One of the most frequently asked questions this offseason after, “is Rick Nash a Ranger yet?” has been, “who the heck is Kyle Jean?”
The answer is simple: he’s the latest gem uncovered by Gordie Clark and New York’s superior scouting staff, which has developed something of a Midas touch over the last couple of years.
It wasn’t long ago that the Rangers were completely incapable of even getting a high first-round pick right. But now, Clark and company are unearthing NHL caliber prospects not just through the draft’s later rounds, but even from the ranks of those that have long been completely ignored throughout their junior careers.
Jean, a 22-year-old forward out of Lake Superior State in the CCHA, is the latest of these, but the amateur scouting staff (Larry Bernard, Rich Brown, Brendon Clark, Daniel Dore, Ernie Gare, Peter Stephan and Tom Thompson) has outperformed its counterparts by leaps and bounds over the last 12 months.
Last summer the Rangers offered a 5-foot-9, 175-pound kid named Jonathan Audy-Marchessault an amateur tryout after seeing him put up lofty numbers in the QMJHL while teammates with Ryan Bourque.
J.A.M., as he’s come to be known, racked up 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) with the Connecticut Whale last season, good for 10th among AHL players. Unfortunately, Audy-Marchessault was inked to an Entry Level contract by Columbus this week, where he’ll have a much easier path to the NHL than he would have had with New York.
But no matter, because the amateur scouting staff had already uncovered its next coup, a 6-1, 197-pound left wing named Marek Hrivik, who had spent the previous three seasons with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats. Hrivik was quiet in his eight regular season games with the Whale, but exploded for five goals in nine playoff games and quickly earned himself a pro contract, which he signed following the season.
By this summer it should have become clear to frequently ignored prospects that the members of the Rangers’ scouting staff know what they are doing and that the organization is very willing to give players a shot even if they don’t follow traditional paths.
And that’s exactly what happened with Jean, who apparently spurned several other invites to attend the Rangers’ development camp, where he scored four scrimmage goals and wowed those in attendance.
Jean’s 6-4, 212-pound frame is perhaps his most eye-popping characteristic, but he is said to be a decent skater for his size with some finish ability.
It’s way too early to guess whether Hrivik or Jean will ever find themselves playing on Broadway, but they both earned a chance to develop under the watch of an organization that has had unparalleled success with prospects in recent years.
Don’t go penciling either player onto the Rangers’ 2013 roster, but if you’ve already got a writing utensil handy, Clark and the rest of the scouting staff could certainly use some thank you cards.