When they called Rourke Chartier’s name in the first round of the 2011 bantam draft, the Kelowna Rockets had a hunch the skilled centre would one day become an important commodity for the WHL club.
In less two seasons into Chartier’s major junior career, that day is already here.
After a relatively slow start to the 2013-14 campaign, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Saskatoon native has emerged as one of the club’s most dependable forwards.
In addition to taking care of business in his own end of the rink, Chartier has been an offensive force—prior to Wednesday’s game at Tri-City, he had 10 goals and 25 points in his last 22 games.
“Over the last while he’s probably been our most consistent forward, at both ends of the ice, offensively and defensively,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “Since he’s found his scoring, which was missing early in the season, he’s really been playing a complete game. He’s playing a little quicker than he was early in the year, and he’s playing with confidence.”
It’s not to say Chartier wasn’t a welcome addition as a rookie last season, but with 20 goals and 48 points this season, the smooth centre continues move up the ladder of the Rockets’ most reliable players.
“I don’t think it’s too much of one thing, I think I just needed to play solid defensively and the rest of the game would come with it,” said Chartier, who is eligible for the 2014 NHL entry draft. “Sometimes you just need a bounce or two, and I’ve been getting a few of those lately. I’m playing with some confidence in my game, and I have to give a lot of credit for that to my linemates (Nick Merkley and Marek Tvrdon).
While he’s far from being the biggest player on the ice, Huska said there are many other variables that make Chartier one of the most promising young players in the organization.
“He’s the kind of player a coach likes to have, he does things the right way, he competes, he’s smart and has very good instincts. He’s a guy you enjoy having on your team and we feel like he’s going to be a great player for us.”
Still, Chartier considers himself lucky to be in an environment he rates as one of the best in all of junior hockey—not to mention playing on an awfully good team.
“I feel like I’m in the right place,” Chartier said. “The guys are so close, we have good depth and we really play well as a team. The system the coaches have in place seems to be working well, too.”
Chartier and the Rockets, who are in the midst of six games in a nine-stretch, will battle the Vancouver Giants in a weekend set. The teams will meet Friday at Prospera Place, before heading to Pacific Colisuem on Saturday.