All the hype for winger Hugh Jessiman in training camp this year was unwarranted. He hadn’t shown anything in two years of minor league hockey to make anyone believe he could have made the Rangers this year. In the first two preseason games Jessiman was invisible and I don’t know how that’s possible for a guy with a 6’6”, 230 pound frame.
The most embarrassing moment over the past weekend for Jessiman was his fight with the Philadelphia Flyers, 2005 first round draft pick, Steve Downie who is dwarfed by Jessiman's in size. Standing at 5’11” and 190 pounds, Downie reminded fans why Jessiman should not be in the NHL, knocking him down to the ice with a few punches. So much for those offseason boxing lessons Jessiman took. If that wasn’t enough there was further reason to send the rookie back down to the minors when he played a puck behind the net towards the end of the same game, Sami Kapanen, who stands at 5’10” 185, knocked Jessiman down with one hand and skated right past him. Jessiman’s skating is horrendous and what would seem to be his strength, he rarely uses to his advantage. At 6’6” he should be steam rolling over players; instead, almost on every shift he was exposed.
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So maybe the Rangers didn’t get off to the best of starts, but it’s the preseason. Following their win on Friday night, they followed up a strong performance with 5-0 loss to the Flyers. We did get a good look at some exciting young players. Namely, Brandon Dubinsky who showed enough in game 1 of the preseason versus the New Jersey Devils to become the favorite to win the 3rd line center position. The Rangers eliminated another possible option in Tom Pyatt who was sent to Hartford on Friday night.
We didn’t see much from Artem Anisimov. The 19 year-old Russian center played well versus the Devils, but unlike Dubinsky, he’s playing catch up. Anisimov will be sent to Hartford before the season starts. He needs at least a year playing in North America to adjust to the Rangers’ style of play. The only way Dubinsky
loses the job now is if coach Tom Renney decides to have Martin Straka center a line of Ryan Callahan and Petr Prucha. The combination would mean a commitment to a third scoring line and using Marcel Hossa on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez.
Against the Devils, Renney teamed Dubinsky with Straka and Callahan, which formed the best line of the night. They played complete shifts, finished their checks and created scoring chances. Both Straka and Callahan scored, while Dubinsky collected two assists on the night, leading the Rangers to a 4-3 win. If this line clicks, could Prucha be headed to the 4th line? That’s hard to believe, but it can be possible. If Renney keeps putting that line out there, look for Prucha and Hossa to battle it out for the right to play with Jagr and Gomez.
Stephan Valiquette had some scary moments in Friday’s match with the Devils. Brian Gionta’s goal from Valiquette’s right side should have been stopped. It’s those types of goals that will have Ranger fans worried throughout the season if he wins the backup job. Rookie Al Montoya had a strong game playing about 30 minutes versus the Devils, but let’s face it, his contract won’t allow him to be a Ranger this year. He’s scheduled to make over a million dollars if he makes the team and the salary cap just won’t allow that kind of hit. As much as fans want to see Montoya in New York this season, playing 15 to 20 games will only hurt his development. He’s much better served playing every day in Hartford. So unless the Rangers make a trade, it’s very likely that Valiquette will start the season backing up Henrik Lundqvist.