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.
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.
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He is on the third pair tonight and playing with Brendan Bell, which I saw as his pairing in Hartford. He is in the last year of his contract, RFA after the year, and probably has a better chance to play and make money in the KHL. It could really open up a spot for Blake Parlett to move up on the depth chart.
Leslie Treff wrote at Hockey’s Future that Tank looked comfortable as Girardi’s partner yesterday.
Interesting development in the third pair defenseman search. Tim Erixon doesn’t need waivers and Michael Del Zotto still has about 50 or so games until he needs to pass through waivers. I think that both are ahead of Valentenko on the depth chart, but if it is close, do you try Tank there to start? He is an asset and I would hate to see them lose him to a waiver claim, but is that enough of a reason to have him start with the Rangers over Erixon or Del Zotto?
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Tim Erixon, Pavel Valentenko, Tomas Kundratek and Ryan Bourque are some of the players mentioned as possible candidates for roster spots.
Valentenko really did come close to making the team last season. He and Ryan McDonagh were the last cuts on defense and it will be interesting to see how he fares during camp. Kundratek is someone that most people forget about but he has a nice talent level. I think he could spend, at least, another year in the minors.
Bourque is a player that I am dying to see and like Carl Hagelin, who wasn’t mentioned, they could stick around in camp for a while or be players called up during the season. Erixon is clearly the favorite, but is far from a lock to land one of the final two spots.
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I have unfairly discounted him as someone who can take one of the final roster spots and win a job out of training camp. He hits, he has a shot and John Tortorella was a big fan of his last year. The best players in camp will make the team, and if Tank is one of them, he will make the team an either Tim Erixon or Michael Del Zotto, or possibly both if they only go with six, will end up in Hartford.
At NYRangers.com, they continue their “20 Prospects in 20 Days” series with a look at Pavel Valentenko.
Tank, who almost made the team last season after returning to North America, has a special place in his heart for blocking shots:
“One of his strengths would be shot-blocking. He loves to block shots and he’s fearless in that regard,” said Connecticut Whale head coach Gernander. “So that makes him a pretty strong penalty-killer. He’s going to be a defensive type of defenseman.”
Click HERE for more on how much Valentenko loves blocking shots.
I tend to not think about Tank as much, but those last two spots are open to competition. If Tank is the best defenseman in training camp, he will get a spot. He kind of reminds me of Dan Girardi, at least from this reading. He has as good a chance to be a Ranger as Tim Erixon or Michael Del Zotto. The best player will make the team. Hopefully it leads to a great battle in training camp.