Evan McGrath has been enjoying a stellar year with the Kitchener Rangers that has seen him in the top 10 in the OHL scoring race since the beginning of the season. It has been a real breakthrough year for the center, who struggled in his draft year with inconsistent play and didn’t meet the high expectations that some scouts had for him. He saw his stock plummet from a probable NHL first round pick to being picked in the fourth round by the Detroit Red Wings.
McGrath was a rookie when the Rangers won the Memorial Cup in 2003 and he showed flashes of his offensive potential that year. This year he has fulfilled that potential. He has 83 points in 64 games, he has one of the best plus/minus ratings on the team at +21. He is an important part of a very good Kitchener power play and penalty kill.
Hockey’s Future caught up with McGrath after a 6-3 win over the Sarnia Sting.
HF: You had a great game tonight, especially in the first period when you were on for all three goals and you scored two of them.
EM: Yeah, it was a good night and it’s good when the goals go in. I hope that they keep coming down the stretch and into the playoffs.
HF: Tell me a bit about your second goal. You picked up a rebound and ended up behind the goal line and flipped it up and over the goalie and ended up stepping back out front and scoring.
EM: Yeah (Ryan) Munce was down and out and I kind of ran out of room and I saw a bit of space there and just flipped it up and then stepped out and took a whack at it and it went in.
HF: Things have been going pretty good for you this year, you have been in the top 5 to top 10 in scoring for the league. That is quite the rebound from your draft year which didn’t go very well. What has been the difference?
EM: I worked hard in the summer on things that I needed to improve on and I have a bit more experience now.
HF: What were some of the things that you had to work on?
EM: Things like my first step and getting stronger physically.
HF: Your draft day experience must have been hard, sitting there all day Saturday and not getting picked.
EM: Yeah, it was tough. I wasn’t sure when I was going to go, I figured it could be anywhere from late first round on and although it was hard to go so late, I was picked by a great organization in Detroit and things should work out well.
HF: Did you get a chance to participate in any of their rookie camps over the summer?
EM: Yeah, I got to play in their prospect camp and their rookie camp.
HF: Detroit is a team with all kinds of big names and has several players who will someday be in the Hall of Fame; did you get a chance to meet any of the regulars?
EM: I spent some time with Darren McCarty and he was really great with us young guys and he was very helpful. I also met Pavel Datsyuk and that was really cool. I’m looking forward to meeting more of them in the future.
HF: Talk a bit about your line, you are playing with Mike Duco and Patrick Davis. You guys were flying out there and seem to have some good chemistry.
EM: Yeah, things are working out really good with them and they are both really good players. This is their draft year, so hopefully it works out well for them and they get noticed for what they are doing.
HF: In your rookie year, you guys won the Memorial Cup and were pretty dominant in winning it. But what is sometimes forgotten is that you guys were down 3-2 to Plymouth in the Conference finals that year and had to go into Plymouth for game 6. What was the atmosphere like before that game?
EM: It was pretty grim. There was no way we wanted to lose and when you have guys like Derek Roy, Steve Eminger, Gregory Campbell, you feel like you can win any game and we just went out and played hard.
HF: Those three guys and Petr Kanko are all playing in the AHL now, do you try to stay in touch?
EM: Yeah, we talk to them a bit. It is kind of hard when they are all over the place playing and we are busy playing too.
HF: The Rangers will be playing the Erie Otters in the first round, how do you guys stack up against them?
EM: I think with the team that we have we can beat any team in the league. Erie is a tough rink to play in, but we have a good mix of size and veterans and talent, so I think we should do OK.
HF: You guys have a young team and it might have been easy to say that this is not your year and that you would be sellers instead of buyers at the trade deadline. Instead, leading up to it you made moves for this year, getting goalie Dan Turple (ATL), and forwards Jean Michel Rizk (MIN) and Ryan Donally (CAL).
EM: Our management team led by Peter Deboer identified some of our needs and filled some holes and the guys that we brought in have worked out really well. We are pretty excited about our chances.
HF: What is your favorite rink to play in outside of your home arena?
EM: I would have to say Ottawa, my brother played there, so I always liked it.
HF: If you could compare yourself to a NHL player that you play a similar style to, who would it be?
EM: Steve Yzerman, he has always been one of my heroes.
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