For many players on the Norfolk Admirals roster this season, October 16th marks a date of significance. It’s the date that they play their first professional game. 20-year-old North Vancouver native Connor Rankin will be one of those players that will hopefully make his pro debut at Scope against the Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rankin’s 268 points in 339 games in the WHL led him to an AHL contract with the Bakersfield Condors, Norfolk’s AHL affiliate. The left-handed shot attended Bakersfield’s camp and was assigned to ECHL Norfolk on October 3rd.
The 198-pound forward weighed in on how he is adjusting to pro camp, “It’s my fourth camp this month. It’s been a lot of camps and a lot to learn. Obviously it’s a lot different than junior hockey. It’s a big learning curve for sure, but it’s pretty fun to be out here. It’s a new step and I think I’m pretty excited for it.”
Prior to AHL and ECHL camps Rankin had a chance to play in Edmonton’s Rookie Camp tournament in Penticton, BC, which meant he got a chance to share the ice with up and coming talent. “It was fun. It was exciting with a bunch of NHL teams there and the crowd. It was pretty crazy. It was a great experience to go there and it was an honor to throw on that (Oilers) jersey. It’s something I’ll always remember and I just had a great time and I’ll never forget it,” noted the Calgary Hitmen alumnus.
One of those up and coming players that Rankin shared the ice with was the first player taken in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid and the two were teammates in Penticton.
“I can’t tell you how much respect I have for that guy. The media attention he gets and all that pressure he has and the way he handles it so professionally. He couldn’t be a nicer guy off the ice too. For a guy who’s that good he doesn’t act like it at all. I have nothing but respect for him on and off ice,” commented Rankin on playing with McDavid.
Like other teams in the ECHL, the Admirals schedule is tough and taxing. Rankin has the perfect antidote for the grueling ECHL season that is to rest the body on days offs as he shared, “A lot of it is going to be rest. If you look at our schedule this year especially in the East Coast, it’s a lot of three-in-threes and a lot of games especially in November. The big thing is just to rest and hydrate and I think that’s the most important thing you can do. Especially at home you’ve got to get your fluids in and you have to eat right and rest.”
For living arrangements Connor has some pretty sweet digs, a Virginia Beach apartment that’s a block away from the Atlantic Ocean, “We just moved in yesterday, they hooked us up pretty nice with spots. We got pretty spoiled that’s for sure. It’s a good setup, I’m excited for this year.”
Norfolk’s Assistant Coach Ben Boudreau spoke about Rankin and what he has seen from him since camp started, “He was coached by Mark French, who is a good family friend of mine who coached in Hershey. We spoke about him prior to him coming to camp. I think it’s important to get to know these guys right away. He’s a good kid and likes to learn. I’ve seen positive signs from Connor so far.”
With nothing, but positives from the assistant coach, it’s a good sign that Rankin will find his number in the lineup on October 16th and hopefully that will pave the way to a long and successful pro career.