Kyle Wanvig: Out of the Shadows, Into the Spotlight

By Vincent Fusaro
Remember this name: Kyle Wanvig. You may be very glad you did. Here’s a few reasons why: 1) at 6′ 2″, 200 lbs, he’s pretty big for a 19 year old. 2) he loves gritty, crash-and-bang hockey, but possesses a good deal of offensive skill. 3) he’ll drop the gloves in defense of himself or a teammate, and, most importantly, 4) he models himself after Cam Neely. ‘Nuff said, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, uncertainty has followed the young right wing’s career thus far. This year may be the deciding one for Wanvig- is he the heir to the great Neely or is he the next Landon Wilson?

A solid, well-balanced, but unspectacular skater, Kyle Wanvig is not a flashy player. In the mold of forwards like Bill Guerin and his childhood hero, Neely, Wanvig drives to the net using brute force. Many of his goals come off rebounds, as he uses his frame to clear the front of opposing nets. He also possesses a rocket of a shot- a trait that, combined with his love of the rough stuff, could make him a Beantown favorite in no time.
All the positives about Kyle made him a player to watch in Junior. He spent his first two WHL seasons with Kootenay, and had a solid first campaign in ‘97-‘98, with 17 goals and 12 assists. As with many promising players, Kyle’s second Junior season was expected to be a breakout. Simply put, it was the exact opposite. Despite playing in more games (71 as opposed to 62), Wanvig only tallied 12 goals and 20 assists. Not spectacular totals for a player many thought was on track to be a first-round NHL pick.

Because of his unimpressive sophomore season, Kyle’s stock plummeted. He didn’t go in the first round in ‘99. He didn’t even go in the second round, despite his impressive skills package. When he was still available in the third round, the powers that be in Boston decided to take a risk- they picked Wanvig 89th overall. At B’s camp that year, Kyle just didn’t look comfortable. He seemed to lack the intensity so necessary for a power forward, and at times even looked lost. He was returned to the WHL, and was almost immediately forgotten about by most Bruins’ fans.

Upon his return to Junior, a frustrated Wanvig demanded a trade. He was moved to the Red Deer Rebels, and responded well to the change of scenery. Here’s a statistic Bruins fans will like: 23 goals and 20 assists with 135 penalty minutes in 64 games. That’s right, 43 points in 64 games, despite spending 135 minutes in the box!

With one decent, one poor, and one strong Junior season under his belt, no one was quite sure what to expect from Wanvig at B’s camp this year. Reports out of Rebels’ camp had Kyle looking absolutely scary. Many Red Deer fans thought Kyle was one of the best players on the ice, with his trademark huge hits and his offensive instincts further honed.

As of this writing, it is eight days into Bruins camp. Kyle has looked solid, even spectacular at times. Quite a change from the previous year. He’s been displaying some of the skill that made him such a highly touted player upon beginning Junior. If Wanvig has finally learned to put his skills together on a consistent basis, the Bruins’ risk at the draft table may have payed off.

Since it is unlikely Wanvig will crack the Boston lineup this season, he will probably be back in Red Deer. If he continues to play at the level he is, however, Kyle will find himself moving up the Bruins’ depth chart in no time, joining Lee Goren as a top prospect on the wings.

Kyle Wanvig. Remember that name. Wanvig. As in, “Thornton, over to Wanvig. Wanvig SCORES!!!”