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The Kitchener Admirals? Southern Tier trio taken by Rangers

Andrew and Jacob Leblanc, along with Trent Swick, were Kitchener's top three picks in 2020 OHL Draft
Hockey stock
Hockey sticks (via Glacier Media)

Some Admirals are trading in for Rangers blue.

A trio of Southern Tier Admirals, including a set of twins, have been drafted by the Kitchener Rangers.

"It's awesome," says Andrew Leblanc, who was taken with Kitchener's first round pick (17th overall) in Saturday's OHL Priority Selection.

He, his twin brother Jacob (3rd round; 42nd overall) and Trent Swick (3rd round; 47th overall) were the first three Rangers selections.

The fact all three were on the same team a year ago was just a coincidence, according to Rangers GM Mike McKenzie.

"You never expect to take three guys from the same team all in a row," he said, "But we don't worry too much about the optics of it.  We got three really good players."

Southern Tier was the best team in the 10-team SCTA minor midget circuit, finishing 24-3-5 in their 32-game campaign.

They were led by a line featuring Andrew and Swick, along with Peterborough's second round pick (23rd overall), Sam Alfano.

The trio topped the scoring race in the SCTA.  Andrew had 68 points, Alfano 63 points and Swick 55 points.

The Admirals were a fixture among the best minor midget teams in the province overall, slotted 8th in the last OHL Cup rankings released on March 10, and qualified for the OHL Cup tournament before it was cancelled.

"They were a pretty dominant line all year," McKenzie said, "Trent's a really big kid.  He's got really good hands around the net, he can score, and he's got some really good offensive abilities for a guy that's six foot five." 

"He's going to be a real handful once he grows into his frame, in front of the net and in the corners and along the wall.  We were excited to get him as well."

"I'm a 200 foot player who can do it all," Swick added, "I can kill a penalty, be on the power play, score a lot of goals, keep pucks out of the net, take a hit, do anything really."

And as for the twins, McKenzie says he and other teams knew they were a package deal.

"They wanted to stay together, they've been together, they're twins," he said, "We really liked both of them."

"Obviously, getting one defenseman, one forward is great.  They play different positions, but they're both really smart players, really good hockey sense, they've got edge to their game, they compete, they've got offense.  There's really not a lot to not like about those two guys."

Andrew feels with the right preparation, he'll be ready for the OHL.

"I just got to get my confidence up, going in against older guys, bigger guys," he said, "I think skill-wise, I'm usually there.  I got to work this offseason, get stronger, get bigger and get my confidence up and I'll fit right in."

And Jacob is pretty confident in his abilities as well.

"I'm a smart defenseman who can control the pace of the game," he describes, "I love to be offensive too, jump up into the rush, help contribute offensively, make good first passes, and just an overall high hockey IQ, smart player."

Jacob admits wanting the package deal with him and his brother wasn't a guarantee, but was relieved to hear his name called by McKenzie.

"Me and my brother, we've been playing together this whole time, we've played on the same team," he said, "It's just amazing to be able to further our careers together."

And adding Swick was a bonus.

"We just met him this year, but we've gotten very close just over the course of this year," Jacob said.

"That's the place I wanted to go," Swick added.

"I wasn't able to sleep for two nights just thinking of what my future has to bring."

"It's truly an honour, just hearing my name get called by Kitchener," Andrew continued, "It's such a great organization.  I couldn't be more excited to get started."

But with all that in mind, things could have been much different.

McKenzie admits he was tempted to go after Adam Fantilli, the top prospect going into the draft.

But as Fantilli's draft stock plummeted after his decision to play in Chicago (USHL) this year to keep his NCAA option alive, McKenzie says it wasn't worth the risk.

"We were a little bit surprised he was still there (at 17th overall)," he said, "His representation was really up front with everyone throughout the league, including ourselves."

"You pick a first round player and he doesn't end up reporting, it leaves a pretty big hole in your lineup, especially the position we were in with no second round picks this year ... that definitely changes things.  Some teams may have been in a better position to absorb that risk.  We weren't in that position, we felt."

He adds it may have been different if Andrew wasn't available, as the Rangers were high on what he brought to the table.

Having Andrew still available, McKenzie says, made the decision much easier.

Fantilli was chosen by Saginaw with the very next pick, 18th overall.


Mark Pare

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