General Manager Jamie MacDonald of the Kitchener Rangers has been a busy man in 1999, recently making a number of trades, and before that, striking gold at the draft table. This years edition of the Rangers has seen 13 rookies lace up the skates, 9 from the 1999 Priority Draft and 2 from the European Import Draft.
Despite the large number of rookies on the roster, the Rangers are playing 500 hockey, averaging about 4 goals a game, and are right in the thick of things in the competitive and tight Western Conference. This bodes well for the future as many of these rookies are getting tons of ice time and will surely benefit from it.
Steve Emiger was their first round pick, 4th overall. This 185 pound defenceman stands 6 feet and 2 inches and has played a regular shift, first line power play, and killed penalties. He just turned 16 on Halloween, and the only thing scary about him is how good he could be. Due to his late birthday, he will not be drafted until the 2002 NHL entry draft, and from what I’ve seen of him so far he is first round material. He has great offensive instincts and reminds me a little of Phil Housley.
Derek Roy was picked in the second round, and all this 175 pound centre has done is make the jump from Bantam hockey to the top of the OHL rookie scoring list. Roy and Emiger also lead the team in plus-minus. He is a very fast skater and can rag the puck with the best of them. He reminds me of Ivan Novoseltsev when he played with the Sting, who could hold the puck forever but not use his teammates enough. Unlike Ivan the Terrible, Roy has a lot of assists. His size will as usual, scare off many NHL scouts, but his skills will get him drafted sometime in the 2001 draft.
John Dunphy was selected in the third round and this right winger has scored 10 goals in his first 15 games including the game winner in over time against Owen Sound on Friday. Standing just under 6 feet and weighing in at 185 pounds, he will have to work on his skating, but at this scoring pace, someone will pick him up in the 2000 draft.
The two Russian imports Max Sharifijanov and Ruslan Akhmadulin got off to a slow start, as should be expected, given the usual language barriers, culture shock, and different style of hockey. They have picked up the scoring pace of late, and will be strong OHLers over the next 3 seasons.
Jimmy Gagnon was selected in the 7th round and his play has been a pleasant surprise, against Owen Sound he laid a beating on Bill Zalba and scored a beautiful goal, going top shelf on a hard wrist shot. His ice time may reduce when overager Serge Payer returns from the injured list, but he has made great strides in the early going. His draft year is 2001.
These 6 rookies have had the most impact so far in the early stage of the season for the Rangers, and they should provide Kitchener fans a lot of exciting Friday nights over the next few years.