Monday, July 15, 2013

Prospect Watch: Michael St. Croix

Michael St. Croix

When it comes to prospects, the Rangers boast few scorers in their system. The recent second round swap with the Canadiens that sent Christian Thomas to Montreal for Danny Kristo could pan out. That story will be worth following this Fall. As for recent drafts, Michael St. Croix comes to mind. He's hardly ever mentioned despite consecutive strong offensive showings with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. The son of former NHL goalie Rick St. Croix (Flyers, Leafs) is looking to prove critics wrong.

Selected by the Rangers in the fourth round 106th overall of the 2011 Draft, the 20-year old St. Croix followed up a 45-goal 105-point season with 37 markers and 55 assists totaling 92 points in all 72 games. While the production didn't match '11-12, the Winnipeg native lit it up in the WHL playoffs tallying 13 goals and 13 helpers for 26 points- leading the Central Division winners to the WHL Finals where they fell short in a bid to repeat losing in six games to the Portland Winterhawks for the championship. Here's a closer look at the center the Rangers signed last year (9/14/12).

PLAYER: Michael St. Croix
Position: Center
Shoots: Right
Height: 6-0
Weight: 179
Born: 4/10/1993
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Drafted: New York Rangers 2011 Round 4 No.106

2010-11: In his second season with the Oil Kings, St. Croix improved across the board achieving new highs in goals (27), assists (48), points (75), plus/minus (28) and games played (68). He scored a goal in four playoff games. It impressed Ranger scouts enough to take him in the fourth round.

2011-12: Year Three was a breakout with St. Croix's 105 points placing eighth in WHL scoring that included notables Emerson Etem and Ty Rattie. His 45 goals and 60 assist ranked in the top 10. He also improved his plus/minus to plus-40. The offensive explosion garnered East Second All-Star Team honors. In the postseason, he tallied seven goals and 12 helpers for 19 points in 20 games helping lead the Oil Kings to the Chynoweth Cup. Edmonton advanced to the Memorial Cup where they fell to eventual host champ Shawnigan. St. Croix was held to one assist in the tournament.

2012-13: His 92 points (37-55-92) was seventh best in the WHL. He was named to the East First All-Star Team. St. Croix established a career best in power play goals (20) and had six game-winners. Nearly half his production came on the power play totaling 44 power play points. His improvement during Edmonton's run to the Chynoweth Cup Finals is a positive. Thirteen goals and 13 assists is a nice split. Only four of his 26 points came on the man-advantage. His point total ranked third best.

Scouting Report: I couldn't find anything recent. Judging from previous accounts, most are undecided on him. The pluses are St. Croix's offensive capabilities. He possesses good hands that can both finish and set up. He is undersized. Don't put too much stock into him being generously listed at six feet. He definitely must get stronger. Especially entering his first year as a pro.

Video: There really isn't much. Considering his numbers, it's kind of a downer. I did find this scrap from a couple of years back.

Ironically, recent highlights of two goals he scored comes via NYR Blog contributor Adam Herman.

Future: Given that the Ranger organization unloaded another smallish prospect Thomas, it's hard to say what his future is. It could depend on how quickly he adjusts to a more physical game in the AHL. Maybe he's one of those classic overachievers. Only time shall tell.

Prospect Watch: Reid Boucher

Reid Boucher
This summer, we'll be taking a closer look at the top prospects of the Devils, Islanders, Rangers and Sabres. The list will include each teams' recent draft picks. Stay tuned for in depth features on your team's future.

First up is Devils forward prospect Reid Boucher. Taken in the fourth round of 2011, the 19-year old from Lansing Michigan has developed into a player to watch. Already signed to an entry level contract on Mar.13,  he is someone the organization has a close eye on. Especially with the sudden departure of Ilya Kovalchuk. Losing that kind of scoring threat hurts big time a year after Zach Parise went home to Minnesota. David Clarkson also left for greener pastures in Toronto. Can another American born player help lead the club back to respectability? Let's take a closer look.

Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Height: 5-11
Weight: 187
Born: 9/08/1993
Hometown: Grand Ledge, Michigan
Drafted: New Jersey Devils 2011 4th Round 99th Overall

2011-12: After spending the previous two seasons playing for Team USA in the United States Hockey League, Boucher moved onto juniors playing for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. In his rookie year, he posted 28 goals and 22 assists totaling 50 points and 19 penalty minutes in 67 games. He scored 10 of his 28 on the power play and had a minus-19 rating. In the OHL playoffs, he tallied a goal and two assists in six games. In a pro tryout, Boucher got into one game with Albany and didn't register a point.

2012-13: Boucher's second season was memorable shattering Steven Stamkos' record of 58 goals by scoring 62 in 68 games. A remarkable feat that garnered Prospect Of The Year honors. He added 33 assists to finish with 95 points placing him fifth in OHL scoring. He netted 21 power play goals, nine game-winners, a shorthanded goal and went plus-13 with 53 PIM. Unfortunately, the Sting lost in the first round a second straight year despite five points (2-3-5) and two PPG's in four games from Boucher, who struggled at even strength finishing minus-six. The monster year was enough for the Devils to sign him. In 13 games with the River Rats, he tallied five points (3-2-5) with 2 PPG's and 6 PIM.

Scouting Report: Prior to the 2011 Draft, The Hockey Writers' Christopher Ralph felt Boucher would emerge into a sleeper.

Why then am I so big on Boucher? Plain and simple, the kid has a nose for the net that you just can’t teach. He is first and foremost a pure goal scorer with outstanding hands and a quick release to go with his lethally accurate shot.  He has an uncanny aptitude to find open ice and knows how to finish when the opportunity arises, especially in clutch situations. While his skating ability has been questioned, he is very shifty to go along with some very good puck skills.

Hockey's Future also liked his ability to find the back of the net. An area the Devils need. He'll continue to need work defensively.

Boucher’s best assets are his deadly accurate shot, lightning-quick release, and his soft hands. Whether it’s in-tight or from outside the circles, Boucher can snipe with the best of them. More quick than fast, Boucher has good vision and knows where to park himself on the ice in order to get quality chances in the offensive zone. He doesn’t let his size keep him from battling for loose pucks and he does not shy away from traffic, however these are two things he needs to do more of to become more involved in the play. His overall defensive game is still a work in progress, but he has plenty of time to polish that area up.

Video: Here are some OHL Highlights of Reid Boucher lighting it up with the Sarnia Sting. You'll notice a shifty skater with a quick release. Exactly what a sniper should be. The puck comes off his stick fast. Marian Gaborik can snap it like that. We're not comparing them. Just an observation. Another point which probably didn't hurt Boucher's development was playing with Nail Yakupov. He probably learned a lot teaming up with the Oilers' 2012 top overall pick. Not only did he get to play with Yakupov but also Canadiens' first rounder Alex Galchenyuk. It must've been a treat for OHL fans. I also found Boucher's record tying and record breaking goals to pass Stamkos. Great touch around the net and offensive instincts.

Future: Boucher is a goal scorer. He'll probably need some polishing in the AHL with Albany before arriving in 2014. If the Devils are smart, they won't rush him. They should let him mature similar to Adam Henrique. Henrique wears number 14. So, I doubt Boucher will don it. I could see him winding up with No.9. Wouldn't that be fitting? Another American prospect with great hands.

The Puck Stops Here


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