Ranger prospect Evgeni Grachev will have to wait another year to get his North American professional career underway, as the Hartford Wolf Pack have announced that the 18-year old Russian has been reassigned to the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. He’s expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Battalion face the Owen Sound Attack.
The Battalion web site sheds some light on why Grachev hung around in Hartford while his fellow junior-eligible teammates were sent back to their respective teams last Thursday. “Grachevâ€™s return from New York was delayed pending his release through the International Ice Hockey Federation. The Battalion appealed a Russian Ice Hockey Federation ruling that Grachev still was under contract to Yaroslavl 2, his former club,” the site reports, noting that other junior clubs faced similar difficulties gaining the release of their Russian-born players this season. â€œThereâ€™s a procedure in place, and with some federations itâ€™s easier to get releases than others,â€ explained Battalion head coach Stan Butler. â€œWe had to go through the process of obtaining his release, and sometimes that takes longer than you would like.â€
Butler, who’s team is off to a 1-2 start and is still missing two of its top forwards due to their continued participation in NHL training camps, is excited to have Grachev back in the fold. â€œThereâ€™s no doubt, with the guys weâ€™re missing, that weâ€™re struggling to score goals. Getting Evgeny back will help us in that area,â€ Butler said of his team, which has been held to just two goals in each of their three games. “Taking players like Evgeny out of your lineup really hurts you, especially offensively.”
Grachev, who was scheduled to arrive in Toronto tonight, played in five pre-season games for the Battalion, scoring a goal and three assists, before leaving to join the Rangers’ prospects for the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. â€œHeâ€™s a very strong player, and we think he can be an impact player in the OHL,â€ said Butler. â€œAs he gets more comfortable here with the language and the culture, we think heâ€™ll be a great player for us.â€
The Rangers also reassigned goaltender Antoine Lafleur to his new junior team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The Wolf Pack played their first pre-season game tonight, a 3-2 victory over the Worcester Sharks. Most of the Pack’s returning players sat out while coach Gernander used the game as an opportunity to see how his newcomers faired in an in-game setting.
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