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OHL 20 in 20 Summer Spotlight: Stanley and Hall reunite with Rangers

 

Two defencemen with a mutual love for the game’s physical dimension, Waterloo’s Logan Stanley and Cambridge’s Connor Hall forged quite a rivalry growing up on opposite sides of the 401.

Upon graduating to major bantam the sizeable blueliners joined forces on the same spring hockey team, creating a friendship that would continue to grow save for a temporary hiatus whenever the two would line up on opposite sides of the ice.

It was in the middle of a game of golf together last week that the two Tri-Cities talents learned their days of head-to-head combat are over, for now at least. Fresh off hoisting the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in May, Stanley was acquired by Hall’s Kitchener Rangers, setting up a homecoming for the big 6-foot-7 defender.

“Always growing up as a kid in the area you want to play for the Rangers and it’s exciting to have that opportunity should I be sent back from Winnipeg,” said Stanley, who was a first round pick by the Jets in the 2016 NHL Draft. “I spent a lot of Friday nights at the Aud watching Jeff Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog, so I’m looking forward to being a Ranger.”

A third round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016, Hall was limited to just 17 games with the Rangers last season before undergoing shoulder surgery in December. With nearly 10 full months of recovery and rehabilitation under his belt, he’s eager to get back into the lineup and with his longtime friend Stanley along for the ride, training camp can’t come soon enough.

Hall, who saw most of his shifts alongside former captain Frank Hora the past two seasons, likes the thought of being part of an imposing shutdown pairing alongside Stanley.

“It’s always exciting to add an elite player to the team, especially when he’s one of your best friends,” Hall chuckled. “He’s a first round NHL pick, a guy who got invited to World Junior camp and just helped a team win a Memorial Cup. It’d be a lot of fun to play together, but I know we’re both willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

Stanley, who will wear number 20 with the Rangers, comes off an injury-shortened season himself after undergoing knee surgery in late January. He returned for the Mastercard Memorial Cup, scoring a goal in Windsor’s 4-3 championship win over the Erie Otters to claim CHL supremacy.

The first round pick by the Spitfires in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection couldn’t say enough good things about the organization he spent the past three seasons with.

“I owe them a lot,” he reflected. “I got to play under great coaches like Bob Boughner, Rocky Thompson, Trevor Letowski and Jerrod Smith and Warren (Rychel) treated me like a son. The Spitfires were very good to me and my family and I’ll miss those people a lot.

“What we accomplished together last season is something I’ll never forget.”

After a rash of injuries hampered them into the playoffs last spring, the addition of Stanley, a healthy Hall and overage returnee Doug Blaisdell will transform the Ranger blue line as expectations are on the rise in Kitchener headed into another competitive season in the Midwest Division.

A former NHL defenceman of over 800 career regular season games, Rangers head coach Jay McKee is enthusiastic about the new look.

“We’re really looking to these guys to provide some strength and stability in front of our net as well as those big denials that every team needs at the blue line. Logan and Connor are both capable of playing big minutes against the best the opposition will throw at us.

“They both want the challenge,” he continued. “When you go up against teams like London, Owen Sound and Erie as often as we do, mobile defencemen like these two are key elements to winning hockey games.”

With Florida Panthers prospect Adam Mascherin coming off a 100-point season and big centreman Connor Bunnaman looking to build off a 37-goal campaign, the Rangers have names up front to produce offensively. With their beefed up blue line and St. Louis Blues prospect Luke Opilka back in the crease, the Rangers have inserted themselves into the Midwest Division discussion.

“We’re returning most of our roster and everyone is a year older,” added McKee. “This is a developmental league and you expect guys to get better every season. I imagine we’ll have a very competitive training camp.”

Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs.  See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.

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