|Instant impact for OHL veteran
Steve Eminger who joined the Rangers early in the month has made an instant impact on the team, the Rangers are now 10-1 with the fourth year defender in the lineup. Eminger's 1 goal and 11 assists in 8 games don't tell the complete story, since returning to the Rangers partner: Andre Benoit has become a goal scoring machine, Benoit has 6 goals in the last eight games where he has shared ice with Eminger. Benoit, Eminger's defensive partner, has flourished with the focus that opposition wingers give Eminger, which should bode well for the 18 year old defender who spent time at the New Jersey Devils camp this past September. Benoit is tied for the league lead in defensive scoring, could have the support he needs to take first overall. Eminger not to be outdone was averaging 2 points a game when he first returned and still paces OHL defenders in terms of points per game. Eminger's top performance of his season would have to be in the Rangers 6-4 victory over the Barrie Colts, in that game Eminger recorded 4 assists, 3 of which came on the man advantage, the lone equal strength goal was a critical insurance marker late in the third.
Steve Eminger, formerly the Rangers 4th overall pick in the 1999 OHL entry draft has had an interesting season with stops in Washington, Halifax and then finally past the halfway mark in the Rangers 2002-2003 OHL campaign, he was back in the OHL to cause havoc with an already formitable Rangers squad. The Rangers who were already on the top of the OHL's Western conference at the time, may have added the final piece to the puzzle at minimum cost, infact no cost. Aside from the instant depth that Steve is capable of giving the Rangers by playing up to and over 30 minutes a game, his game has brought the team, a team that already scares teams with its 4 line attack, just one more offensive weapon. The Rangers average 4.89 goals a game with Eminger in the lineup, and only 4.07 without the veteran defender manning the point, perhaps just as shocking is the Rangers defense which has allowed half a goal less each game in the same stretch.
Aside from winning and being a part of an elite team which is currently ranked #2 in Canada, and tops in the entire OHL Eminger is living a dream. As a 18 year old he shared the same ice with Jaromir Jagr of the Washington Capitals and shared center stage with a collection of the best hockey players on the planet, often playing infront of crowds in excess of 18,000 people while doing so. Part of being an 18 year old is having friends, having fun, enjoying what you are doing and keeping close to family. When Steve Eminger was returned by the Washington Captials, it shouldn't have been thought of as a demotion for the slick-skating defender, more of a second-chance. A taste of professional life, and then a return to more or less, a norm perhaps not so much a norm though. Playing around 90km away from home in Bramalea, Steve has the pleasure of playing infront of some of the most supportive hockey fans in the world, and a legitimate chance of drinking from a trophy that popular CBC hockey commentator: Don Cherry calls, the hardest trophy to win in hockey: the Memorial Cup; which this season takes place in Quebec City.
Eminger is living the dream, for him it's got to be like being the
one 12 year old kid, who is actually getting paid to play Sony Playstation
games all day long, and making the same salary as his father while doing
so. Steve got his 10 games in, in the NHL and hence qualifies for
a season's worth of pay in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, but he
gets to play kids games' for one more year. It's funny but few people
in any walk of life get to take a step backwards, and take a second shot
at a lot of things, including playoff glory, a one final blast with friends,
call them extended family on the Rangers' team, one which is clearly one
of the closest knit in the OHL. In a hockey career with the Rangers
which has seen the team go one step forwards, and one step back over the
past three seasons, Eminger took a baby step backwards after the World
Junior Championship, and perhaps come May Eminger and many of his teammates
can put baby steps behind them and start to run.
February 6th, 2003