Lucas Pfeil Departs Kitchener Rangers, Seeks New Opportunity For 2020-21

With the 2020-21 season ahead for the Rangers and their OHL counterparts, there will be noticeable changes in rosters when teams hit the ice on the fourth of December. For the Kitchener Rangers, they said goodbye to a handful in Liam Hawel, Jonathan Yantsis and Jacob Ingham. They also lost a first-year defensemen in Axel Bergkvist who signed a contract back home.

While things continue to take shape approaching puck drop, the hockey club relinquished one more as they parted ways with Lucas Pfeil on Thursday. Pfeil had spent the last three seasons between starter and backup for the team at The Aud. This past season, the backstop worked behind Ingham, who the Rangers acquired via trade from the Steelheads.

Seeing Ingham out at season’s end, one might have thought it would allow Pfeil to start, but with the additions at the OHL Draft of Jackson Parsons and Pavel Cajan, perhaps a bout of looming uncertainty played a role in his choice to leave the team and move on.

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Pavel Cajan was selected in June from the Czech Republic in the OHL Import Draft. Shortly after, he had dialogue with Mike McKenzie and expressed his interest in joining come puck drop. After having signed his standard player agreement, expectation was he would be backing up Pfeil.

Two weeks prior to the OHL Import Draft, it was reported that the Owen Sound native had supposedly been cut in the face of a shakeup. However, Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record was quick to refute it, saying he was still with the hockey club.

With his decision to seek opportunity elsewhere, this leaves a gap wide open for the Rangers to fill with just three months until puck drop. Speaking with Jacob Ingham during a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon, he said of his relationship with Pfeil, “With Pfeiler, he’s the same age as me and Mac {Justin MacPherson}, so it’s really awesome to get along with a guy that well and, you know, I thought he was an unbelievable teammate, and you know, one of the hardest roles is being the backup goalie, and you know, he did a great job when he’d come in and play, but also just keeping the guys loose and I know all the guys loved him and loved to have him around, so I think that’s really important.”

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Speaking of his familiarity with the 6’2 backstop prior to Kitchener, Jacob Ingham continued in saying, “I grew up playing against him a couple times, so, you know, I knew him here and there, but I didn’t really know him that much until we got to Kitchener and he was really nice to me and really welcomed me on the team and, you know, it can be a bit awkward at first when we were both kind of battling there for the starting job, but, you know, I think he accepted his role and I accepted my role, and then we just kind of, history from there, and just had a great year together and spent a lot of time together.”

When discussing the formation of chemistry not only as friends, but also as teammates, Ingham would conclude in saying, “Pfeiler, like I said, made it really easy, we got along really good right off the bat, we had a lot of team bonding experiences together, and you know, it can be a little awkward once two guys are the same age and one guy’s a starter and one guy’s a backup, but, you know, I think he really embraced the role, and like I said, everybody on the team really loved having him around and just loved having his spirit in the room, so, you know, when he got to play, he went in there and held the fort down, played great for us, so it’s always great when you can have that backup that can play that role too.”

Jacob wasn’t the only one who shared high praise of Lucas Pfeil this season. Speaking with Jonathan Yantsis following a loss on home ice back in March, he said of the backstop’s abilities, “Doesn’t really matter to us who’s in the net. You know he’s gonna give us a chance to win no matter what.”

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Pfeil also made an impression on rookie Jesse Fishman, who spoke highly of his teammate. “He’s always a positive guy in the room, gets along with all the guys, and that goes along with how good of a goalie he is. Works hard day in day out.”

Lucas Pfeil made his OHL debut with the Kitchener Rangers back in 2017. He did so after having been drafted by the organization back in 2016. Pfeil was a sixth-round pick from the Ridley College Tigers in the CISAA. In his one game that year against Hamilton, Pfeil saw 56 minutes, making 13 saves, but would take the loss. He exited with a .722 save percentage and a 5.36 GAA.

In 2018-19, Pfeil played 27 games, earning the win in six while dropping 11. He made 623 saves while having seen 1,330 minutes. That made for a .870 save percentage and a 4.20 GAA. In his final year with the club, Pfeil only played in 19 games while owning a record of 7-6-2. He made 415 saves while having seen 953 minutes. While recording his first two OHL shutouts, this saw him rack up a GAA of 3.65 and a .877 save percentage.

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Now the question is does Lucas Pfeil find his next shot in U SPORTS, a common landing ground for many OHL’ers? If so, he would follow Jonathan Yantsis, a current member of the OUA’s Queen’s Gaels. According to Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record, he said OHL clubs can carry a total of three overage players on their roster. With the latest exit being Pfeil, the team is left with two, these being Holden Wale and Justin MacPherson.

That in mind, it’s more than likely that signed NHL draft picks Serron Noel and Riley Damiani will be moving on. However, both are eligible to return, as is Jacob Ingham, though he won’t be one of them.

In a statement from Mike McKenzie, General Manager and Interim head coach, he said of the current situation, “It’s the combination of giving Pfeil the opportunity to explore other options and getting those guys into the system as well. You don’t want to have three goalies around. That’s not fair.”

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All in all, Pfeil is thought of highly and will be remembered for his positive energy. To that note, Mike McKenzie concluded, “He was a really popular teammate. He had a good sense of humour and you could tell the guys in the room really liked him. He was good down the stretch for us last year.”

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