SPOTLIGHT: Adrian Misaljevic
“The organization and the fans are phenomenal, first-class. The development for players is second to none and it has made the transition really smooth.”
Development has always been key for the late bloomer. For 19-year-old Junior Adrian Misaljevic, he knew that Kitchener was the spot for him. These words encapsulate the feeling tied to an environment like no other at The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, which has allowed Misaljevic to flourish in his pursuit of becoming one of the league’s top scorers.
The Woodbridge, Ontario native grew up as a kid always wanting to be around the rink. Whether it was on an outdoor rink during the chilling Ontario winters or practising with his buddies, Misaljevic has always had his eyes set on making it big in the sport. At the age of seven, it was his father who introduced him to the game of hockey in which he shared a common love for the sport and dedication to accomplishing an exceptional journey.
When Misaljevic worked his way to the rep level, this was where his journey truly began. He first started playing AA for the Vaughan Panthers, where he spent numerous years. It was not until he entered his Minor Midget year that he would leap to the AAA level playing for the Mississauga Rebels. From playing the majority of his minor hockey at the AA level, Misaljevic often recalls how crucial his time with the Panthers was in moulding his game to the form it is in at the OHL level today.
“I grew up playing AA with the Vaughan Panthers for many years. I think they helped me a lot to develop into the player I am now. It wasn’t until my Minor Midget year that I jumped up to the AAA level.”
Playing in his U16 season, Misaljevic tallied 15 points in 30 games with the Rebels, without getting a true shot in the following season due to the circumstances of COVID-19 shutting down his chances to hit the ice. All things considered, Misaljevic missed out on being drafted with his next decision being the blueprint for the roadmap that lay ahead for his hockey career.
At first, he opted to take the Junior route playing in the GOJHL with the Brantford Bandits where he scored eight points in seven games, followed by the Niagara Falls Canucks where he added 17 points in 15 games to his resume.
“I played my first year of AAA in Minor Midget. The year after, we didn’t get to have a season due to COVID-19, and I didn’t get drafted. I then played in the GOJHL, playing for both of the Brantford Bandits and the Niagara Falls Canucks.”
Originally, Misaljevic was eager to play Jr. A in hopes of obtaining a college scholarship, but that quickly changed when OHL opportunities began to surface after his quick start to the season with the Niagara Falls Canucks. His experiences in the GOJHL can be considered as moving pieces to the complete puzzle, and key developmental encounters that have allowed Misaljevic to elevate his game when it mattered the most.
His stellar play latched on to OHL general managers, the Rangers specifically as he was signed by the Blueshirts as an undrafted free agent in 2021.
“I started playing well and got a few calls from OHL teams. Kitchener stood out to me as an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.”
Misaljevic appeared in 31 games in his freshman season scoring three goals paired with six helpers and in his sophomore campaign he played in 47 games netting four goals with seven assists. As he found himself on a Rangers team that had many veterans and depth, his opportunity to thrive was still to come. Inserting his Junior season, which many believed to be a rebuild for the organization, however, Misaljevic had other plans.
From the opening puck drop, Misaljevic has been on a tear scoring 22 points in 17 games as he sits seventh in the OHL in points, already doubling his points total from the previous season – at one point in October he was even leading the OHL in points with 16. With many question marks laid in the performance of the organization heading into a fresh season, Misaljevic has been an anomaly, turning heads in the spotlight early on.
“I think it has to do with confidence and opportunity, which I’ve built over time and been granted a bigger opportunity to start the season. I was expecting to do well, I didn’t think I was going to do this well. It’s good to see that it’s paying off and being recognized.”
Playing hockey is not the only thing he is often recognized for. Misaljevic is an actor and model in the offseason where he has been involved with commercials and print ads from a young age. Despite his appearances on the big screen, he would prefer to play pro hockey as he treats his modelling career as an offseason hobby to make a little bit of money.
“I’ve been in quite a few things. I don’t remember exactly what I was in when I was younger but last year I had a main role in a movie and I often do auditions for commercials here and there in the summer. Back in August, I filmed a Nissan commercial that is coming out in January.”
Despite the hot start, Misaljevic is dedicated to evolving into a top player who is quick off the rush and a real threat every time they step foot on the ice. From a team-oriented perspective, his accolades are viewed as only a bonus with his main focus being on continuing the team’s success for the long haul and not counting their eggs before they hatch.
“We need to stay focused and not get too cocky or anything like that. We want to go into every game like it’s our last and work hard. As a whole, we have to continue to stay together as a team, stay gelled, and stay the course. If we have problems with each other, communicate it and sort out the problems so we can be better in the long haul.”
It’s been a long road of commitment and development for Misaljevic, but with his mindset, it’s clear he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Written by Evan Doerfler