Ranger's First Star Dylan McIlrath
Dylan McIlrath (2010 1st)only needed 232 games to score his very first WHL shorthanded goal so it's safe to say that John Tortorella would not be looking to McIlrath for offense while on the penalty kill. All jokes aside it was good to see McIlrath play like he did on Saturday night.
It's been a rough season for him from 2 suspensions to an "upper body injury that was not a concussion even though it was a shot to the head that injured him." If anything it's been really hard to measure McIlrath's forward progress because of all that has happened the season.
McIlrath will get a second chance because his Moose Jaw Warriors will enter the WHL playoffs as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and will be seen as one of the favorites to win the WHL championship.
With the exception of us, McIlrath has been able to skate under the radar because of all the hype for JT Miller and Chris Kreider. He will not get that luxury in the WHL playoffs because just as important as Miller and Kreider are for the Ranger's future so is McIlrath.
McIlrath will be the anchor on the Ranger blueline allowing the Rangers to be able to send a Michael Del Zotto or a Tim Erixon on the rush, knowing if they get trapped McIlrath will cover for them. He will also be the physical presence that will protect his teammates if somebody wants to run them.
He still needs to work on improving his shot (get it on net) to give him enough offense to keep the other teams honest. McIlrath with a goal as well as a secondary assist was his only multipoint game of the season and 3-20-23 is not going to strike fear offensively.
Second Star Chris Kreider
Chris Kreider (2009 1st) the defensive specialist version of Kreider showed up on Saturday evening to help top ranked Boston College become the 1st team in Hockey East history to win 3 straight championships after defeating the Maine Blackbears 4-1 in the finale.
Chris Kreider has won the Hockey East championship in all three of the seasons that he has played for Boston College. It is remarkable feat that might only be topped by winning his 2nd NCAA championship in those three years (we give him a pass on last year because of a freak accident that led to Kreider breaking his jaw).
Everybody wants to rave about Kreider's offensive skills and yes they are quite impressive but to us what is equally impressive is the fact that Chris Kreider is a two way player. There is no worrying about Chris Kreider on defense because Kreider already plays defense already in our eyes at the NHL level.
With his speed and quickness he can get back on defense faster than most people can turn themselves around. How many times did Kreider disrupt Maine's offense just by his back checking? It just seemed that every time Maine thought they had something going Kreider was breaking it up.
And if you didn't see the game then you missed watching Chris Kreider operates from the right point. On Boston College's second goal which was a power-play goal Kreider showed why Boston College uses him on their power play as he put a shot on goal that was low to the ice in their as he got a shot down low which produced a a huge rebound and with everybody scrambling just as easy to put in the net.
And because Kreider is so strong defensively that unlike most forwards used to play the point, Kreider is big enough and strong enough defensively that he can handle being pressured.
Winning the Hockey East championship as well as being the the top-ranked team in the country should give Boston College the number one seed for the entire NCAA tournament. That should put them in Worcester, Massachusetts which is the site of this years Northeast Regionals which is a mere bus ride away from Boston.
The Rest of the Ranger Prospects
Steven Fogarty (2011 3rd) and his Penticton Vees lost only four games during the BCHL regular season but it only took them two games to lose one in the playoffs. The Chilliwack Chiefs outplayed the Penticton Vees and earned a 3-2 overtime win in game two of their best-of-seven series.
The series is now tied at 1-1 but Penticton has lost home ice advantage and credit should be given to the Chiefs who are playing as if they don't care what kind of record Penticton had during the regular season. Fogarty was held in check by the Chiefs as he was scoreless and really wasn't a factor like he was in game one.
Game three will be Tuesday in Chilliwack.
Michael St. Croix (2011 4th) ended his breakout season in style as the Ranger prospect scoring champion had a goal as well as an assist to help his Edmonton Oil Kings end their regular season with a 7-3 win over the Red Deer Rebels. The win was the Oil Kings 11th straight as they finished with new franchise records in wins (50) and points (107).
The Oil Kings also won for the first time since the franchise returned to Edmonton in 2007, the WHL's East division, regular season Eastern Conference title and the 2011-12 Scotty Munro Trophy as Regular Season League Champions.
Michael St. Croix rewrote the Edmonton Oil Kings record book with 45 goals, 60 assists, and 105 points which also was good for 8th overall in the WHL. In addition to leading the Ranger prospects in scoring, St. Croix also lead them in power-play goals (18).
First up for the Oil Kings in the WHL playoffs will be the defending champion Kootenay Ice and if we were Edmonton with be very worried about this matchup. Forget that you swept the season series 6-0 and treat them like the defending champions they are.
Shane McColgan (2011 5th) returned to the Kelowna Rocket lineup after serving a one-game suspension for accumulation of "embellishment penalties." McColgan was scoreless in his regular season finale but ended the season as Kelowna's leading scorer 18-46-64.
The Rockets finished up the regular season with a 4-3 shootout win as McColgan was scoreless in the game. The Rockets will face the Portland Winterhawks in the first-round of the WHL's Western Conference playoffs.
Christian Thomas (2010 2nd) saw his five game scoring streak come to an end as his Oshawa Generals were shutout 3-0 by the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors. With the loss the Generals will start the OHL playoffs as the 8th seed in the OHL's Eastern Conference and will face conference champion Niagara IceDogs.
JT Miller (2011 1st) and his Plymouth Whalers saw their 10 game winning streak come to a screeching halt after the Sarnia Sting scored four goals in the third period to win 6-2. Miller was scoreless as is Whalers will finish second in the OHL's Western Conference and face the Guelph Storm in the first-round.
In the QMJHL,Samuel Noreau (2011 5th) was scoreless, a -2 and minor penalties for kneeing and crosschecking as his Baie-Comeau Drakkar lost to the Val-d'Or Foreurs 7-4. The loss means that the Drakkar will finish 12th and will not know who they face in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs until after Sunday's games are decided.
Scott Stajcer (2009 5th)in his final regular season appearance at home was the starter as his Owen Sound Attack faced the Guelph Storm. Stajcer stopped 39 out of 42 shots but took the loss 3-1 and was named the game's second star
Stajcer finishes his regular season career with the Attack 57-55-9-9 with a 3.44 goals against and a 0.902 save percentage with three shutouts. Owen Sound as a 6th seed will take on the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the OHL's Western Conference playoffs.
( McIlrath-Moose jaws Warriors, Kreider- NHL media )
2 hours ago