Jr. Ducks grad Rashkovsky bringing Thunder for NCDC team
A member of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks AAA program until his Midget Major season, the 2000 birth year moved on to play his final two seasons of high school at Vermont Academy, a New England prep school.
Beginning in the fall of 2019, Rashkovsky made the big leap to junior hockey, moving two states to the right with the Maine-based Twin City Thunder of the National Collegiate Development Conference, the USPHL’s Tier II tuition-free junior division.
Making the transition to the junior level is generally tough and Rashkovsky said despite a nice start, it took a few games for him to get comfortable.
“Honestly, I had a good first game,” said Rashkovsky. “I had two points in the first game, then I kind of caught myself in a little bit of a struggle, adapting to maybe the speed and not being able to have as much time as I did in prep school. The first 15 games, I had six points and then the last 14 games, I’ve had 11 points. Most of those are goals, so I’ve been able to really pick it up and adapt to this level of play.”
Rashkovsky plays as a top-six forward and contributes to the offense with the Thunder, playing in all offensive situations, including the team’s power play. He currently sits third overall in points on a team that appears to spread the scoring out well – there are just two players with more than 20 points, but another eight with 10 or more.
The young left winger said he has settled in on a line with the same two teammates for the last two months or so now, including one that was a teammate at Vermont Academy. His job generally has been to get himself to the net and get ready to battle for the pucks at point-blank scoring range.
The Thunder has occupied the No. 6 spot in the NCDC for some time, but with little separation among the middle-pack teams, the battle to stay there or climb higher is an intense one. Only the top eight of 13 teams will qualify for the postseason.
“Our next five games are against teams that are ranked higher than us,” said Rashkovsky “Those are crucial points. Between third and tenth place, there’s only an eight- or nine-point gap, and we’re right in the middle of that. We’ve been fortunate to be in sixth place for some time but there’s always teams chasing.
“I’m from the suburbs, but, it’s Los Angeles, like three million people. I like the smaller towns. Having the fan base is important and it’s just a cool experience because it’s something that I would never get to experience in California. I like being out east and it definitely helped me being in prep school for two years.”
Of course, the move means being away from family and childhood friends – not easy for a teenager – but playing at a small school with a close-knit group of students helped.
“It was different for sure,” said Rashkovsky. “Playing Jr. Ducks, it was over an hour drive to practice. There was so much traffic.”
Weekend games were tougher, said Rashkovsky.
“We were on a plane like every second weekend,” he said. “It was a lot.”
Rashkovsky is on pace with goals he set as a youngster to go as far as he can with the sport of hockey, but academics play an important role to the goal scorer as well.
“Definitely, I’ve always wanted to play college hockey, and I’ve had a couple of NCAA Division III options,” said Rashkovsky, who carries a GPA of about 3.9. “Hockey’s taken me this far and so far, I’ve been pretty successful and the same organization, same coaches could take me even farther.”
— Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com
(Feb. 6, 2020)