Eddy Jones The Hockey Writers
Kitchener Rangers’ Top 5 Current NHL Alumni
The Kitchener Rangers are one of the most successful teams in the entire Canadian Hockey League and have produced some real legends of the game including; Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis and Larry Robinson. They are four time recipients of the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions and two time Memorial Cup winners, with their most recent win coming in 2003.
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Although they’ve produced some of the games great players, including five Hall-of-Famers, there are still some talented Rangers’ alumni playing in the NHL as we speak. So to kick things off, here are the top five current NHL players from the Kitchener Rangers.
5. Radek Faksa
Rangers Stats: 131 GP – 54 G – 71 A – 125 PTS
NHL Stats: 351 GP – 60 G – 68 A – 128 PTS
In all honesty, I wanted to include Kitchener native Mike Hoffman on this list, but with a grand total of two games under his belt for the Rangers, I just felt it wouldn’t be fair. With Mikkel Boedker signing in Switzerland, he’s no longer eligible for my top five either. So, come on down Radek Faksa.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Faksa made his way to the Rangers via the 2011 CHL Import Draft where he was selected 22nd overall. He spent two and a half seasons with the team, posting 125 points in 131 games played before being traded to the Sudbury Wolves. His junior career culminated in being selected 13th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Since then, he spent a few seasons in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars before going on to have a successful five-year stint with Dallas. Serving as a defensively responsible third-line center, Faksa has hovered just above the 30-point mark for three of the last four seasons. Surprisingly enough he was seventh in voting for the Selke Trophy during the 2017-18 season.
Although he hasn’t lived up to the first-round pick tagline, Faksa has still developed into a reliable, everyday NHL player. He’ll be suiting up for the Stars when the playoffs start on August 1st.
4. Nazem Kadri
Rangers Stats: 130 GP – 32 G – 55 A – 87 PTS
NHL Stats: 612 GP – 180 G – 213 A – 393 PTS
Selected 18th overall in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Nazem Kadri might be known more for his time with the London Knights than with the Rangers, but he spent two seasons in red, blue and white before being traded to London. Part of the 2008 J. Ross Robertson Cup-winning team, he was an important member of that team finishing fourth in scoring. Kadri’s some-what cult hero status with the Knights overshadows his time in Kitchener. He was ultimately drafted seventh overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
He’s spent the majority of his NHL career with Toronto, playing ten seasons with the club and making the playoffs four times. However, he now plies his trade with the Colorado Avalanche after being acquired in the deal that sent Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot to Toronto. In his first season with the Avalanche, he has 19 goals and 36 points in 51 games played. He was brought in to serve as the second-line center behind Nathan MacKinnon.
Although the London, Ontario native will be remembered more for his time with the Knights, he’s still part of the Kitchener Rangers alumni and one of their best currently playing in the NHL.
3. Jeff Skinner
Rangers Stats: 127 GP – 77 G – 64 A – 141 PTS
NHL Stats: 720 GP – 258 G – 207 A – 465 PTS
Jeff Skinner spent two seasons with the Rangers after being drafted 20th overall in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection Draft. He was dynamic for the team, especially in his second season where he posted 50 goals, becoming the first Ranger in 23 years to reach the milestone. Although they fell short in the Conference Finals, Skinner’s postseason was one to remember as he posted 20 goals and 33 points in 20 games played. Good enough for second in scoring, only trailing eventual first overall pick Taylor Hall.
He was eventually taken seventh overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. He immediately jumped into the NHL and put up a season to remember, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in 82 games played. He was selected to the All-Star Game, replacing an injured Sidney Crosby, and was the first 18-year old to do so since Steve Yzerman. To cap everything off he received the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. To this date, it’s one of the best seasons of his career.
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Unfortunately for Skinner, he’s yet to play in even one playoff game at the NHL level. He was traded from the Hurricanes to the Buffalo Sabres right before they made the playoffs. Don’t feel too bad though, in his first season in Buffalo he recorded the first 40-goal season of his career and tied his career high in points. He capped that off with another NHL All-Star Game appearance.
While he might have to wait a while for his first taste of playoff hockey since junior (sorry Sabres fans), he’s still a lock to make this list as he’s one of the best finishers in the NHL.
2. John Gibson
Rangers Stats: 59 GP – 2.66 GAA – .928 SV%
NHL Stats: 287 GP – 2.53 GAA – .918 SV%
Gibson is a great example of why some OHL teams take a swing on USNTDP players in the OHL Priority Selection. Although the Rangers drafted him 203rd overall in 2009, he didn’t sign an OHL contract until 2011. He spent two successful seasons with Kitchener posting some truly exceptional numbers, including the league’s best save percentage (SV%) in 2011-12.
Heading into his final season in Kitchener, Gibson led the United States to a gold medal in the World Junior Championship being named the tournament’s best goaltender in the process. He was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks 39th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
He spent the majority of his first professional season and part of his sophomore year in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals. After that, it’s been no looking back for the American netminder as he’s been the Ducks’ starting goaltender ever since. The 2015-16 season was his first as a starting goaltender and it was one to remember. He played in 40 games for the Ducks and posted a .920 SV% and a 2.07 GAA. He was also named to the NHL All-Star Game and was co-winner of the Jennings Trophy, for lowest goals scored against, with Frederik Andersen.
Gibson has struggled lately as the Ducks have entered a transition period, but he was still able to earn his second All-Star Game appearance during the 2018-19 season.
1. Gabriel Landeskog
Rangers Stats: 114 GP – 60 G – 52 A – 112 PTS
NHL Stats: 633 GP – 198 G – 262 A – 460 PTS
Gabriel Landeskog’s path to the Rangers lineup was an interesting one. He was originally selected third overall by the Plymouth Whalers in the 2009 CHL Import Draft but was traded to the Rangers in a deal that sent fellow import draft selection Tomas Tatar the other way. In his time with the Rangers, Landeskog quickly became a fan favorite and was named captain of the team during the 2010-11 season.
He was drafted second overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He immediately found a place on the Avalanche roster and followed in Jeff Skinner’s footsteps winning the Calder Trophy. Make that back-to-back Calder Trophies for Rangers’ alumni in 2011 and 2012. It didn’t take long for the Colorado coaching staff to know they had their man, and he was named captain of the team during his sophomore season. At the time, he was the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years and 286 days old. The Swedish international was named to his first All-Star Game in 2018-19.
He remains one of the top true power forwards in the NHL today and is part of one of the most lethal lines in hockey with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. This will be the third straight trip to the playoffs for the Avalanche and Landeskog will be looking to lead them to their first Stanley Cup championship since 2001.
While the Rangers’ alumni boast some of the game’s greatest players, there are also some exceptional players currently playing in the NHL who’ve worn the jersey. Ranging from role players like Faksa or team captains like Landeskog, the Rangers have their footprint firmly stamped in the hockey world. They certainly won’t be the last on this list and they have a star in the making in 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward Francesco Pinelli. Let me know in the comments who I might’ve missed and who you would include on this list!
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