September 29, 2014
Pictured above is a fellow named Ken Yaremchuk. He was a speedster who, despite not taking up the game until the age of 9, was one of the top prospects of the 1982 NHL draft. Chicago took him 7th overall, though there was a lot speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs would take him with the third spot, as they had previously drafted his brother Gary. Ken actually publicly requested that the Leafs not select him so that he and Gary would not have to compete against each other for a job with the Leafs.
The Leafs ended up taking Gary Nylund, a giant defenseman, instead. Nylund and Yaremchuk were junior teammates with the Portland Winterhawks. Thanks to Nylund's intimidating presence in the back end and Yaremchuk's spectacular scoring, Portland advanced all the way to the Memorial Cup in 1982 but did not win the junior championship. The following season Nylund made the jump to the NHL while Yaremchuk returned to junior where he, and a newcomer named Cam Neely, led Portland to the Memorial Cup again, this time winning it all.
Though he ended up playing 235 NHL games (scoring 36 career goals, 56 assists and 92 points) Ken Yaremchuk never fulfilled his draft day promise at the NHL level. He played out of position, lining up on the right wing a lot. His game was not necessarily suited for the up-and-down life along the boards. He was more of a skill player who thrived on his skating ability.
It's funny how life works sometimes. Nylund and Yaremchuk's career paths crossed again. In the summer of 1986 the Chicago Blackhawks sign Gary Nylund as a restricted free agent. Because he was a restricted free agent the Leafs were to be compensated. An arbitrator sent Yaremchuk along with Jerome Dupont and a 4th round draft pick (Joe Sacco) to Toronto.
The Yaremchuk family reunion did not happen however. Gary had already left the organization (having played 34 games) and was soon off to Europe for a vagabond career. Ken ended up playing 20 games for the Leafs that season.
In 1987-88 Ken opted to play for the Canadian national team. It was an Olympic year and in those days NHL stars were not allowed to leave to play in the Olympics. With the Olympics in Calgary Ken really wanted to be a part of the historic event. He spent the whole season with the national team and then played 8 games (scoring 3 goals and 3 assists) at the Olympics, but Canada finished 4th place, just out of the medals.
Yaremchuk returned to the Leafs for the balance of the season but that would conclude his NHL career. He, too, headed over to Europe, playing first in Italy then in Switzerland for many years. But he never did play with his older brother Gary. Gary did join the Ken's Swiss team Zug in 1990-91 for a short time but only to replace an injured player - Ken!
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Any idea what Kenny is up to these days? I watch a great many of his games in Portland. I think it was his last year that he centered a line with Alfie Turcotte and Neely. Back in those days his nickname was "the weasel" and he provided many highlight moments for the Winterhawk faithful.
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