29 December 2010
I'm guessing that none of you care as much about prospects in hockey as you do about the Phillies, Eagles, or even Sixers current and possible future draft picks. The Canadian Hockey League might as well be on another planet for most Philadelphians. Most know that the Flyers have a team in Glens Falls, but that all those guys suck (this year at least) and there's not much coming out of our farm system any time soon. This belief has doubly been reaffirmed by the fact that the Phantoms have the worst record in the AHL and our only real young talent was plucked out of obscurity over the summer, not from our own ranks. But it appears that there might be some serious talent…on the actual farm.
In hockey they draft 'em young, and if the draftee is not a top ten pick you can just forget about them for a while, and if he's not drafted in the first two rounds you can pretty much forget about them forever. But about one in a hundred guys from rounds 3-7 actually ends up having a meaningful and sometimes superstar NHL career. I think if things keep progressing the way they are we may have hit the 7th round jackpot last June.
I've tweeted a whole bunch about Brendan Ranford, the Flyers unheralded 7th round pick from last year's draft, but the kid deserves a write up. He's been leading the WHL, one spear of the trident that makes up the CHL, in goal scoring almost all year and in points for a couple weeks now. The important thing to keep in mind is that he's 18 and he will be all season. In these leagues your age matters significantly. You can see this in Paul Holmgren's free agent signings from just last spring. Homer went out and got two of the leading scorers in the CHL in Luke Pither and … shit I can't even remember the guy's name. Shane Harper. There it is. Anyway, that proves my point. These guys are struggling in the AHL despite being top scorers in the CHL last year….as overagers. That's the key part. There is a HUGE difference between being a leading scorer at 20 versus 18, and especially at 17 like Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were - that spells P-H-E-N-O-M.
(*Quick point of reference, every Major Junior team in the CHL I allowed to carry up to four 16 year olds and three 20 year olds, the latter obviously being more popular because of the results you'll see below.)
Now, Brendan Ranford had an alright season last year. He probably deserved to get drafted late, if at all. But he either worked incredibly hard over the summer, or just started developing a bit, or probably a combination of both. But his leading the entire WHL in scoring is no small feat. Check it out. Everyone in his scoring range are either higher draft picks, old balls that should get used to life on a bus, or soon-to-be 1st round picks.
Ranford is 4th in the CHL in scoring among all of them. And he's a young 18 too. He only became draft eligible the month before the last year's draft.
The scoring races in these leagues usually play out this way. Older guys will dominate where they couldn't before (especially in the Q, it appears), young guns will build up their resume in preparation for draft day, and some guys drafted last year or the year before will continue their development. In Ranford's case it's far more rapid than anyone obviously could have predicted, seeing as hundreds of hockey minds let him slip to pick #209.
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