Grachev eager to be a Ranger this fall
Forward who missed final cut last year making waves at Development Camp
|Forward Evgeny Grachev talks to Hartford assistant coach J.J. Daigneault during the Development Camp at the MSG Training Center. Grachev spent last year with the Wolf Pack but is determined to make the NHL roster out of training camp this year.|
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
It was only a scrimmage, held during the Rangers Prospect Development camp in late June, more than two months before the official start of training camp. Yet it was also a flash of what could possibly be this upcoming season, not to mention for years to come.
Evgeny Grachev, the Rangers’ explosive third-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was a dominant offensive force during the prospects’ scrimmage at the MSG Training Center on Wednesday. Grachev scored three goals, selflessly passed up another to set up linemate Derek Stepan for an empty-netter, and was a consistent presence each and every time he was on the ice.
The timing of Grachev’s dominant performance was ideal. Only two days before, Rangers head coach John Tortorella called the 20 year-old left wing “a young kid that we want as part of our team” and noted that “we’re hoping that he makes that jump.”
However, Tortorella also added, “We’re very high on him, but potential is one thing, it’s a dangerous word. He needs to show it.”
Consider it two very important messages delivered by the head coach. And consider both messages received loud and clear by the maturing Grachev.
“I see it as a great chance and opportunity to make the team,” said Grachev. “Nothing is given to you and you have to earn the right to be there. This gives me more responsibility to not let (Tortorella) down if he has such high expectations for me.”
Grachev made a strong first impression on Tortorella during last year’s training camp. Coming off a 40-goal season with Brampton in the OHL, Grachev came close to cracking the Blueshirts’ opening night roster before being sent down to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the American Hockey League.
After a strong start, Grachev’s play admittedly fell off some, and his confidence -- which was at such a high level the year before in Brampton -- waned. Grachev went on to score 12 goals and finish with 28 points in 80 games with Hartford last season.
“Numbers-wise it wasn’t a great year for me, but I did learn a lot,” said Grachev. “You’re at a different place when you are (not) confident, so maybe that’s why (production was down). I learned that, if during the year things aren’t going great, you have to work through it.”
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Grachev is a powerful specimen on the ice. Combining his size with strong skating ability, impressive natural skills, and a love for scoring goals, it’s easy to see why the Rangers want to see Grachev raise his level of play enough to reach the NHL this season.
Another impressive trait is how well Grachev has mastered the English language and adapted to North America so quickly. At his first annual Prospects Development Camp two years ago, Grachev could barely speak English. This year, he confidently engages groups of reporters every day, sharing a very easy going demeanor and quick sense of humor. So good is his English that Grachev has served as defense prospect Mikhail Pashnin’s interpreter during mini-camp.
|Russian forward Evgeny Grachev is comfortable when bantering with hockey reporters in English.|
An example of Grachev’s quick wit with the media came forth on Wednesday when he was asked if he enjoyed scoring goals, even in a scrimmage game.
“Yeah, sure! But I’m sure some people here would like it more if I did it the last game of the season in Philly, like last year,” he said.
For Grachev it will be one step at a time before getting the chance to score big goals for the Rangers in important NHL games. This week’s development camp is one step. An off-season to further strengthen his hulking solid frame is another. And taking advantage of a big opportunity in training camp come September is another step along the way.
Whether he is on the opening night roster or not, Evgeny Grachev is on his way. There is no doubting that.