Meet Flyers Prospect Brendan Ranford
On the biggest day of his soon-to-be professional hockey career, Brendan Ranford was in his bed, trying to stay awake.
The 18-year-old left winger was recovering from wisdom tooth extraction surgery.
“It was actually a weird day,” said Ranford. “I got my wisdom teeth out that day so I was pretty much in bed that whole time.”
As Ranford lay in bed waiting for his name to be called during the NHL Draft, the uncertainty and worry he felt would soon be a thing of the past.
With only two player selections remaining in the entire Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Ranford – one choice ahead of the NHL’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ – with the 209th overall selection.
“Once I heard I got drafted to Philly it was a great honor,” said Ranford. “They’re a great hockey team and they’ve always been good, so I was really honored.”
“I was very happy I got drafted and it was a good thing for me.”
But the 5”9” 185-pounder had – and still has – a lot to prove to NHL scouts.
Some say he is good in the corners, but lacks top-end speed; some say pesky, but too undersized; some say he has good quickness, but a sloppy skating stride; some say he has a good work ethic, but his skating speed isn’t where it needs to be; some say he battles defenders, but he is easily beaten, lacking major strength, which is a huge red flag going forward.
Ranford, the nephew of former Oilers star Bill Ranford, was a third/fourth round draft projection, entering the draft, but fell to the seventh round.
Whatever the scouts may believe, Ranford isn’t buying it.
Through 28 games this year, Ranford has scored 25 goals and added 22 assists for 47 points. His 47 points are sixth best in all of Canadian Major Junior hockey and his 25 goals comes in at second most on the list.
“I had questions why I went so late but it was a motivator for my season and the rest of my life,” said Ranford. “I was expecting to go a little bit higher – every player does.”
Philadelphia Flyers Director of Hockey Operations, Chris Pryor, gave me his take: “He’s a smaller guy, those guys get underestimated,” Pryor said. “You look around the league and there’re a lot of small guys playing and sometimes that happens.”
“He’s very talented with exceptional hockey sense – his numbers speak for themselves,” Pryor added.
In addition to this year’s staggering numbers, a season ago, Ranford recorded 29 goals and 36 assists for 65 points in 72 games, and chipped in for five points in four playoff games.
Despite Ranford’s success this season, he knew following last year there were aspects of his game he needed to improve and parts of his game in moving forward that need work.
“I think this year I came into camp in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” said Ranford. “I worked on my skating this summer and I just told myself I wanted to shot the puck more this year and I guess it’s been working out.”
“First thing I need to work on is my skating, because to make it to the next level you have to be a great skater, have great acceleration and better top-end speed,” Ranford said. “Also, I need to work on my defensive zone, learning how to be more consistent in getting the puck out – those are my two biggest things.”
Growing up in Edmonton, Ranford was an Oilers fan, but became a huge Joe Sakic fan, idolizing how he played the game.
“(Currently) I don’t really try and play like anyone, I try to play like myself, I try to take little things from different players who I watch but, everyone has their own style that they play,” said Ranford.
“If you learn things from everybody, that’s a good thing.”
Ranford possess very good hockey sense with good hands and a nice scoring touch. He isn’t afraid to battle in the offensive zone and can do a lot of things in the zone. He has an underrated skill set.
“I would say I’m a goal-scorer, but a lot of my goals I’m not going to beat a lot of goalies with how hard my shot is, it’s more of an accurate shot,” Ranford said. “I play very well in the corners, I can spin off of guys and go to the net, and I’m very shifty in the offensive zone.”
“I’m not going to come down like Alexander Ovechkin and beat a guy with a shot; it’s more of a placement shot.”
Pryor says his feel and sense of the game is something that separates him from the competition. That skill set and hockey sense is something people are starting to notice.
“He’s getting recognition from Hockey Canada, everybody is starting to see the player he is,” Pryor said.
“We’re a little biased, we think he should have got in (invited to Team Canada World Junior Camp), but they’re good NHL players that haven’t been invited to those camps and have gone on to have real nice NHL careers, he added.”
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing and working how he is, those things will come.”
Ranford played three games for Kamloops as a 15-year-old, but those games do not count against his eligibility, meaning, if Ranford doesn’t earn a spot with the Philadelphia Flyers next season, he would be returned to his Junior team for a fourth season rather than the Adirondack Phantoms because he would only be 19 years old. Something Ranford understands.
“Obviously I want to make it to the NHL, but you have to take steps,” said Ranford. “I don’t know how many I’ll take – I hope its sooner than later, but if it is a little bit later, I’m going to have to work every year and go into each year thinking I want to make it to the top level.”
“Even if it’s the AHL I’ll take that road to develop more parts of my game to become a more consistent player in the NHL,” he added.
No matter which road Ranford decides to take, Ovechkin or not, the seventh round pick is starting to get the recognition he deserves.
“He’s having a heck of a year, we liked him for obvious reasons – we had a feel for him,” said Pyror.
“We are happy and excited to have him.”