Travis Randell has played more games as a forward than all but one player in Halifax Mooseheads history. But he might never have looked as comfortable as he has for the past two weeks since injuries forced a sudden shift to defence – so comfortable, he might finish his QMJHL career there.
The 21-year-old has been a natural on the blue-line since stepping in for concussed regular Austyn Hardie on Jan. 26.
“I’m feeling more and more comfortable every day,” said Randell, whose 298 career games are second only to Brandon Benedict’s record of 343.
“It’s definitely an adjustment at first to get your foot-speed backwards, but I think sometimes being a forward and switching back, I see things develop other defencemen might not.”
It’s not the first time Randell’s been used as a defenceman, but this is his longest extended stint. Given his seamless transition, it’s not a surprise he began his hockey career as a blue-liner and didn’t start skating as a forward until midget AAA with the St. John’s Maple Leafs.
He only switched because he was trying out for Newfoundland’s under-15 provincial team as an under-age player and thought he had a better chance of making it as a forward. When he made the team, he never switched back.
Randell, who served as captain last season, but handed that distinction over to Cameron Critchlow in August, carved out a niche in his first four QMJHL seasons as a defensive forward.
“Maybe now I’m more of an offensive defenceman,” joked Randell, who has 45 goals among 113 career points.
“But I enjoy it back there. I’ve been able to move the puck well and help out offensively a bit, and it’s fun making a nice breakout pass. You get a different perspective on the game – you have the full game in front of you.”
How long Randell stays on defence might depend on the health of concussed regulars Steve Gillard and Austyn Hardie, but he’s certainly lessened the impact of those injuries and given the coaches something to think about.
“We’ve had injuries on D and we’re deep up front,” Randell said. “It’s just another thing where I’ll do whatever it takes to stay in the lineup.”