The first sign came at the 2002 OHL entry draft. Picking 11th
overall in the first round, GM Peter DeBoer vowed to take the best player
available. When it came time for Kitchener to pick, there was no doubt who
the best player available was; Evan McGrath, the No. 2 ranked forward.
Unfortunately McGrath came with an asterisk as he had hinted that he was
strongly considering playing college hockey in the United States. Had it not
been for the uncertainty of McGrath’s future plans, he would have easily
gone in the top 3.
But DeBoer showed that he is a man of his word and
selected McGrath with his first round pick. When the rangers second round
pick came up, it seemed quite obvious who the best player available was: No. 2
ranked goaltender Carlo DiRienzo. Kitchener was already deep in goal with
Matt Harpwood and Scott Dickie both being No. 1 caliber netminders but DeBoer
decided to keep his promise and select DiRenzo, setting up an inevitable
trade of one of last years goaltenders.
The draft success continued into the
3rd and 4th rounds when the Rangers picked Matt Auffrey and Chad Davis
respectively, which seems to be another set of steals considering both
players were slated to go in the first round.
In late August, the McGrath risk paid off. McGrath said that he was
impressed with the Rangers staff and opted to decline playing south of the
border to join the rangers. On top of that, a week later, the Rangers were
able to pick up Plymouth star Greg Campbell.
These offseason moves helped
influence a Kitchener fan base that was already ranked No. 3 in the league to
sell 19% more seasons tickets then the previous season.
With McGrath, DiRienzo, and Campbell set to join current OHL stars Michael
Richards, Peter Kanko, Scott Dickie, Derek Roy, and Steve Eminger, it looks
like the Rangers will be in for quite a season.