Three Rangers minor midgets picked in OHL Draft
By Jamie Neugebauer
Another chapter in the rich history of the Rangers organization was written Saturday as three North York minor midgets were selected in the first seven rounds of the 2014 Ontario Hockey League draft.
Forwards Luke Kutkevicius and Daniil Vertiy went in the second round, 25th and 26th overall to the Mississauga Steelheads and Windsor Spitfires, respectively, and then goaltender Michael Botiz was selected by the Owen Sound Attack in the seventh round, 128th overall.
Lorne Hunchuck, the head coach of the Rangers minor midgets, was immensely proud afterward.
“Like I said at the end of the year to the kids,” he said, “it’s almost like being a proud father. It was a privilege and an opportunity to coach such a great group of kids and I am just so happy for all of these guys. Talking to them afterward, and hearing how excited they were was more rewarding as a head coach than I can even say.”
Kutkevicius, a 6-foot and 148-pound centre from Toronto, scored 20 points in 29 games during the GTHL’s regular season, but he saved his best for last by posting five points and leading the Rangers to victory in a one-game play-in against the Don Mills Flyers to earn the club’s spot in the OHL Cup.
Kutkevicius was a call-up as well for the North York midgets.
“I am ecstatic for Luke,” Hunchuk said, “He completely deserved it. He really battled through the adversity of an early season injury and persevered like a mountain. His stock skyrocketed in the playoffs and was a huge two-way catalyst for us in the OHL Cup. I can’t explain how excited I am for him.”
Vertiy, a 6-foot and 200-pound winger from Moscow, Russia, led the way all season in goals for the club, utilizing his strength, speed and wicked release to fill the net. He also played games as a call-up for both the midgets and even one game with the Junior A club.
“Daniil is one of those kids with a really high skill level,” Hunchuk said.
“His tools are absolutely unbelievable. He is one of those guys that when he started to believe in himself he just started to get better and better and I am extremely happy for him. He didn’t even know if he would get drafted but to go in the second round like he did, he was super excited. I am not surprised at all that he was taken though, as he certainly has an OHL skill level.”
Botiz, a native of Oakville, played in almost every game this year and was absolutely stellar.
“Michael is such a focused guy and the kids are really confident in front of him,” Hunchuck said.
“We know he can steal a game and boy has a come a long way after playing Double ‘A’ only a few years ago. He really deserves it because he worked his behind off and I know he can’t wait to get there and get started.”
The Rangers midgets pushed the eventual OHL Cup runner-up Toronto Jr. Canadiens and upset the powerful Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs at the prestigious year-end event.