BY: Adam Gavriel
Michael St. Croix has taken the Western Hockey League (WHL) and New York Rangers fans by force this season. The 18-year old center was drafted the Blueshirts fourth round pick of the 2011 NHL entry draft after recording a 75-point season in 68-games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. This season, St. Croix is 5th overall in the WHL scoring race with 70-points (28 goals) in just 46-games. His breakout year in what is normally considered Canada’s toughest and most offensively challenging junior league has prompted Rangers analysts everywhere to rethink their current prospect standings.
In his most recent game with the Oil Kings, St. Croix produced a natural hat-trick leading the Oil Kings to another win, their 30th in 46-games. Finishing the game with (just) those three goals, St. Croix ended a four game skid with no points, only the second time this season that St. Croix had gone more than four games with no points.
At 70-points, St. Croix sits just eight points shy of the record for most points in a season for the Oil Kings set by Dylan Wruck. A Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native, Wruck is still with the Oil Kings, but sits eleven points shy of St. Croix’s 70 this season. With 26 games remaining and eight points to go, St. Croix is on pace to shatter the record set by his teammate.
“He’s a smart, smart kid with a lot of talent. It’s all about this summer for him—he needs to get that extra step, and then who knows with him? He is an interesting kid for us, for sure.”
The buck doesn’t stop there with St. Croix however, as his stellar season has been opening eyes in all kinds of places.
The Edmonton Sun reported in a post-game article that a win earlier this month over Lethbridge was because of the “St. Croix Show.”
Given the Rangers recent struggles of late with their offensive game, the surge this season by a prospect like St. Croix would certainly seem like it would rank high on their “Surprise of the Season” list, if there was such a thing. Putting St. Croix alongside some of the Rangers’ arsenal of potential offensive stars like Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, and JT Miller if each continues to develop, in a few years time the Rangers could become an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. As for St. Croix himself, if he continues to erase Edmonton Oil Kings scoring records, and as Clark mentioned, he has a strong summer, he will undoubtedly earn himself serious consideration for an Entry-Level contract with the team next season.
St. Croix, at just 18 years of age (19 in April) and playing in the WHL will only be able to join the Rangers for training camp this off-season, along with participating in the Traverse City tournament for the second straight season. One thing that did not help the Winnipeg, Manitoba native though was that he was not even invited to Canada’s World Junior Championships camp this season, however at this rate, he will surely be a target to represent his native Canada at the tournament in 2013.
As they do with all of their prospects, you can rest assured that the Rangers will surely be keeping a close eye on St. Croix.