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by Alex Beilman / Buffalo Sabres
Evan Rankin (Micheline Veluvolu)

It was just around this time four years ago when Rochester Americans forward Evan Rankin had an important choice to make. A year prior, he had just finished his college career at Notre Dame with a career-best 19-point season.

In 2008-09, Rankin signed with the Central Hockey League’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. He hit the Christmas break that season with just 10 points, and figured his future in professional hockey was questionable at best.

“When I finished college, my numbers weren’t where I wanted them to be and I wasn’t in a role that I wanted to be in,” Rankin recalls. “I was behind a few veteran players, so come Christmas I almost quit. I talked to the coach about giving me more of an opportunity.”

After asking to be put in a more offensive role, Rankin responded by putting up an astounding 41 points down the stretch. His remarkable improvement revived his hockey career.

Rankin played for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye from 2009-11, where he put up 57 points and 55 points over the next two seasons.

“I’m very thankful that I got that second look [in the CHL]. That wall between CHL and the ECHL is a mountain,” Rankin said.

Rankin’s offensive abilities drew the attention of the Rochester Americans, and he was signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) last November after starting the season with 18 points in 15 games with Toledo. Rankin finished the season with 15 goals and 29 points in just 35 Amerks games, and was signed to an AHL contract by the Amerks in March. He was among the AHL leaders in shooting percentage (15 goals/72 shots, 20.8%), and also chipped in one assist in two playoff games. His hard earned him a one-year contract extension in July.

After starting this season with 12 points in his first 16 games, Rankin has missed the last three games with an injury, limiting him to just one assist in December. Despite the recent setback, he’s not letting it get him down.

“With the lockout, I’m getting to play with NHL talent,” says Rankin. “It’s a huge blessing to be where I am right now.”

The 26-year-old Rankin has a self-described competitive fire that he says came from every loss and every disappointment in his career. It was this fire that helped push Rankin through his moment of doubt. It is that same fire that Rankin hopes will help the Amerks find success this season.

“I love winning. I can’t stand losing. Right now my goal is to help put our team on a path to put ourselves in a good situation come playoff time,” Rankin said. “I don’t want to be one of the last couple of teams to make it into the playoffs like last year. I want to establish ourselves as a solid team, a team that other teams fear to play every night. That is my focus each and every night.”

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