By Annie Fowler | Tri-City Herald
For three years, Connor Rankin watched and learned from some of the best players in Tri-City Americans history.
Now, going into his fourth season, Rankin no longer has any coattails to ride. It’s his turn to be the go-to guy when the Americans open their 26th season tonight against the Spokane Chiefs at the Toyota Center.
“I love being under pressure like this,” said Rankin, who had 32 goals and 26 assists last season. “It’s nerve wracking, but it’s also exciting. Everyone dreams of leading a team to the finals and winning, and I have an opportunity to do that this year. I’m really looking forward to it. But I’m not the only guy here on the team. We have (Parker) Bowles and (Brian) Williams and those guys who can score. I’m not alone out there.”
He might not be alone, but he is the heir apparent in the scoring department.
“I think if you look at the numbers offensively, returning 30 goals, he’s our leader that way,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “He will get more ice time than he’s ever gotten. That’s tough, because then you have to play against other teams’ best players. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but he’s ready for it. He’s had a good apprenticeship behind those guys. He’s going to lead us.”
Those guys — Kruise Reddick, Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman, Patrick Holland and Justin Feser — set the standard for Americans hockey for years to come.