At the end of December, the Kitchener Rangers sat 15th in the OHL standings. At the beginning of the year, general manager Murray Hiebert was on record as to saying he believed his team will be in Memorial Cup contention.
His beliefs were backed by the multiple times the Rangers were recognized on the BMO Top 10, but they were not as nearly as good a powerhouse like the Oshawa Generals, Soo Greyhounds, or Erie Otters.
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Coming up on the OHL trade deadline, it was important to GM Hiebert to try and put his team in the same breath of the previously mentioned. In his first big move, Hiebert traded Justin Bailey, his team’s leading scorer, to the Soo Greyhounds, a fellow team contending for a Memorial Cup, for David Miller and 4 draft picks. Seems like an odd move for improvement, right?
Hiebert then went out and acquired Saginaw Spirit goaltender Jake Paterson for a 2nd round pick in 2018 and a 3rd round pick in 2017. This would perfect move for the Rangers, and it was clear from the start. Before Paterson came in, the goaltending job of the Kitchener Rangers was being split by Matthew Greenfield and Dawson Carty. Both were putting up poor numbers, where Paterson had a .905 save percentage and was the Saginaw Spirit all-time winningest goalie.
Don’t forget that Hiebert traded Brett Pederson to the Oshawa Generals, another Memorial Cup contender, for five draft picks. Looking at those three moves alone it is hard to believe that the Kitchener Rangers are in a playoff spot at the moment.
But alas, the Rangers are 12-3-1-0 since the Paterson trade. They are 5th in the Western Conference and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. They have beaten the mighty London Knights and have handily beat the superior Sault Ste. Marie 4-1.
In his time with the Rangers, Paterson is 9-4-1. He has a .933 save percentage, a 2.09 goals-against average, and a shutout to his credit. This is not just Paterson though, other forwards have been stepping up offensively since the departure of Bailey and Pederson.
Ryan MacInnis and Brandon Robertson have stepped up to fill the hole that Bailey and Pederson left. MacInnis now leads the Rangers in points and Robertson is right behind him. Referring to CHLStats.com, MacInnis and Robertson combined have 51.46% of the points the Kitchener Rangers have.
In their most recent game, the Kitchener Rangers blew out the Mississauga Steelheads 6-3. Robinson had a hat-trick and an assist, and Ryan MacInnis registered an assist. In this game, there was a feeling that there was no Bailey or Pederson needed.
As the season continues on for the Rangers, they will face difficult opponents. Within the rest of February and into March, they play Sault Ste. Marie multiple times, along with the North Bay Battalion, and will also face the Erie Otters on March 15th. That game could turn out to be a game that decides who the Rangers will play in the OHL playoffs.
Nothing is ever certain though. The Rangers are only in 5th place in the conference and could easily drop out. That is hard to argue with the stats they have. Against the OHL, the Rangers are…
- 5th in estimated Fenwick close percentage with 54.044%
- 5th in shots for with 1853
- 4th in shots against with 1580
- 5th in goals against with 169
The Rangers also have a PDO of 98.725, which should tell you that this isn’t just good luck for the Rangers.