RAPID CITY, SD) – The Rapid City Rush is pleased to announce another flurry of recent free-agent signings. Head Coach and GM Joe Ferras has inked a trio of Denver Cutthroats that were key parts of their CHL Finals run: forwards Daniel Barczuk and J.P Chabot, and defenseman Steve Kaunisto.
“When you get this late into the offseason, it is unheard of that three players of this caliber become available,” said Head Coach and GM Joe Ferras. “With Denver opting to sit out for the upcoming season, all of their players became free agents, and these were three players that we focused heavily on knowing the impact they made on their hockey club firsthand having played against them several times in our heated rivalry.”
“This organization is great, and the fans are outstanding. I’m very excited to join the Rush family,” said Barczuk of his new home. “It’s good to know guys like Steve and J.P. coming into this new chapter as well. I hope to bring speed, offense, and physicality, and I won’t be afraid to drop the gloves for my team.”
Barczuk had a breakout season with the Cutthroats last year, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. After starting the season with the SPHL’s Bloomington Thunder, Barczuk quickly contributed to the high-powered Denver offense and recorded 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 45 games played in the regular season. He played in all 16 postseason games en route to a CHL Finals appearance, and scored 3 goals with a helper for 4 points.
“Danny was a player that stuck out immediately with his great speed and tenacity,” added Ferras on Barczuk. “His compete level and his willingness to go into tough areas to score goals and make plays made him very difficult for our defense to contain, and we know he will continue to bring this style to our club. With his skill and his work ethic, he has the potential to be a 20+ goal-scorer in the CHL.”
Originally from Livonia, Michigan, Barczuk, 26, begins his third season of professional hockey. For the past two seasons, Barczuk has split time in the SPHL with the Bloomington Thunder and the Mississippi Riverkings, and in the CHL with the Bloomington Blaze and the Denver Cutthroats. He is just 7 games shy of 100 played in his CHL career, and in that time has scored 26 goals with 22 assists for 48 points. Prior to playing professionally, Barczuk spent three seasons with Lake Superior State University in the NCAA, before finishing his collegiate play with Adrian College in NCAA Division III.
“I’m very happy with my decision to join the Rush team. Rapid City is a great hockey town,” said Chabot on joining the Rush. “I hope to bring a big presence in front of the net and get those greasy goals 6 to 10 feet in front of the net. It’s great being with Danny and Steve on this ride as well. I can’t wait to get the season started.”
Chabot pieced together another outstanding season, his second with the Cutthroats, playing in all but one regular season game. He scored 20 goals with 12 assists for 32 points, and of his 20 goals, 15 came on the power play, the second-best total in the entire CHL. In the playoffs, Chabot played in every postseason game and added another 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points.
“J.P. has been a thorn in our side for the last two years with his willingness to do whatever it taes to win hockey games,” continued Ferras on Chabot. “He will fight for his teammates when the situation arises, block shots, sacrifice his body, and take a beating in front of the net on the power play for the overall success of the team. He is also a much needed addition to our special teams, in particular our power play. J.P.’s another versatile player that brings the intangibles for our quest to bring a championship back to Rapid City.”
A native of Quebec City, Quebec, Chabot, 26, enters his sixth season as a professional, and his fourth in the CHL. He is 10 games shy of 200 and 2 points shy of 100 in his CHL career. Chabot’s career started in the ECHL with the Charlotte Checkers in the 2009-10 season, their final year in the league, and ended his time in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors. Before turning professional, he played junior hockey with the Gatineu Olympiques in the QMJHL, and captained them to a QMJHL Championship in the 2007-08 season.
“I’m pumped to have these fans cheering for me rather than against me. I’ve played here for almost 3 or 4 years and Rapid has always had the best atmosphere and best fans,” added Kaunisto on his trip to the Black Hills. “Personally, I feel I can bring patience on the back end, and I look to help out the specialty unit in any way that I can. I know what it takes to make it to the championship, and I hope I can use that experience in Rapid this seasonIt’s nice to know people like Danny and J.P. coming here with me, as that will help out the transition immensely.”
Kaunisto had an exceptional campaign last season, virtually shattering all of his career highs and playing in all 66 games for the Cutthroats in the regular season. He finished the regular season ranked fifth in the CHL in scoring amongst defenseman with 8 goals, 37 assists, and 45 points, just one point behind Rush defenseman Sean Erickson who was tied for 3rd. Of his 37 assists, 24 came on the power play, a tally that ranked third in the entire CHL. Kaunisto was a key contributor in the Cutthroats’ run to the CHL Finals, adding an extra 2 goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 15 playoff games.
“Adding a high-quality player like Kaunisto to play alongside the likes of an Erickson and a Tetrault will give our team more of an offensive upside, and make our team very dangerous in all three zones,” said Associate Coach Mark DeSantis. “Steven’s skating ability, along with his hockey-sense, and the way the speed of the game has evolved, will allow him to be a key contributor to our success this season.”
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Kaunisto begins his fifth season of playing professional hockey, and his fourth in the CHL. Over his entire career spanning three leagues, he has played 251 games, and 187 in the CHL, scoring 16 goals with 66 assists for 82 points. Previous to the beginning of his pro career, Kaunisto played collegiately at Lake Superior State University in the NCAA, serving as captain in his final season, capping off a 154 game career with his alma mater.
Other Rush News:
The Rush Historical Jersey Auction is back with another installment of jerseys, with Kevin Harvey’s and Tristin Llewellyn’s jersey on the auction block. To bid on the jerseys, visit the team’s eBay page here: http://www.ebay.com/usr/rapidcityrush?_trksid=p2047675.l2559
Join Rush Nation for only $10 per game! Call the Rush office at 716-7825 for details, and stay informed on all Rush happenings this summer through the official Rapid City Rush team website, www.RapidCityRush.com, and the Rapid City Rush mobile app, available on iTunes and Google Play.