinks so he doesn’t need the work.

Pretty sure the Rangers backup job will start with Alexander Georgiev while Shesterkin gets the lion’s share of starts in Hartford. If Traverse City is any indication then Shesterkin needs as much playing time as possible to adapt to North American hockey something he won’t get backing up Henrik Lundqvist.

It is hard to see anyone other than Kakko, Kravtsov, and Fox making the Rangers in training camp. Yegor Rykov hopefully is not injured seriously but missing any time will hurt his cause to make the Rangers. It would be better if Rykov started in Hartford so he can get major minutes there instead of being a 6-7 on the Rangers.

Other than that Tarmo Reunanen needs to step up more if he wants to show he belongs in North America. He looks like he has a skillset but considering the glut of young defensive talent he needs to stand out or will get lost in the number’s game. Nico Gross is playing for a contract this year but I think he needs a monster season (including adding more offense) to earn that contract.

Right now I can’t see the Rangers offering Gross an NHL deal when you look at how many defenders they already have in the prospect pool. And that is not including K’Andre Miller, Zac Jones, and Simon Kjellberg who aren’t at Traverse City since they play NCAA hockey.

Ryan Dmowski (Hartford Wolf Pack)

In the time I have been doing this, the Rangers have signed several players to AHL deals hoping to see them become late bloomers which none ever have. Of this year’s group, I think Ryan Dmowski might break the glass ceiling. Been following him for the last couple of years because of goalie Tyler Wall and Dmowski has found ways to play better than expected. His former school UMass-Lowell tends to play a more defensive style of hockey so Dmowski I think has a shot at being a shutdown defensive forward.

Dmowski was 1-3-4 in 10 games with Hartford so if he can add some offense to being a potential blue-collar player then even better.

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Why No Television For Traverse City?

New York Rangers (New York Rangers/NHL.com)

With less than five days before the prospect Rangers hit the ice for their first game at the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament, there begs a question: Why aren’t the games at the Traverse City Tournament televised either by MSG Networks or on the NHL Network itself?

This is becoming an annual question especially for a rebuilding team like the New York Rangers. Why not spend the money and show the same fans who you are trying to sell tickets and merchandise what the Rangers future looks like?

It isn’t as if MSG Network has anything more pressing to show on their schedule that they can’t put aside a couple of hours a night to televise the games the Rangers play in. Heck, I seriously doubt that the fans would care if the games are tape-delayed and shown at night.

Nobody is asking for full-fledged TV production with Sam, Joe, and John between the benches.  Nor would you need to do a pre or postgame show but showing the games along with some interviews with the players, coaching staff and the player development staff would do more to excite the fans about the upcoming season.

If they are worried that fans would not watch the prospects in action then the Rangers (and Dolans) have not been paying attention this summer. Rangers fans are very excited about getting to see the prospects whether it is Kakko, Kravtsov, Shestyerkin or Rykov.

But someone at MSG whether it is the network or the team management doesn’t seem to think that showing the fans what they themselves have been pitching is a good idea. Dumb just flat out dumb as if there will not be a better advertisement than a Kakko highlight-reel goal against fellow NHL prospects.

The NHL Network is equally guilty as the Network that likes to bill itself as the home of hockey would rather show repeated content instead of getting hockey fans ready for the upcoming season. Not only is there the Traverse City Tournament but this year the Nashville Predators are hosting three other teams in a tournament of their own (and will televise their games on Nashvillepredators.com).

But nobody else seems to mention if Ranger fans (or NHL fans) will get to see their prospects play. And everyone loses there because someone is being shortsighted.

Prospect Action

Nico Gross (Oshawa Generals)

2018 fourth-round pick defenseman Nico Gross was scoreless as his Oshawa Generals lost 7-2 to the Mississauga Steelheads in OHL exhibition action. Gross was a -2 on one shot with a minor for roughing.  The loss evens the Generals preseason record at 1-1.

Gross was also scoreless on one shot and a +1 on Friday as his Generals earned a 5-4 shootout win over the Kingston Frontenacs. Gross is in his second year with the Generals as an “import player”.

Hunter Skinner (Lincoln Stars)

2019 fourth-round pick Hunter Skinner scored his first OHL goal on Friday evening as his London Knights defeated the Sarnia Sting 5-2. The Knights are excited to have Skinner as they talked about his point shot (he has three shots).

The Knights talked about Skinner in their post-game report:

“Hunter Skinner made is OHL pre-season debut a memorable one with a glimpse of his booming shot from the point and then an empty-netter that traveled about as close to 200 feet as possible on a hockey rink. Skinner shot the puck from deep in the left corner of his own zone and hit the Sting net almost dead centre.”

And this is a reason why MSG should be televising the Traverse City games as I want to check out this 6’2 righthanded defender.