Depending on your age, the name Warren Rychel either instantly stirs up memories of NHL hockey in the mid-90s or you’re likely left asking yourself, ‘Who?’
As a player, Rychel skated in over 400 NHL games, including two seasons with the Kings — most notably in every playoff game during their 1993 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Although he didn’t win the ultimate prize that year, Rychel did lift Lord Stanley with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
However, where he really put a stamp on the world of hockey was in the second chapter of his career. Rychel served as General Manager of the OHL Windsor Spitfires and put together three Memorial Cup Championship teams, something that only a very few junior hockey executives have ever done.
Through it all, he’s continued to find unique connections back to Los Angeles.
Long before Gabe Vilardi was ever selected by the Kings at the NHL Draft, Rychel selected him second overall in the OHL Draft. During his recent visit to Kings of The Podcast, Rychel shared some stories on two future Kings.
Rychel on what made Gabe Vilardi special prior to the OHL Draft
He was great. I think the first day I went to watch him, the biggest thing is what he does when he gets the puck. Skating is average, as everyone knows, it doesn’t take rocket science to see that compared to other players. When he gets the puck, though, he is very, very good. That was what I saw. Plus, he had size, plus he was right-handed. There were so many things.
When I got to know Gabe the person, he was really shy at first. Obviously, you go visit the family before you select him. We went into his family and I think his mom and father, we really hit it off with them right away. Gabe was kind of a quieter kid. He got to, say, 18 years old, and he came out of his shell. He was an outstanding player. Just the strength on the puck, the intangibles, and the hockey sense is probably four-and-a-half out of five – very, very high. He’s just a great kid. He was born to be a hockey player and he is.
He really was in trouble there with his back. I don’t think the fans are even seeing close — wait until he gets going. When he gets half a season under his belt, you’re going to see Gabe Vilardi play very, very well. He missed a lot of hockey for the Kings in the last couple of years with his injury. Wait until you see him when he hits his stride. He’s gonna be a force to reckon with in the NHL for a long time.
He’s a great player, great kid, comes from a great family. I’m proud of him. He was up the first game I came in, watched him play, he just blew my socks off. He was outstanding. We tracked him from there and it really worked out for us with the Spitfires. So happy to see him now that he’s healthy and playing for the LA Kings.
Rychel on any Quinton Byfield scouting notes from having watched him over the past few years
Real powerful, two-way center. For a bigger guy, he just takes a little longer, that’s all. Real good player, he just has to get some reps under his belt. Huge man, comes from a really good family too. He has to play a little bit more. Every kid wants to get to the NHL, some guys just take a different path. For him, he just needs a little time. He’s gonna be fine. He’s a huge player, gonna be a great player in the NHL for a long time.
To hear more from Rychel, including some fun stories about his playing days in LA and time as an OHL GM, be sure to check out the rest of the episode linked below.
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