It’s an invaluable luxury few teams have the option of utilizing.
The Kitchener Rangers have a swiss army knife in their back pocket and they’re pulling out all of its tools.
After an injury to top-four defenceman Austin McEneny early in Game 6 against the Sarnia Sting, Rangers head coach Jay McKee simply told Joseph Garreffa to slide down the bench.
“I might enjoy it better than forward, to be honest,” smiled Garreffa. “I feel like I’m a better defenceman because I’ve played there longer.”
Before burying 25 goals in his second Ontario Hockey League season, the Kitchener third-rounder spent time growing up on the back-end.
It paid off. With the exception of his sophomore year on East Avenue, Garreffa has been used as a utility guy playing both forward and defence.
“It’s kind of difficult, especially when you play for long periods here and there. You have that adjustment of trying to get your gap back,” said Garreffa. “I’ve done it quite a bit in my career, so it’s getting easier.”
“When you’re playing forward, you’re not skating backwards much, so it’s just trying to get your backwards skating back and matching the forwards’ speed on their entries.”
Despite the move to defence, his point production hasn’t lacked. He set a career-high in points this season and was second in team scoring, thanks to 53 assists.
After a brief stop in the Top-6 this year he quickly becomes the team’s second most-veteran player on defence, behind towering Logan Stanley.
“That guy’s a monster. He’s a beast. He’s a horse,” smiles Garreffa. “The one thing I really take from watching Stan, he’s really confident with the puck. He skates it out, no worries makes a good outlet pass.”
The biggest test for Garreffa will come in the Western Conference final against the CHL’s top-ranked team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
They’re fast. They’re talented. They’re relentless, and they earned a CHL-best 116 points.
“I’m excited to play the Soo. I wanted to play the Soo, and I want to beat the Soo,” said the Toronto native. “If we go out there and play our game with no fear, we have a good chance of winning.”
“I’m just soaking it all in. Hopefully, we can keep it going. I get bored at home.”