When Bob Tory – General Manager of the Tri City Americans – traded up to select Connor Rankin during the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, not many people were surprised. After all, Connor Rankin was one of the most highly touted prospects on the draft board and Bob Tory is certainly no stranger to the trade market; often playfully called “Trader Bob” by many of his supporters and non-supporters alike. Dealing away the team’s first round pick – 19th overall – as well as their third round pick in the draft, allowed Tory to move up and select the talented Rankin, who scored 26 goals and 45 points in 47 games while playing with the AAA Bantam North Shore Winter Hawks.
Joining the Americans for the 2010-11 season, Rankin would play on one of the deepest forward crops in the entire Western Hockey League. Not only was Rankin able to crack the lineup, he quickly became one of the team’s more reliable offensive weapons, while playing primarily on the third line to start the season. At season’s end, Rankin finished ninth on the team in scoring, with 19 goals and 44 points – leading all 16-year-olds in both categories – and added 33 penalty minutes. Rankin also posted a +13 rating, a testament to his reliability at both ends of the rink. During the Americans’ playoff run, Rankin would add 1 goal and 4 points while playing in all 10 of the team’s playoff games.
As a 17-year-old, Rankin has seen an increase to his offensive role with the team after the departures of high scoring forwards Kruise Reddick and Carter Ashton. Thus far, Rankin has proven himself very capable of doing just that. Just 11 games into the season, Connor Rankin has already scored 6 goals and 13 points. Rankin has firmly entrenched himself among the team’s top six forwards and only seems to be maturing and getting better with each and every Tri City game. In their second game of the season, against the highly talented Portland Winterhawks, Rankin even posted a natural hat trick – scoring three goals in a span of just 1:53 – and also added an assist, as the Ams beat the Winerhawks by a 6-5 margin. So far Rankin has once again kept his penalty minute totals pretty low, with just two minutes spent in the box through his 11 games played.
At 6-foot, 185-pounds, Rankin is a mid-sized winger, who has very good hands – particularly around the net – and is an above average skater. Rankin makes creative, smart passes, and shoots the puck quickly and accurately, showcasing a smooth release that already looks NHL ready. The biggest concern with Rankin’s game may be a mis-perception entirely. With such low penalty minute totals, some may come to the conclusion that Rankin avoids the physical side of the game; however, this is not merited in the least. Though Rankin will never shock and awe with a massive open ice hit, he certainly isn’t afraid to go to the tough areas of the ice, and doesn’t shy away from physical play; particularly if he can create a scoring chance out of it. As a late birthday, Rankin is not eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft; however, as his game continues to improve and round out, Rankin will inevitably be one of the most talked about prospects heading into the draft’s 2013 edition.
Once again, “Trader Bob” looks like a master of Junior Hockey franchise building. Connor Rankin is certainly a player for the fans in Tri City to be excited about, and a player that hockey fans around the world are starting to notice. As a fan living in the biggest rival city of the Americans, it’s completely clear to me that Bob Tory found himself a gem in the young pivot.