Young players often overvalue themselves before they even know what
itÂ's like to face NHL-caliber competition. When Dan Blackburn sat
down with ESPN Insider during a media gathering for draft prospects
at the Stanley Cup finals last spring, he said there was a good
chance the Rangers would select him and that his plan was to play in
the NHL right away.
For some inexplicable reason, out of a group of confident kids -- and
some very cocky kids -- BlackburnÂ's words were the most believable.
As it turns out, calculating the success rate for his prophecies show
Blackburn is 1-for-1 thus far, having been selected in the first
round (10th overall) by the Rangers. And now, the 18-year-old
netminder could go 2-for-2 if the Rangers decide to keep him.
In a training camp that introduced the hulking Eric Lindros, it's
been Blackburn who has stood out with his solid play. The problem
with keeping Blackburn, however, isnÂ't a question of on-ice
performance. The issue is playing time. If the junior-eligible
Blackburn signs a contract and stays with the club for more than 10
games, he must remain on the Rangers for the season and cannot play
in the minors. However, if goalie Mike Richter stays healthy, heÂ's
the No. 1 goalie. To complicate things, on Thursday the Rangers
demoted Johan Holmqvist, who was slotted in the offseason as the
likely backup goalie.
The Rangers have until Monday to sign Blackburn, but expect GM Glen
Sather to attempt to acquire a goalie in the waiver draft. Even a
Jamie McLennan or Stephane Fiset, rather than Chris Osgood, might be
enough to place Blackburn in junior hockey for one more year.
If Sather comes up empty, Blackburn officially is a big-time puck
stopper and prophet.