Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Tryout to Top Line, Rookie Brendan Ranford Up to Tough Second Round Task

Texas Stars rookie Brendan Ranford (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have had quite a few previously unknown players make a big name for themselves in the American Hockey League after a year in Central Texas. This year's breakout star is Brendan Ranford. After joining the team on a professional tryout, the WHL product is filling big shoes on the team's top line as they speed toward a second round matchup with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Before the start of the season, the Texas Stars unceremoniously added left wing Brendan Ranford on a professional tryout. After four years with the Kamloops Blazers, the Flyers draft choice was passed up for a Philadelphia contract and became a free agent. Texas Stars GM Scott White pounced on the opportunity.

At the time of the signing, White noted that Ranford had to jump on the chance that he'd been given in Texas, "He's a player that is going to have to establish himself. He has pace and skill, but he's a little undersized. He plays the game the right way, but it's really in the player's hands to take advantage of the opportunity. He's got to be ready when the time comes."

Looking back, Coach Desjardins is blunt about what he expected from Ranford at the start of the year.

"At the beginning of the year, the question was would he make our team. Would he make the team as the 13th or 14th forward, not would he make the team as a top six forward."

Ranford found himself playing meaningful minutes early on in the season. He had his big breakout against the Rampage in back-to-back games in October, collecting two goals and an assist playing alongside veteran Chris Mueller.

The connection with Mueller became a common one as Ranford showed his offensive prowess with the talented Michigan native. Ranford picked up 12 goals and 21 assists in 65 games this season.

Ranford celebrates a goal in the November 22nd game against San Antonio
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The mid-season recall of AHL All-Star Colton Sceviour presented a unique opportunity to Ranford, who began finding himself on the top line with AHL MVP Travis Morin and Rookie of the Year Curtis McKenzie.

"He's played well and he deserves it," said Coach Desjardins. "We never give anyone anything. You don't get it because of your name or who you are. You get it because of how you work."

"It's exceptional to play with those two," said Ranford of the line he plays on. "Morin finds guys and makes everyone around him better. He makes some pretty unbelievable passes. Also, McKenzie works so hard and never takes a shift off. It's so easy playing with the two of them because they work so hard."

However, with the role as a drop-in replacement for one of the league's top scorers in Colton Sceviour, the comparisons are definitely expected.

"It's tough to fill those shoes," admits Ranford. "[Sceviour] is an unbelievable hockey player. He played five seasons here and now is obviously in the NHL. I'd say Colton is more of a shooter than I am and also a bigger guy.

"I like to follow how he played with them. He's a hard worker and they were the best line in the AHL when they were together. By watching how they played, I'm trying to replicate it with a bit more of my style. I pass it a little more than Sceviour does, but really I'm just trying to work as hard I can."

With the time on the top line, Ranford has drawn some of the toughest competition that opposing teams can muster.

"It's really tough to ask him to play that role," said Desjardins. "It was tough last series. He's matched up against [OKC forward Ben Eager] and playing the top D. It's tough to ask a young guy to do that. But it's a good opportunity for him.

"You can't prove you can play against the top guys [without doing that]. He wants to get to the NHL and the only way he can get there is by proving he can play against the top guys in the AHL. He'll get beat up in the series; no question. We'll just see how he handles it and how he plays."

After round one, Ranford is already proving to be a clutch performer, scoring two goals and an assist, including the overtime game winner in Game 2.

Regardless of how the rest of the playoff run goes for Ranford and the Texas Stars, it's easy to see that he's earned himself another season with the Texas Stars, if not a shot with the Dallas Stars on a two-way deal.

1 comment:

  1. Not surprised to hear of your success Brendan, proud of you!!!! Cheering you on from Kamloops
    Vikki

    ReplyDelete

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