Despite all of the annual excitement surrounding the Rangers’ Stanley Cup playoff run, one of the biggest stories in the organization this spring is taking place in Connecticut, where the Blueshirts’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, begin their pursuit of the AHL’s Calder Cup championship this evening.
Hartford will open its best-of-seven Atlantic Division semifinal series vs. the Worcester Sharks tonight with a home game tonight at 7 p.m. Game 2 will also be played on Saturday in Hartford.
The Wolf Pack had a tremendous regular season, winning the Atlantic Division title by five points over the Providence Bruins. The Pack went 46-27-3 this season under head coach Ken Gernander, a former Rangers player, and his assistants J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller. The record was particularly impressive, since Hartford is one of the league’s youngest teams and features several players who have promising NHL careers ahead of them.
Nine years ago, the Wolf Pack won the Calder Cup without any future NHL stars on the roster and very few players who went on to become Rangers. This season, however, nine of the team’s top 10 scorers have NHL contracts with the Rangers, and six are Rangers draft picks. That group includes Pack scoring leader Artem Anisimov
, who made it up to the Rangers for one regular-season game in 2008-09.
Anisimov, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2006, had a breakout year with the Pack. He scored 37 goals and 81 points in 80 games to finish among the AHL’s top scorers.
|Bobby Sanguinetti |
The player the Rangers drafted ahead of Anisimov in 2006, first-rounder Bob Sanguinetti, also had a big season. A native of New Jersey, Sanguinetti led all Hartford defensemen with six goals and 42 points. Other key future Rangers on the Hartford roster include draftees Brodie Dupont, Greg Moore, Tommy Pyatt, Corey Potter, Dale Weise and Michael Sauer
As the Pack continue in their playoff run, they will be joined by various players coming from the junior ranks. This group is expected to include defenseman Tomas Kundratek and forward Evgeny Grachev, the OHL rookie of the year from the Brampton Battalion. Grachev can’t come up to Hartford until his junior team’s current playoff run ends.
Keep an eye on newyorkrangers.com throughout the Calder Cup playoffs for updates on each Wolf Pack game.