The Tale of the Tape
Last week when I got this place launched one of the first things requested that I do here was a comparison of Ranger prospects.
What better way to kick off this feature than to have Marc Staal and Michael Sauer go head to head with each other to show how alike and how different both these prospects are.
Staal was taken in the first round of the 2005 Entry Draft by the Rangers at number 12. Why Staal fell to the the 12th spot (he was the 3rd defenseman selected that year) does not really matter because at that point in time (and even today) the Rangers badly needed a game changing defender who could score the big goal or make the defensive stand and that is Marc Staal.
Sauer though was coming off major hip surgery in his draft year and thus fell out of the first round. Had he remained healthy there is no way he would have fallen to the second round because just like Staal here is a game changing defender who can score the big goal or make the defensive play. The Rangers selected him in the second round of the same draft at number 40.
The Physical Stuff
There are some very scary similarities between these 2 and it starts with both their size and their weights. Both are 6'4, both are about 206 but then things change.
Staal is a left handed shot while Sauer comes from the right side. Sauer is a tad stronger in the strength department but Staal appears to be the more fluid and faster skater.
Sauer looks bigger due to Staal having more of a lanky frame to him. Sauer is also more of the workout fanatic not that Staal is lazy but outside of Tom Pyatt, few Ranger prospects will be in better shape than Sauer.
However Sauer has suffered more serious injuries which have made people wonder about how durable Sauer will be. Play the kind of physical game that Sauer does and you will suffer more injuries than most.
That is not to say Staal has not been hurt but his injuries have been kept quieter. The worst Staal has suffered was a knee injury that caused him to miss a few games last season.
Too Much Alike
When the game is going on neither prospect is going to think offense first. They will take their shots when given the chance but both think about their defensive responsibilities as key to who they are on the ice.
Both will play a very physical game with a touch of finesse when the situation calls for it. It is rare to see such physical types who can also be able to stay out of the penalty box (Staal 68 PIMs, Sauer 75 last season) but take away their fights and they actually would have closer to 35-40 PIMs.
It is also down right scary to see 2 young players who can read and react to a play like these 2 do. It is as if both have PCs in their heads as they very rarely will get out smarted and if anything have a sense of anticipation that will disrupt the other team's attack.
Both will block shots, clear a crease with a heavy hit, disrupt a rush with a well timed poke check. It is rare to catch either out of position leaving their partner at the other team's mercy.
They both come from well known sports families and that has helped each prepare for their NHL career. Staal has gotten to practice against his brothers Eric and Jordan both very skilled goal scorers while Sauer's older brother Kurt has been a defensive defender for 4 seasons in the NHL.
While neither are going to scare anyone with their fighting skills both will drop the gloves in a heartbeat to protect a teammate. Both have been leaders on every team they have played for.
Perhaps the most important part is that both have been champions with Staal a 2 time gold medalist with Team Canada while Sauer was on the WHL champion Medicine Hat Tigers.
By now I am pretty sure you are wondering if these 2 are joined at the hip but they do have their differences. Staal is the natural leader, he is more a take charge guy who has no problem being in the spotlight.
Staal does a better job sensing when he needs to turn his game up a notch and go on the attack. Staal seems to know when and where he has to pick his spots for end to end rushes. Staal in some ways reminds me of Brian Leetch when it comes to dominating a game.
Staal has the more accurate shot as he can get it on net putting almost anywhere he wants to. Sauer the heavy shot that hurts anyone that gets in his way. I give Staal the slight nod with his passing skills but he looks for his offense more than Sauer will.
Staal will also know when his team needs a wake up call and will do what it takes whether it is a fight, goal or heavy hit. Leadership comes very naturally to him and it is very easy to see why so many believe Staal is a future Ranger captain.
Sauer on the other hand is the quiet blue collar guy, he just wants to do his job and then go home. Sauer is just as happy letting others enjoy the spotlight. In some ways Sauer is the more dangerous player because of his modest ways.
Other teams tend to forget about Sauer on the ice which is a huge mistake because that is when Sauer will strike. When Sauer makes a play it normally is a game changer whether it is sneaking in from the point to score a goal or coming out of nowhere to block what appears to be a sure goal.
If I had to choose one for a key play then I want Staal out there when I need a goal but Sauer is who I want on the ice when I am protecting a one goal lead in the last minute.
The Crystal Ball
While it is easy to say that both will have long positive NHL careers there will be differences. Staal as I said earlier likes the spotlight and I believe that will help him earn at least one Norris Trophy.
Staal feeds off the attention and gets better as a season wears on. I see that with his NHL career as well. Once Staal understands what it takes to play at the NHL level he will mature rather fast. I can see Staal as an NHL All-Star with little problem. His stronger 2 way game, outgoing personality and leadership skills should also help make him a fan favorite.
Sauer on the other hand I said a couple of years ago is the best Ranger defensive prospect and that will not change. Staal will get all the glory but Sauer will earn the most respect from the Ranger fans. He may not win the personal awards but I believe that Sauer more than Staal will make the pivotal plays in the biggest of games.
As I said before the winners here are the Ranger fans as to get not 1 but 2 high quality defenders from the same draft. Toss in Bobby Sanguinetti and you have the makings of perhaps one of the best defensive corps in Ranger's history
David Skokan (07 7th) and his Rimouski Oceanic were in action this evening hosting the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. For Skokan tonight was a season first for him as he finally put together back to back above 500 efforts for his faceoffs going 11-7.
While Skokan and his Oceanic lost 4-3, Skokan did not play bad going "Even" and being credited with 4 good hits. Skokan is doing a pretty decent job as a checking center something that in the offense crazy QMJHL is an almost impossible task. If Skokan can show some more offense down the road then he could make a fine addition to the system.
Checking centers who can play under control while staying out of the penalty box or carrying a hefty minus number are not that easy to find.