Rangers Well-Represented at NHL Scouting Combine

When Franky Palazzese joined the Kitchener Rangers this season, he was looking forward to doing whatever he could to help the team win. He certainly did that: the netminder won 20 games, finishing the year with a .927 save percentage that ranked him second in the Ontario Hockey League. As focused as he was on the Rangers’ success, however, he had also cast an eye towards his future.

“On a personal level, I’d like to get a look from an NHL team by the end of the season.”

Palazzese will have a chance to be seen by all of the teams at the National Hockey League’s Scouting Combine, which will be held in Toronto from May 28-June 2. The Mississauga-native was listed ninth amongst North American goalies in Central Scouting’s final rankings and will join 104 other draft eligible players at the combine. And there will be familiar faces for the Rangers’ netminder as teammates Radek Faksa, Max Iafrate and Matia Marcantuoni were also invited to Toronto.

Faksa turned heads this season, his first in the Ontario Hockey League. A three-time league Rookie of the Month, the Czech-born forward led all freshman with 29 goals and 66 points in the regular season and participated in the CHL Top Prospects Game in February. The young pivot made the choice to leave home for Canada because he felt it was his best opportunity to develop his game and to be noticed by NHL teams, and observers have certainly been impressed. Ranked seventh in North America by Central Scouting, Faksa charmed the crowds in Kitchener this year and will have an opportunity to impress the scouts face-to-face at the combine.

An injury kept Marcantuoni from joining Faksa at the Top Prospects Game, but despite his limited play this season (he appeared in just 24 games for the Rangers), he has remained on the NHL’s radar. Central Scouting’s final rankings pegged him at number 59 and he’s returned to training in time to showcase his abilities at the combine. The sophomore forward was optimistic all season about his draft year, confident in his ability to play and ready for whatever the future brings.

“I don’t worry about it – I’m going to have to wait and see what happens.”

If Iafrate has questions about the draft, he has a good resource at home to consult. His father Al was a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1984, and now it is Max’s turn. The second-year rearguard was listed at number 70 in the final draft rankings, which was what he was hoping for when he joined the team in an off-season trade with Plymouth. After seeing limited ice time as a rookie, Iafrate was given an opportunity to show scouts what he was capable of, especially after the mid-season move of veteran blueliner Julian Melchiori increased the role he and partner Ben Fanelli played on defense. The Michigan-native took the added responsibility in stride and tried to apply every lesson learned from his coaches to his play in preparation for this summer’s draft.

“That’s all you can do, just listen and play the way you know you can and use your skills to the fullest.”

All of the invitees to this year’s combine will undergo fitness and strength testing to gauge their physical ability, however, the event will also afford teams an opportunity to get to know the players. Psychological evaluations are also conducted, and clubs have the opportunity to sit down for interviews with players.

The next step for these young players is the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which will be held June 22-23 at the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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