Sheldon Rempal does not mind dealing with traffic. Not on the ice, nor on the freeways in and around Los Angeles.
He’s handling those obstacles just fine. The 23-year-old rookie pro has already made the 40-mile commute from Ontario, where he plays for the AHL Reign, to Staples Center, where he suited up in three games for L.A. earlier this season on a line with Jeff Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk.
It wasn’t the Ontario he thought he’d be playing in someday. “Growing up in Calgary,” he said, “when I thought of Ontario, it was the one with Toronto. Now that I’m in Ontario, California, I don’t think there could be a better setup. It’s really close to L.A., which makes it easy to go back and forth.”
Rempal doesn’t need much time or space to operate, which makes him an ideal fit for Southern California. An undrafted free agent, the right winger had multiple offers before signing a two-year deal with the Kings last spring following two seasons at Clarkson University. “When I took my visit to L.A., everyone was nice,” Rempal said. “They made me feel like I was a player they needed and explained how I would fit in.”
A good skater with a proven scoring touch (he had 59 goals for Nanaimo of the BCHL in 2015-16, and netted 23 goals at Clarkson last year), Rempal says he was also influenced by the Kings’ recent success. “I watched both of their Cup runs, in ’12 and in ’14,” he said. “Those teams made an impression on me with their strong, physical play. They were always very hard to play against.”
The 5-foot-10 Rempal grew up a Flames fan, but it was Tampa Bay’s 5-foot-8 Martin St-Louis that became his favorite during the 2004 Cup final. He also likes Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny and L.A.’s Trevor Lewis. “(Konecny) is a right-handed shot and plays really fast,” Rempal said. “When I watch Lewis with the Kings, he’s responsible in the defensive zone and gets every puck out on the wall. He always makes the smart play.”
Rempal’s smartest play was exhibiting perseverance when his career appeared stuck. “I’m a late-bloomer, but that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “It’s awesome to be where I am now.”
Kiefer Sherwood – Anaheim Ducks, RW
His pluck and Anaheim’s injuries helped Sherwood nab a surprise roster spot this year. The Miami University alum has brought grit and a shooter’s mentality to the Ducks, who have used him on the third line.
Joel L’Esperance — Dallas Stars, RW
Once his senior season at Michigan Tech concluded, L’Esperance signed on with Dallas and he ended up playing every playoff game in AHL Texas’ run to the Calder Cup final. This year, he’s putting up nearly a point-per-game in the minors.
Eric Robinson – Columbus Blue Jackets, LW
A big dude who can score, Robinson was Princeton’s captain last year and made his NHL debut last season with the Jackets. This year, the power forward has been one of AHL Cleveland’s top scorers.
Zach Whitecloud – Vegas Golden Knights, D
There had been rumors Whitecloud would get a shot at the Olympics with Canada, but in the end the big, well-rounded D-man simply started a frenzy for his NHL rights. Vegas won, and now the Bemidji State alum is with AHL Chicago.
Logan O’Connor – Colorado Avalanche, RW
Leaving the University of Denver after his junior season, O’Connor didn’t move far: the 2017 NCAA champion signed with the Avalanche and now plays for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles one hour north in Loveland, where he’s producing well.
This story appears in the January 28, 2019 of The Hockey News magazine.