Rangers 2020 Draft Pick Evan Vierling on being drafted and a year without hockey

The New York Rangers selected Evan Vierling in the 5th round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, 127th overall. The then 18 year-old split his season between the Flint Firebirds and the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, recording 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points, along with 12 penalty minutes in 43 games.

Unfortunately, the pandemic hampered his development as he was unable to play this past season.

We caught up with Evan to discuss being drafted and what a year without hockey was like.

Evan Vierling: On OHL and Quinton Byfield

Born in Aurora, Ontario in 2002, Evan Vierling grew up with hockey from a very young age. “My parents were the ones to put me in hockey,” he remembers. After several years playing for the Aurora Tigers he moved to the York Simcoe Express at age 14 together with Quinton Byfield. “I played with Q for 5 years growing up and he is a great hockey player,” Vierling praised the #2 overall pick. “L.A. got a good one in him”.

After a season in the Eastern AAA Hockey League where he put up 63 points in 33 games, Vierling was selected 2nd overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Draft. He was sandwiched in between teammate Quinton Byfield and future teammate Will Cuylle who went 3rd overall.

That brought him to Flint, Michigan where he signed with the Firebirds that summer.

In his first OHL season, the young center put up 27 points in 60 games played for Canada at the World Hockey Challenge, an u17 tournament contributing with 3 points in 6 games. His second season started off in Flint but halfway through he was traded to the Barrie Colts bringing him a bit closer to home.

“My path to the OHL was awesome. I was lucky enough to play a full season in Flint as a rookie before getting traded to Barrie my second year,” Vierling states. The trade that sent Vierling to Barrie involved two 2nd round selections and 2 players.

In a weird twist of fate, the Flint Thunderbirds drafted 2nd overall in back-to-back years in the OHL Priority draft and both players ended up being selected by the New York Rangers in the NHL Entry Draft.

The other player? Brennan Othmann.

Move to Barrie, and the NHL draft

Vierling finished the 2019-20 season with the Barrie Colts and put up 34 points in 28 games. Barrie finished in 5th place in the Eastern Conference but the subsequent playoffs were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite that, it was a successful season for Vierling who responded in a positive way to his trade. “Arriving in Barrie, my coaches and teammates believed in me from day one and I put up the numbers to back that up,” he said. “Todd Miller had a huge impact on me and I am forever grateful for that.”

After the season, things changed in more ways than one for the young center. In October 2020, Vierling was watching the draft with his family and in the 5th round he heard his name called.

“Being drafted is a dream come true for myself and my family,” Vierling recalls. “Especially to a team like the New York Rangers.”

The Rangers drafting him didn’t come as a total surprise though. Vierling spoke to the Rangers a few times leading up to the draft. Players get a feeling on whether or not a team is interested. “The day was filled with excitement and nerves,” he told me in anticipation of his selection.

A year without hockey

The first time we spoke, there were talks of the OHL season kicking off in December 2020, but as we now know, it never got to that. While the WHL and QMJHL announced games to go ahead, the OHL unfortunately never reached that stage, resulting in many players, including Vierling, not playing competitive hockey for a full year.

While others like Will Cuylle were spending time in Hartford, Vierling was not given that opportunity and spent his year in Ontario: “I am working out and skating to prepare myself for the start of the 2021-22 season,” Vierling revealed.

In his spare time, Vierling likes to play basketball, but spending more time with his family than usually was the biggest positive to come out of the pandemic.

When I asked about his favorite player, Vierling wass quick to respond. “Jonathan Toews for sure,” he exclaimed. “My biggest strengths are my skating but also my vision so I see a lot of myself in Toews when I watch him play.”

Vierling doesn’t say he’s as good as Toews, but modelling your game after a player is something a lot of young kids do.

When asked about his number (41), Vierling reveals it’s for someone he loves. “It’s the year my Nana was born and it’s a nice way to honor her. I owe a lot to her,” he explained. “Let’s hope I can keep using it when I get to the next level.”

It’s an uncommon number for a skater and probably one he doesn’t have to fight anyone over if he ever makes it to the NHL. Right now, Vierling’s priority is getting back on the ice for Barrie in the OHL.

“I love Barrie now and I look forward going back whenever that may be.”

PS: I want to thank Evan Vierling for sitting down with me and giving me the opportunity to share this story with our fanbase.

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