In his third Ontario Hockey League year, forward Kerby Rychel of the Windsor Spitfires inspires comparisons to a young magician mastering a blockbuster routine. The tricks are all worked out, the script is committed to memory, the timing is down -- all that's needed is the extra polish that comes with repetition and practice. Or, in Rychel's case, that supplementary physical edge or added bit of speed that could enhance his game further in the months ahead. Because make no mistake, the young winger is already a very good hockey player.
Slated to go in the first round of the 2013 draft, Rychel has the potential to compete as a power forward in the NHL. Scoring his ninth goal of the season in Friday's 6-4 victory over the Guelph Storm, the 18-year-old is already making up for a somewhat sluggish start to 2012-13. Gifted with good hands, smarts, vision and a knack for finding the back of the net, Rychel is also an imposing presence (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) on a forward line with Brady Vail (Montreal Canadiens, fourth round, 2011) and Chris Marchese.
But maybe not quite imposing enough.
Spitfires GM Warren Rychel (who doubles as Kerby's dad) wants to see more physicality from the young winger.
"It's tough every night in the NHL," the GM said Friday, conceding that his son could be selected in the first round if he continues to work hard. "It's tough physically the hard hits I would like to see more of -- that way you leave no doubt what kind of player he is."
Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner seems to be on a similar page, suggesting Rychel could become even more dominating in his own end. While the teen himself wants to play more consistently -- offensively and defensively.
Fortunately, the Tecumseh, Ontario, native has a history of addressing and successfully refining his shortcomings -- major or minor. For instance, after a good deal of persistent effort, Rychel moves around a lot better than before.
"He's put his work in with his skating," the elder Rychel said. "[His] skating has improved after his first year -- even after his second year -- he's getting quicker. I think he took it to heart two years ago when he came in the league and people said his skating was awful, he took it personally, and he did a lot about it."
Again, whatever enhancements Rychel makes to his game between now and June would serve as a bonus to an already well-rounded package. That bundle of skill, talent and physical attributes, together with a willingness to work hard, should serve Rychel well in his quest to perform on the greatest stage in hockey for many seasons.
Class of 2013
While Jason Dickinson is pegged to go in the first round in June, fellow Guelph Storm forward Zack Mitchell can't be ruled out as a later selection. Bypassed in the 2012 draft (he was invited to the Winnipeg Jets development camp in July), Mitchell is making great strides in proving last season's 75-point campaign was no fluke. One of the better skaters in Friday's loss to the Spitfires, Mitchell hopes to improve further on his defensive play while remaining a consistently potent offensive threat.
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