Matthew Rempe, drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, has been loaned by the to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Spruce Grove Saints.
The 6’8 center is property of the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds. Because the WHL season is not slated to begin until January 8th, Rempe is one of numerous players WHL teams are loaning to the AJHL, a league that is one tier lower and currently active.
The AJHL is currently in preseason, and Rempe played Friday night, registering an assist in Spruce Grove’s 7-4 loss.
Following the draft, I wrote a brief analysis of the selection of Rempe, noting that his story is admirable but that he is an extremely raw player who has had to work incredibly hard to reach the baseline level for a competent WHL player. I cited two different scouts who did not see him as an NHL-level prospect. Following the publishing of that article, I spoke to a third scout for an Eastern Conference team (not the Rangers).
“I figured Rempe would get drafted but I knew for sure it wasn’t going to be by us,” the scout said with a chuckle. “(Rempe is) more of a guy you’d take if he was going (to the) NCAA. He needs a lot of runway and I don’t see him being pro ready in two years”
Having watched Friday’s preseason game, I have a bit more first-hand insight into his game (though will obviously need more viewings to solidify my take).
Rempe’s awareness off the puck was lacking at multiple moments in the game. He was on for two goals against. On the first, his stick positioning was passive and not in the play as the point man made a dangerous pass across the slot. On the second, he took a questionable forechecking route and was stuck behind the pack on the transition the other way. Also, For a player who has such a tremendous physical advantage even at the NHL level, let alone Junior A, he seems relatively unbalanced on his skates as well.
What did stand out positively, though, was what one scout mentioned to me at the time of the draft; his hands. Nobody is going to mistake him for Pavel Datsyuk, but for a player who at first glance appears brutish, Rempe has some tricks up his sleeve. He showed some playmaking ability on the previously cited assist, and I let out an audible “wow” following this moment.
Of course, it was just one preseason game at a pretty low level of hockey, but that one viewing confirmed my priors based on what I had been told. He has a lot of work to do to become a pro-caliber hockey player in terms of his skating, balance, and thinking of the game. But if you squint, you can at least see why the Rangers disagree with the takes of others and believe he has upside.
If nothing else, I’m genuinely going to enjoy following Rempe’s progress over the next two seasons. For one, his story is a good one. He’s such an interesting prospect because of his unique skillset composition, flaws and all.