At 18, Rourke Chartier is, by no means, an old soul by Western Hockey League standards.
Still, as he heads into his third major junior campaign, there is little doubt that the Saskatoon-born centre has moved into a marquee role for the Kelowna Rockets—both as a force on the ice and in a leadership role.
“The first two years, I think I just kind of went out there and played but I think this year I have more of a leadership role, I’m going to be counted on as an older guy,” Chartier said. “But at the same time I’m just going to go out there, play my same game, and play hard.”
Chartier’s game over his first two WHL seasons clearly met with avid approval from the Rockets’ coaching staff.
Playing in all situations, both as a rookie and sophomore, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound amassed 88 points in his first 130 games as a Rocket—including 24 goals and 58 points playing in all 72 games last season.
His play was impressive enough for the San Jose Sharks to grab Chartier in the fifth round, 149th overall in this summer’s NHL entry draft.
Statistics and numbers aside, Rockets head coach Dan Lambert said Chartier is a reliable, driven and skilled player any coach would be happy to have at his disposal.
“He’s a quiet kid that leads by example,” Lambert said of Chartier. “Rourke does everything we ask as coaches, he’s a guy you love to have on your team. You know what you’re getting, that’s the beauty of coaching him. He’s not the most physical guy, but he competes every night and you can’t ask much more.”
With the loss of the team’s top three offensive producers from 2013-14—Myles Bell, Ryan Olsen and Damon Severson—the Rockets will be looking to other sources to spearhead the WHL team’s attack this season.
While Chartier knows some of that responsibility will rest on his capable shoulders, he also knows the Rockets success this season will hinge on a familiar theme—team play.
“Different guys are going to be counted on this year, but I’m looking forward to being one of those for sure,” said Chartier, a first-round bantam choice of the Rockets in 2011. “I’m good with being more accountable for the scoring and everything. But I think we have a group here where everyone can score, it’s going to be four lines, so I think we’re going to do a pretty good job of that.”
As for the team’s big-picture expectations, Chartier said 109 wins over the last two years was commendable, but in the end two premature playoff exits fell well short of the mark.
“It was tough, you want to win when it comes down to it in the playoffs,” said Chartier. “Sure, regular season wins are nice, but we want to be there when it really counts.
“We have a decent amount of returnees and I know they all want to do better and get a WHL championship.”
Rocket Shots…Chartier (San Jose) was among eight active Rockets who were away at NHL rookie camps early this week. The others were Justin Kirkland (Nashville), Madison Bowey (Washington), Mitchell Wheaton (Detroit), Jackson Whistle (Vancouver), Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia), Tyson Baillie (San Jose) and Dalton Yorke (San Jose). The majority are expected back in time for the start of the WHL regular season…The Rockets open the 2014-15 season Saturday at home to the Kamloops Blazers. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.