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Guest blogger: Paul (updated: Traverse City)

Posted By Laurel Babcock On July 26, 2010 @ 7:00 am In Uncategorized | 326 Comments

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There has been a lot of talk this off season about the need for scoring. One of the biggest oversights has been the addition of Mats Zuccarello Aasen. Along with the New York Rangers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings were all keeping an eye on this kid while he played for Frisk, MODO or for his country in various tournaments. Scouts were flying over to Stockholm just to convince him that their club was a perfect fit for him.

By the end of March the news had leaked. It was made official after the IIHF World Championships. The New York Rangers had won this year’s “Fabian Brunnstrom” as some people call it, signing him to a two-way ELC for 2 years at $900,000 a year plus bonuses (mandatory two-way contract). So what can we as Rangers’ fans expect from Aasen? Anders Hedberg, who is the Rangers’ head professional European scout, has some pretty high expectations for Aasen saying, “We did not recruit him because he will play on our fourth line or on our farm team, but we expect him to fit in in one of our top five.”

The scouting report on Aasen states he has fantastic technical skills, great passing ability, and is a magician who can do spectacular things with the puck. He has great vision and can man the power play point, is defensively responsible and doesn’t mind heavy traffic. He is gritty for his size and shows a lot of heart, creating scoring chances by himself, while a player like Brunnstrom would be more dependent on his environment.

Mats started out his professional career in the GET league, a Norwegian ice hockey league, playing for the Frisk Asker Tigers. During his time there he played 98 games over 4 seasons with 63 goals and 68 assists. His role started out on the 3rd line and over the next couple of seasons he was given more ice time and more responsibility. In his last campaign with Frisk he was named the Norwegian Player of the Year while his team finished first overall, winning the regular season, but losing in the finals 4 games to 2 to the Storhamar Dragons.

After losing in the finals, Mats signed a two-year contract with MODO Hockey in the Swedish Elite Leage. When he first showed up on the scene he was considered to be a 3rd or 4th liner who had potential. After some pre-season games that changed. In his first season, an ankle injury kept him sidelined for 10 to 15 games, yet he still managed to notch 40 points while playing on a line with ex-ranger Niklas Sundstrom and fellow Norwegian Per-Age Skroder. They were considered the top line in the league that year.

In his second year with MODO he continued to develop in all areas, throwing the team on his shoulders when key players fell to injury. Just as with Frisk, with great play came more ice time and more responsibility. He led all forwards in ice time averaging 22 minutes a game and at one point led the league in hits. In 55 games he scored 23 goals and had 41 helpers. This season was among his most successful. He was awarded Most Valuable Player as voted by the players.

Qualifying for the Olympics for the first time since they hosted it back in 1994, Norway was back in the spotlight. Aasen may have only had 1 goal and 2 assists but it was more his ability to play on a smaller ice surface against the “world’s best” that opened up a lot of scouts’ eyes.

Recently it was the World Championships where Rangers’ fans may have seen Aasen play. Before the tournament opened, rumors started to swirl about him signing, or reaching an agreement with the Rangers. In the 6 games Norway played he had 3 goals and 1 assist. Norway beat the Czech Republic for the first time in 70+ years and Aasen, along with his linemates, had a lot to do with it. They made it to the qualification round but ended up finishing 5th.

This all sounds great doesn’t it? With all the positives come negatives. Aasen tends to carry the puck too much at times. In the NHL he will need to adjust to carrying the puck less. Then there’s his size, and that seems to worry a lot of fans.

The jury is still out on Mats Zuccarrello Aasen, and his talent transferring from the SEL to the NHL. Some players leave the SEL with much fanfare and don’t always live up to the hype. One thing I am certain of, Mats Zuccarello Aasen is offensively gifted, has vision, and can make plays. He has the best opportunity for a top 6 role by coming to New York and I expect nothing less than that.


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Evening update

I’m late, sorry, but have been out of pocket for a bit. Thanks nyrguy for the link earlier. Here is from the team:

New York, July 26, 2010 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today the preliminary roster for the 2010 Traverse City Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. The annual prospect tournament is scheduled to begin on September 11 when the Rangers’ prospects face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospects. This marks the fifth consecutive year that a team of Rangers prospects will be going to Traverse City for the eight-team tournament.

A group of 22 prospects will represent the Rangers next month at the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament, which the Blueshirts won in 2007. Nineteen of the 22 members of the 2010 roster are players whose NHL rights are currently owned by the Rangers. Eleven players are Rangers draftees from the past two years, while eight others have already signed their first NHL contracts with the team.

Seventeen of the 22 players participated in the Rangers’ annual Prospect Development Camp earlier this summer. This includes 2010 draft picks Dylan McIlrath, Christian Thomas, Andrew Yogan, Jason Wilson and Randy McNaught.

Forward Evgeny Grachev, the Rangers’ 2008 third round selection, will be returning to the tournament for the third straight season. He will be joined by fellow 2008 third round draft pick, defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who was a member of the Rangers’ Traverse City team last summer. Five players from the 2009 draft class – forwards Ryan Bourque, Ethan Werek and Roman Horak, defenseman Daniel Maggio and goaltender Scott Stajcer – are also back from the 2009 team, as is defenseman Sam Klassen.

Competing in the tournament’s “Gretzky Division”, the Rangers will play round-robin games against Carolina, Columbus and Minnesota, beginning with a September 11 tilt against Columbus’ prospects. Their placement in the round-robin will determine who they face in the championship round that concludes the tournament.

2010 Traverse City Prospects Tournament

RANGERS SCHEDULE

Day Date Opponent Time

Saturday Sept. 11 Rangers vs. Columbus 3:30 p.m.

Sunday Sept. 12 Rangers vs. Carolina 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday Sept. 14 Rangers vs. Minnesota 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday Sept. 15 Placement Game TBD

2010 NY RANGERS TRAVERSE CITY PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT ROSTER

Forwards

Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Age 2009-10 Team (League)

Ryan Bourque LW 5-9 171 19 Quebec (QMJHL)

Evgeny Grachev RW 6-4 222 20 Hartford (AHL)

Roman Horak C 6-0 171 19 Chilliwack (WHL)

Colin Martin LW 6-2 206 19 London (OHL)

Chris McKelvie RW 6-1 195 25 Bemidji State Univ. (WCHA); Hartford (AHL)

Randy McNaught RW 6-4 220 19 Saskatoon (WHL)

Brendan Shinnimin C 5-10 176 19 Tri-City (WHL)

Derek Stepan C 6-0 187 20 Univ. of Wisconsin (WCHA)

Christian Thomas RW 5-9 164 18 Oshawa (OHL)

Ethan Werek C 6-1 195 19 Kingston (OHL)

Jason Wilson LW 6-2 206 20 Owen Sound (OHL)

Andrew Yogan LW 6-3 203 18 Erie (OHL)

Defenseman

Lee Baldwin D 6-4 205 21 Univ. of Alaska Anchorage (WCHA)

Sam Klassen D 6-2 199 21 Saskatoon (WHL)

Tomas Kundratek D 6-2 200 20 Medicine Hat (WHL)

Daniel Maggio D 6-3 202 19 Sudbury (OHL)

Brandon Manning D 6-1 195 20 Chilliwack (WHL)

Ryan McDonagh D 6-1 222 21 Univ. of Wisconsin (WCHA)

Dylan McIlrath D 6-4 218 18 Moose Jaw (WHL)

Jyri Niemi D 6-2 208 20 Saskatoon (WHL)

Goaltenders

Scott Stajcer G 6-3 200 19 Owen Sound (OHL)

Cameron Talbot G 6-4 205 23 Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville (CHA)


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