Perhaps a forgotten prospect by many Ranger fans; but certainly not by the Rangers Organization. Defenseman Pavel Valentenko was acquired in a 7-player deal with the Montreal Canadians that involved Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh and Doug Janit going to the Rangers for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto in 2009. Valentenko was included in the deal, because the Canadians believed that he would not return to North America to pursue an NHL career. Fortunately for the Rangers, Valentenko did return and nearly made the Rangers roster twice. Currently, Valentenko is playing with the KHL on a two-year contract, but the Rangers still own his rights. Although the chances of Valentenko returning to North America to play for the Rangers is a long shot. He is still considered a high prospect in the Rangers organization and deserves to be showcased.
Nicknamed “The Russian Tank” Valentenko is arguably the hardest hitting defensemen within the Rangers system and has an overpowering slap shot as well. The 24 year old defenseman will not overwhelm you with his offensive play; as he is strictly a defensive-minded defenseman who enjoys the physical part of the game. At 6’2 and weighing 220, Valentenko plays a North American style of hockey and excels in playing physical. With the departure of Tim Erixon (traded to Columbus as part of the package for Rick Nash), Valentenko could perhaps be enticed to return to North America and compete for a roster spot with the Rangers in 2013. The only roadblock that would hinder that scenario is if Valentenko’s agent Igor Kramarev demands a one way contract for his client; which the Rangers rarely do for any prospect.
With Christmas Break just around the corner, the Connecticut Whale played only one game this week which was against the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday night. The Whale was victorious over their division rivals, 3-2, and enters the Break on a high-note—seated in first-place in the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference.
Jeff Prough making most of his call-up
First up on the agenda this week is a Whale call-up that has made team coaches very happy in recent games. While Whale’ 2011-12 roster skaters, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Tim Erixon, and Stu Bickel are playing impressive hockey on their NHL call-ups with the New York Rangers; 25-year-old forward Jeff Prough has made his presence in the Whale’ line-up known through his terrific play over the past three games.
Prough, who signed with the Whale during the offseason, scored his first goal with the team during Wednesday’s victory. The former Brown University scoring leader scored while on the power-play after collecting a Pavel Valentenko rebound, and shoving it into Adirondack’s goal. As coach Ken Gernander might say, he was “Johnny on the spot” to put away that goal.
At this time last season, the fourth-year pro was a member of the New Jersey Devils franchise, on a contract with the AHL’s Albany Devils. Prough was a member of the Devils’ organization for three seasons, and saw time with Albany and Trenton (ECHL) during his time with the team. He also played eight games with the Lowell Devils before they moved to New York’s capital.
In his first two games with the team, Prough played on a line with veteran Jordan Owens and rookie Ryan Bourque. The trio played a physical game, and Prough helped to create a few scoring chances. Due to injury trouble, Owens was moved to the second-line, and Chris McKelvie would join Prough and Bourque on the third combination for Wednesday’s game. Once again, Prough played a solid game which, of course, included one goal.
Tonight, a depleted Connecticut Whale team hosted a depleted Adirondack Phantoms team in their final games before the Christmas Break. In an exciting finish, the Whale was victorious over their division rivals, 3-2.
Adirondack struck first with an early at 4:07 of the first period. Mike Testwuide scored his third of the year to give his club the 1-0 lead, with assists going to Andrew Rowe and Tyler Brown. The Whale answered back with a goal at 16:19 to tie the game at 1-1. As their power-play expired, veteran Andre Deveaux raised a backhand shot over the left-arm of Phantoms’ goalie Jason Bacashihua for his seventh tally of the season. Assists went to Kris Newbury and Brendan Bell.
Shots for the first frame were 11-6 Phantoms, and both teams were 0-for-1 on their power-play opportunities.
It was the Whale who scored first in the second period, when Jeff Prough scored his first goal with the team at 8:28 on the power-play. Bell recorded his second assist of the night, and Pavel Valentenko also received an assist on the goal which gave the Whale a 2-1 lead.
Only 2:34 later, at 10:52, the Phantoms tied the game on a goal by Ty McGinn (his fifth of the season) making it a 2-2 game. Jason Akeson and Garret Roe were credited with the assists on the goal. Shots for the period were 11-8 for Adirondack.
Entering the 2011-12 American Hockey League season, the Connecticut Whale roster featured three former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League stars, who all at one point were teammates in the junior development league. And just a month ago, the Whale was provided with another former QMJHL star after the parent New York Rangers made a trade with the Washington Capitals (parent club of the Hershey Bears).
Leading the pack of four forwards is two-time Calder Cup Champion with Hershey, winger Francois Bouchard, who the Rangers’ acquired for blueliner Tomas Kundratek. Bouchard, 23, joined the Whale with zero points to his credit, after playing in nine games with the Bears’. The younger brother of Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard was taken 35th overall in the 2006 NHL entry draft by the Capitals, following a stunning season in “The Q” with Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
The Sherbrooke, QC, Canada native began his junior career as a second-round pick of Baie-Comeau in 2004. In his first season with the club, he recorded just 24 points (11 goals and 13 assists) in 54 games. Bouchard took a major step forward during his draft year in 2005-06, when the right-winger led his club in points with 102 (33 goals and 69 assists) in only 69 contests. His play only improved during his third season with Baie-Comeau, when he led the entire QMJHL with 125 points (45 goals and 80 assists) in 68 games. His scoring potential was evident, and Bouchard became a professional with Hershey during the 2008-09 campaign.
Since joining the Whale, the fourth-year pro has scored once and assisted twice in 11 games. He is a minus-1 rating, has six taken three minor-penalties along with 13 shots on goal. Though the former 20-goal scorer continues to struggle in finding his scoring game with this season, Coach Ken Gernander continues to use Bouchard as a top-6 forward and also gives him some power-play time. If Bouchard can re-discover his scoring touch, then he will be able to make more of an impact with his new club. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound, winger, has an impressive shot and is a good passer. For now his impact on the Whale has been limited, but as the season progresses, expect Bouchard and his Calder Cup experience to step up.
At Blue Notes, Steve Zipay transcribes the interview that Bruce Berlet did at Howlings with Pavel Valentenko.
Tank said that he hurt his groin on Friday and didn’t tell the coaches because he didn’t want to come out of the game.
Valentenko said that he felt nervous in training camp this season and put a lot of pressure on himself to make the Rangers because his contract is up after this season.
He closed by saying that he likes the North American game and wants to stay here and try to make the Rangers.
Well the rumors were that the KHL was an option for him, and it sounds like it was, but he seems to prefer the North American style game more. Maybe he told the coaches about the injury after the game and that is why he was sent down. He is no good to them in Europe with a groin injury, so it makes more sense to send him down and let him rehab there. It is nice that he sounds committed to playing here, maybe he will get a chance this season.