Update, 3:02 p.m.: I told you I was on to something with this Dale Weise character, because the Rangers just announced they had signed the fourth round draft pick to a contract. This doesn’t mean the forward is in contention for an NHL job out of camp. But it does mean the team thinks he’s worth investing in. I agree.
Update, 1:23 p.m.: Regarding Nikolai Zherdev and “reports of his lackluster performance thus far”:http://www.nypost.com/sports/rangers/rangers.htm, I, too, noted the giveaway yesterday that led to an opposing team goal. For the most part, though, I think Zherdev comes as advertised: an immensely talented forward prone to occasionally trying to do too much (see Kovalev, Alex for more). When Tom Renney was asked about Zherdev’s play, he acknowledged there have been some miscues, but he also said a player like that needs latitude to make plays.
“The creative mind is a tough to defend,” Renney said.
Of course, the creative mind can also drive a coach completely crazy. I think Zherdev can be reeled in a bit—and my bet is he will be—but I don’t think there’s reason for much concern yet.
Update, 12:46 p.m.: Tom Renney stopped short of saying the lineup below was a sure thing for tomorrow, but it is at least the group that will travel to Ottawa.
It’s worth noting that the team hasn’t done too much on special teams work so far in camp, but I did ask the coach if he expected the power play to have a completely different look now that Jaromir Jagr is gone.
“Simply because of the manpower, but I think most power plays are pretty similar nowadays,” Renney said. “So I don’t know if we’re going to change a whole lot in the way we teach it or what we look for in terms of what to exploit.”
Then Renney cracked: “It’s probably going to look different anyways if it has any measure of success at all.”
As for Petr Nedved, I was more impressed by the center’s play yesterday than I was today, when he was knocked off the puck a few times by defensemen. I’d put Nedved’s chances of making the team at slim, especially given that Renney admitted outright just now that all things otherwise being equal, he’s more likely to give a job to a younger player.
And should he not crack the lineup here, Nedved admitted his NHL days would then be over. He already has a deal in place with his hometown team back in Czech Republic to return there if he doesn’t make the Rangers, and he says he has no interest of playing for any other team in the league.
More on that in a bit….
Update, 10:59 a.m.: While on the topic of prospects, the morning scrimmage marked another impressive performance by 18-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto. This year’s first round pick, in what has essentially been his first exposure to the NHL level, was poised with the puck all morning, even while under pressure.
At one point, he even threaded a pass behind the defense to set up Chris Drury on a breakaway. Drury missed on a save by Antoine Lafleur (another prospect who has looked decent so far).
No word yet if Del Zotto was chewing Drury out for blowing the assist….
For the record, the defenseman is definitely headed back to Oshawa of the OHL, so don’t order his Rangers jersey just yet. But it does look like he’s secured a spot in the lineup tomorrow night in Ottawa. Barring some 11th hour changes, the lineup is as follows:
G: Valiquette, Wiikman
D: Staal-Rozsival, Mara-Potter, Del Zotto, Fahey
F: Dawes-Drury-Prucha, Byers-Dubinsky-Callahan, Voros-Betts-Orr, Rissmiller-Moore-Sjostrom.
Correction on the White goal from the scrimmage: it was Nigel Dawes and not Drury.
Update, 10:27 a.m.: One of the revelations of camp so far has been the play of Dale Weise, the 20-year-old right wing who was a fourth round draft pick in this year’s draft. Weise had a goal yesterday, and added another just now for Blue in the first period of the morning scrimmage, when he stripped a puck from Greg Moore and beat Stephen Valiquette on a breakaway.
At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, Weise already has good size, and can still fill out even more over time. Zipay says he looks like the actor Owen Wilson, but I say only vaguely.
Chris Drury scored the lone goal for White, while Thomas Pock gave Blue a 2-1 lead on a penalty shot.
It’s early yet, but I haven’t been overly impressed with the goaltending in this camp.
Earlier: My story in The Journal News this morning “looks at the long odds for prospects this training camp.”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080919/SPORTS01/809190425/-1/SPORTS. The Rangers already have 14 NHL forwards under contract, and that doesn’t include Petr Nedved, who may have more of a shot at this camp than I originally thought.
But Tom Renney said he’s keeping an open mind, even hinting at the team could move some players to accomodate the likes of Lauri Korpikoski.
“The bottom line is what happens here in the next week could force us to do some things,” Renney said. “I don’t mind that competition. There’s some young guys pushing those guys, so there is an opportunity for this team to look different today than it does a week from now when we drop the puck (for the season opener) in Prague. That’s an honest answer. I’m excited by this and I’m not quite sure where it’s going to end up myself.”
By the way, venerable Journal News photographer Stuart Bayer, who also took the photo of Korpikoski above, caught some video of yesterday’s workouts, which you can catch here: