Blueliner bolts CJHL for OHL

MIKE BEASLEY -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

The news only seems to get worse for the CJHL's Gloucester Rangers.

Less than two weeks after their entire coaching staff, general manager and several scouts abandoned ship over a dispute with team owner Denis Lacroix, the Rangers learned Friday that second-year defenceman Mark Fraser is leaving Gloucester to play with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.

Kitchener had been courting the rugged 6-foot-4, 200-lb. blueliner for the last two weeks before the Ottawa native made the decision.

'GREAT OPPORTUNITY'

"It's been a really hard two weeks," the 18-year-old Fraser said. "I loved playing in Gloucester, but felt that the timing was right to make the move to Kitchener.

"This is a great opportunity for me. I am very excited to be going to the Rangers. They have an excellent coaching staff. Kitchener has a very good team with a rich tradition of developing quality defencemen."

Kitchener secured Fraser's playing rights in a trade with the OHL's Barrie Colts, who drafted him in 2002 (12th round, 237th overall). Barrie will receive Kitchener's fourth-round pick in the 2005 OHL priority selection.

Until the Rangers came knocking earlier this month, playing in the OHL was never in Fraser's plans.

"I had originally wanted to earn an athletic scholarship to attend an American university," he said. "But after playing a month or so in the CJHL this season, I realized that I wanted to play at the next level, but the location and the education package had to be right. Kitchener was the perfect fit."

The Colts learned that Fraser was not interested in playing for them, so they decided to trade his rights.

Some NHL scouts have hinted to Fraser and his family that it might be in his best interest to compete at the OHL level. He is eligible for the 2005 NHL draft that is scheduled for June at the Corel Centre.

STEPS UP

"I feel that my style of play is better suited for the OHL," Fraser said. "Making the step up will definitely help me to improve as a hockey player. I am looking forward to the new challenge and prepared to work hard to develop my skills."

Fraser, currently a first-year social science major at Carleton, will continue his education at the University of Waterloo at the start of the new semester in January.

"Education is very important and is taken seriously in my family," he said. "Having two quality universities (in the Kitchener area) was an important factor in my decision-making process."


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