Trader Mike refuels Rangers

Randy Russon
February 7, 2018

He swooped down like a hawk at the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline and scooped up four players who have made a good Kitchener Rangers team even better.

Brazen and bold with more than a touch of blue-eyed smarts, rookie general manager Mike McKenzie has at least positioned the Rangers to challenge the favoured Soo Greyhounds for Western Conference supremacy along the approaching OHL playoff trail.

As it stands now, Kitchener is the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference with 72 points from a record of 35-15-2.

And players that the 31-year old McKenzie dealt for at the January 10 OHL trade deadline — while parting ways with stockpiled, excess future draft picks — have put up numbers that are rather impressive.

From goalie to defense to forward, McKenzie has refueled the Rangers with a number of able additions.

For starters, overage goalie Mario Culina has been a bargain basement acquisition since arriving from the Sudbury Wolves for a pocket-change, eighth-round draft pick.

A Sault Ste. Marie native and former backup goalie with the reigning Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires, Culina has been over the top since joining the Rangers from the last-place Wolves.

The slender tender has an 8-0-0 record to go with a .955 save percentage, 1.50 goals against average and two shutouts as a Ranger. And it is not as though it has been an easy ride for Culina, who has faced 267 shots — and stopped 255 of them — in 480 minutes of action with the Blueshirts.

Getting Culina is only part of what McKenzie has brought to Kitchener, however.

Other trade deadline deals delivered no. 1 center Logan Brown and overage defender Austin McEneny from Windsor and peppery, prickly forward Givani Smith from the Guelph Storm.

Brown, a first-round, National Hockey League draft pick of the Ottawa Senators who has a 1998 birth date, has 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points in only 5 games in a Kitchener uniform.

McEneny has 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points in 12 games from his blue line post with the Rangers.

And Smith, a second-round NHL draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings who has a 1998 birth date, has delivered 6 goals, 3 assists, 9 points in 12 games in a Kitchener jersey.

The deadline deliverance that McKenzie brought to Kitchener came on the heels of two key, earlier transactions that put 1998 birth year defenseman Logan Stanley and 1997 birth year overage forward Kole Sherwood in Ranger blue.

Stanley, a first round, NHL draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, has 13 goals, 23 assists, 36 points in 49 games for the Rangers since being obtained from the aforementioned Spitfires just before the start of the 2017-2018 OHL season.

And Sherwood, a fibrous forward with a nasty edge who is under contract with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, has 22 goals, 23 assists, 45 points for Kitchener since being acquired from the Flint Firebirds.

Of note, Kitchener has not made it to the Western Conference finals since the 2011-2012 season.

And while there is no guarantee for success in the upcoming 2018 playoffs in a powerful Western Conference that will be extremely hard to move on from, McKenzie — as a novice GM in the OHL — has done his part to put the Rangers into serious contention with the likes of the Greyhounds and Sarnia Sting.

And don’t forget about potential Western sandwich dark horses that include the ever dangerous London Knights, the rising Saginaw Spirit and the lurking Owen Sound Attack, formidable foes who could provide a real challenge to the rampaging Rangers.

But as for the Rangers, if they can reduce the number of shots allowed per game, this could well be a team that plays well into spring, where hope is said to spring hockey eternal.

PHOTO: Kitchener Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.

What you think about “Trader Mike refuels Rangers”

  1. Astute synopsis as always Randy! An interesting dynamic that many are not talking about is the re-kindling of the rivalry we once shared with this team in a historic perspective!
    The 1980/81 Hounds were sailing along with a 47 win season until they met the 34 win Rangers! Bam, boom gone 9 points to 3 in the final! Adios, Goodwin, Gatzos,Shedden, Francis,Butorac, Handy and Vanbiesbrouk.
    In 81/82 they bounced us in the Conference semi’s 9 points to 3
    First year of Groulx, along with Beaulne, Graves, Tait, Latta, D’Amour
    Some vindication in 82/83 as Hounds prevailed 8-2, only to be bounced by Theriault and the Genny’s
    83/84 Kitchener prevail 8 points to 6 and bouncing Groulx, Tocchet (what a series he had),Felix, Graves,
    84/85 Hounds swept them in the first round 8-0 led by Groulx, Bonar, Probert,Felix, King and Oliverio
    Fast forward to 91/92 where Hounds bounced Rangers in a hard fought 7 game series
    99/2000 Hounds bounced Rangers 4-1 Jardine, Vasicek, Pecker, Flick and Emery notables
    2002/03 Kitchener then swept the Hounds 4-0 , bouncing Carter, Daley, and Kennedy
    Finally the most recent war that most newer fans will remember is the 2007/08 series where the Rangers thumped the Hounds 4-1 with the final nail a 5-0 whitewash (if memory serves) in the Conference Finals! That one stung! We loaded up acquiring Wayne Simmonds, had Godfrey, Jeffrey, MacLean, Livingston and Gajewski!
    Is another chapter of the Ranger/Greyhound war about to written? Get ready hockey fans , this could be something special! A lot of trees will be sacrificed for newsprint and the Internet will spin as fans weigh in!

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