Rakhshani Leads Denver Into Big Weekend
by Becky Ebert/CHN Reporter
In his final year at Denver, captain Rhett Rakhshani — a high-skill, high-character player — is hoping to end his college career with a NCAA title.
A native of California, Rakhshani did not come from a traditional hockey hotbed — albeit, it's one that is growing, and he is emblematic of that, following in the footsteps of former Pioneer Gabe Gauthier. Outside their home in Huntington Beach, Steve and Joan Rakhshani introduced their five-year old son to street hockey. With uncles, cousins and neighbors joining in on the fun, Rhett’s love for hockey took off.
“Street hockey was my substitute for pond hockey,” Rakhshani said. “There weren’t any frozen ponds near by, so we made use of the street.”
Four years later, Rhett’s father took him to an ice rink for the first time. The transition from road to ice seemed to be going smoothly, but learning how to stop was a different story.
“I thought I was doing really great, but then my Dad told me to skate to the end and stop,” Rakhshani said. “It didn’t go so well.”
Along with the sacrifices and encouragement provided by his parents, Rakhshani gives credit to a past coach when it comes to his success. Currently the coach for the LA Selects, Jeff Turcotte played a valuable role to the growth of Rakhshani’s hockey skills. While playing for the California Wave, Rakhshani was pushed and pressed to put in all the necessary work. Turcotte’s guidance throughout those years allowed Rakhshani to excel as a player on the ice.
Rakhshani has also given credit and appreciation to Denver coach George Gwozdecky. Gwozdecky made it clear that he believed in the talent and leadership in Rakhshani, by naming him team captain for his final season with the team. The decision wasn’t only based on pure skill, but Rakhshani’s actions off the ice.
In 2006, Rakhshani was selected by the NHL’s New York Islanders. This may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but growing up just a mile from the Pacific Ocean, it wasn’t considered normal either.
“It was a great feeling to be drafted, but the situation was bizarre,” said Rhett, “There aren’t many players coming out of California.”
Prior to start of the 2009-10 season, the New York Islanders asked the California native to leave school early and begin a career in professional hockey. Although a very tempting offer, Rakhshani made it clear that he was going to be making the return to DU for his senior year. While earning a degree in management was of importance, Rakhshani felt he owed it to his teammates.
“My teammates are like family,” said Rhett, “I feel like god gave me this opportunity and I should take advantage of it.”
At just 5-foot-10 and 170 lbs., Rakhshani has gained inspiration from smaller players throughout the NHL. Currently in his 13th NHL season, Daniel Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers became a role model for Rakhshani. Along with Briere’s speed and quickness, Rakhshani admires his efforts along the boards and around the net.
Although Rakhshani has been considerably successful, that hasn’t stopped his labors to improve as a player. It is evident that speed is a prominent side to Rakhshani’s game, but he is also looking to increase his strength. Nevertheless, Rakhshani refuses to compromise his swiftness for a few extra pounds of muscles.
“Strength is something I want to improve on,” said Rhett, “but I don’t want it to hurt my quickness.”
With a record of 14-5-3, the Denver Pioneers will look to make a push into the playoffs. There is no question that they have a good team on paper, but Rakhshani feels that they need to work on their consistency and treat every game as the toughest battle yet.
“I think we have a lot of character,” said Rakhshani, “but we need to become a lot more consistent from game to game and shift to shift.”
In less than a year, Rhett Rakhshani will be in his first year of professional hockey. However, the certainty of him leaving the University of Denver with a championship under his belt is unknown. Whatever the case may be, he has intangibles every team is looking for, and that should take him a long way.