According to ECHL transactions, 32-year-old Rory Rawlyk was signed today as a defenseman for the Orlando Solar Bears. His most recent professional game was with the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) team Coventry Blaze, for whom he played 27 professional games and registered 14 points. He was released from the Blaze at the start of the calendar year in 2015.
Paul Wheeler, SBN writer who follows the EIHL, has watched Rawlyk play, and offers this frank assessment of his skills:
Big body, excellent skater. Not hugely physical. VERY offensive-minded...he loves to skate with the puck. Loves to be the focus of a team's offence, too. Good hands. Definitely ECHL standard, and AHL ability if used as a PP specialist. He's a very, very good player, but he needs to be used right. He also is very much a player who loves the spotlight-and has a personality teammates either love or hate. If he wants to play, he will be a very good Solar Bear & could be a useful situational Marlie.
Rawlyk began his career in the WHL and went undrafted until he was eventually signed by the Charlotte Checkers in 2003. Since then, he has spent three seasons with the Checkers (with limited call-ups the Wolf Pack) until signing with the Cyclones after the lockout year.
After a few more years with the Cyclones, Stingrays, and Roadrunners of the ECHL, he signed with two different European teams before ending up in England, first playing for the Dundee Stars, and finally with the Blaze. It's easier to just look at his HockeyDB page, honestly.
Rawlyk is a solid ECHL/European defenseman who has not yet been able to stick in the AHL. Although his number of games played has dropped since a season high of 72 in 2005-06, he has produced. In 2013-2014, he had 34 points in 36 games played, and 76 (!) penalty minutes. How could he have time to tally almost a point per game as a defenseman, spending 76 minutes of that in the box?
He's also amazingly tough. His 2013-2014 season was shortened by a puck to the EYE. The shot was so hard that the logo from the actual puck was imprinted on his eyeball. No joke. Who would return to hockey after almost losing an eye? Someone who truly loves the game, and shows an amount of toughness that any team would appreciate.
It is interesting to note that Sheldon Keefe's brother Adam Keefe plays with the EIHL in Belfast, and might have run across this veteran AHL/ECHL defenseman in the United Kingdom. It is also interesting to see Orlando trade Lindsay Sparks to make room for an older veteran. He's not just a veteran bruiser, though. He's got the ECHL production to prove it.
Will he stay with Orlando? Will he be finding his way up to the Marlies during their hopefully extended post-season?
We'll have to see!