With the New York Rangers inconsistent play this season, they’ve hogged all the spotlight, so we decided to step back and check on the Baby Rangers. Let’s take a quick trip up the Merritt Parkway to good old Hartford, Connecticut, home of the Hartford Wolf Pack, and talk about what we see.
As a side note, for anyone planning on going to a Wolf Pack game, FYI make sure your itinerary takes you to Constitution State on a Friday night for $2 beer and $1 hot dogs at the XL Center can enjoy.
While the team may be struggling this season, it would be remiss not to consider that any Rangers prospects are getting some serious development time. From Matthew Robertson to Karl Henriksson, players get minutes in a professional North American ice hockey environment, and that only helps with organization.
Some major mentions are Will Cuylle, he was an incredibly dedicated player for the team. With a statistic of 2 goals and 3 assists in 12 games his performance might be overlooked but he was right in the thick of it and played a physically impressive game in a men’s league. This will be his first full pro season and it’s an incredibly important step for him to keep acclimatizing. Another key player is Dylan Garand. just have won the CHL Goalie of the Year AwardGreat things are expected of this young goalie. With a GAA of 3.36 and an SV% of 0.892, his game wasn’t spectacular, but if you’ve had a chance to watch him play, he’s put up some notable saves that were only possible through his raw athleticism and a little deeper Most of the time, the team hangs it out to dry. With a little more development, Garand could have a future in New York as Igor’s next backup.
Where do we start? The team is currently 4-4-1-3, not good. Still only considered bad in the context of only having 12 games in their season. While they sit in last place in the Atlantic Division and only the top six teams within the division make the playoffs, they have two games against many of their division rivals and a point or two in each of their games puts them back in the playoff race for one place in the playoffs.
No one on the team thrives on the offensive. The team just struggles to score. Lauri Pajuniemi leads the team with five goals and while he proves he’s got one hell of a shot, five goals in 12 games isn’t exactly known as a dominant performance. Jonny Brodzinski leads the team with eight points from twelve games. There are currently no Wolf Pack players in the AHL’s top 100 goalscorers.
The Wolf Pack’s special teams are doing pretty poorly. Her 17.6% power play and 80.4% penalty shootout are both second worst in their divisions. They’ve only got 9 power play goals so far this year while leading their league with most underhanded goals with 3, that’s not a great visual. In addition, they have the highest goals-on-ratio in their league. So when you break it down, they score way underscores and get way overscores in all situations.
For some players, development has stalled or not progressed at all as planned. One of those players, Ryder Korczak, was just sent back to the WHL for an overseason with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Ryder struggled to impress and was often underdressed to play as a result. He had zero points in five games played.
Another player who is struggling is Karl Henriksson. This is a very important year for Henriksson, there have been many doubts about his ability or potential to ever make it to the big league and this year has been a great opportunity for him to show he belongs. Unfortunately, he has played 11 games this season and has been invisible in most of them. The first year in the AHL may be a bit of a transition for the players, but he has yet to record a single point and more of the 2019 Rangers second-round pick is needed.
Last but not least, the Wolf Pack has the most time losses in its division. Losing once in OT and three times in the shootout, something goes wrong for the team. While we’re trying to be objective, I feel like they lack dynamic talent. Other teams have star players or players who are at least figuring it out, and the Wolf Pack’s start to this year has been slow and unproductive. The roster is full of free-agent signings, with the Rangers blasters often emphasizing things like size and taking flyers on big defenders. This is not a good model to build a good team. Hopefully their qualified prospects can turn things around and find a way to dig in and add a few Ws over the next few weeks.