Whale out of the Gate

And so a 16th season of AHL hockey in Hartford is underway.

Not exactly the start the Whale were looking for, with a pair of home losses, but there certainly were some positives.

One was the power play, which was 5/13 in the two games, with Kris Newbury scoring three of those goals.  Clearly, the presence of guys like Matt Gilroy, Chris Kreider and Logan Pyett is going to make the Whale a threat every time they go to the man advantage, and youngsters Kyle Jean and J.T. Miller looked admirably hungry out there on the power play as well.

Jean’s play in both games was another eye-opener, as the rookie Michigander drew himself a penalty shot in Friday’s opener and converted with a real nice move, and then found the net again on a power-play rebound on Sunday.

Jean’s name is not one I had ever heard before he gained some notoriety at the Rangers’ June prospect camp as the player with whom Dylan McIlrath collided when he suffered his knee injury.  That can’t have been the only thing Jean did at the camp, as he was signed to an NHL contract by the Rangers shortly thereafter, meaning he must have made quite an impression.  For an undrafted guy, usually the best one

Kyle Jean buries his second goal of the weekend on a Sunday power play (Chris Rutsch)

can hope for out of the prospect camp is to earn a tryout invitation to training camp, or maybe an AHL contract, but to come out of it with an NHL offer is pretty unusual.

I don’t remember Jean standing out particularly in the preseason, but now that the games have started for real, he is showing why the Rangers were so intrigued with him.  He’s a real big guy, at 6-4 and 203 pounds, with a long reach, and he has shown a remarkably good first step, skating-wise, especially for a player of that size.  He put on a burst of speed to get by Matt Donovan, a good, young Bridgeport defenseman, on the play that led to his penalty shot, and he got to the net in a big hurry on his goal on Sunday too.  What’s more, his hand skills, often the achilles heel of bigger players, look excellent.  He totally flummoxed Sound Tiger goalie Kevin Poulin on  the penalty shot, with a pretty move to the forehand, and flashed some other darned good dangles as well.

Watching Jean this weekend, I had a feeling similar to that which struck me when Marek Hrivik came along last spring, which is, where has this guy been hiding, and how is it possible that nobody has found him before this?  I mean, 6-4 guys who can wheel and handle the puck don’t grow on trees.  And it’s not like Jean was hidden away in some backwater…he played two years at Lake Superior State, a high-profile Division I program that has produced some great pro players over the years.

Whatever it was that caused the rest of the hockey world to overlook Jean, it was a good scouting job by the Rangers to zero in on him, unearthing another apparent gem to go with Hrivik, who led the Whale in playoff goals last year after coming out of the Quebec Junior League with almost no fanfare.

Also on the positive side this weekend, Chris Kreider was, as advertised, dynamic, exerting some intimidation with his speed and showing no hesitation to go to the front of the net and into other high-traffic areas.  It was great to see Chad Kolarik back on the ice, playing with plenty of passion, after last season’s lost year.  Both goaltenders, Jason Missiaen and Scott Stajcer, had flashes of real good play, and Cam Talbot was healthy enough to back up Stajcer Sunday, seemingly indicating that he is close to full recovery and a chance to grab the reins.  Also, Brandon Segal, coming off of a Calder Cup triumph with Norfolk, seemed to fit in well with the Whale lineup and, although he didn’t score, generated some good chances and had worked his way on to the top line with Newbury and Kreider by Sunday’s game.

 

Here are youtube links to the highlights of both games:

Friday vs. Bridgeport

Sunday vs. St. John’s

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4 Responses to “Whale out of the Gate”

  1. chris Says:

    bob is plus minus only counted when its even strength. or is it counted on power plays as well

  2. chris Says:

    yep thats was my guess wassent positive.

  3. chris Says:

    lost the first 2 at home in regulation. lost last night on the road come from behind fashion to get it to ot. were getting closer to a win bob. same team same building tonight. im calling it.

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