By Dan Hickling
Special to newyorkrangers.com
Bill Dubinsky could scarcely believe his ears when he heard the name of his son Brandon called by his beloved New York Rangers as their second-round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft.
The Bronx native, who grew up idolizing the likes of Eddie Giacomin, Vic Hadfield, and Rod Gilbert, moved many years ago to Anchorage, Alaska, but he took his love for the Rangers with him as he started his family.
And now, the thought of one day being able to root for his own son, the second born of his three boys, was almost too good to be true.
"It was exciting," the elder Dubinsky said. "We knew that there was interest from other clubs. But this was a happy surprise."
What isn't surprising is the rapid development shown by Brandon Dubinsky
, who joined the Rangers' AHL club in Hartford after wrapping up a fine junior career with the Portland Winter Hawks (WHL) last month.
In his short time with Hartford during this year's Calder Cup playoffs, Dubinsky has shown both a deft touch around the net and a commitment to defense.
At 6-foot, 195 pounds, the 19-year-old is big and plays big.
"It all began in the summer," he said. "I worked in New York a lot, and worked with their strength and conditioning coordinator (Reg Grant), and skating coach. Both did a phenomenal job with me, and I went back to the Western League and felt that much faster and stronger, which in turn made me think I was ahead of everyone else out there.
"I think things went really well for me. I had a good season. I had an injury that set me back a little bit, but I came back solid."
Although his knee injury did limit Dubinsky to just 51 games with Portland, he managed to rack up 21 goals and 46 points to lead the Winter Hawks in scoring, then added 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 12 playoff games.
When the Hawks were eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Dubinsky joined the Wolf Pack for their postseason. He hit the ice in full glide, putting together back-to-back two-goal games, while staying on the "plus" side of the ledger in all but one of his first nine games as a professional.
Dubinsky said he found the big leap to the AHL challenging, but very satisfying, too.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "The guys are much better here. You can always rely on the guys here to make the great plays and being in the right positions. So that's a little bit easier, but a little bit tougher, too, because the game's definitely a lot faster. You've got to be smarter and make plays quicker, because otherwise, they're going to take it from you and go the other way. Once you get used to that, it's a lot of fun."
Even more heartening has been the confidence that Hartford coach Jim Schoenfeld and his staff have shown by putting Dubinsky out in critical playoff situations.
His strong two-way play earned him extra power-play time, which in turn has been a huge boost for Dubinsky's confidence.
"It (has) a lot," he said. "The coaches are putting a lot of (responsibility) in my hands and are trusting me a lot. I'm really happy to get the opportunity, and just trying to make the most of it."
If nothing else, he's certainly made one Ranger fan happy.