When it comes to Kenny Ryan there’s no holding back.
The native of Franklin Village, MI, was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round of the 2009 draft and is entering his third season with the Marlies, the NHL club’s minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League.
The 22-year prides himself on battling his opponents for each and every inch of the ice.
“I think one of my strengths is my style of play,” said Ryan, from the stands at the Ricoh Coliseum as the Marlies held practice.
He’s currently rehabbing an injury.
“I take a lot of pride in my compete level and the work ethic I bring every night shift to shift.”
Ryan believes that everyone at the professional level can play the game, but quickly pointed out the importance of paying attention to detail.
“There are everyday things you can always work on, from your shot to your skating and board play. At this level it’s [about] what are you better at than the other guy and I think that’s something that everyone works on.”
Ryan likes to play a physical style of hockey, but also has the ability to put the puck in the net.
In 2009-2010 he helped the Windsor Spitfires win the Memorial Cup in his first year in the Ontario Hockey League by scoring 14 goals and 21 assists in 52 games.
Offensively, Ryan was given a larger role the following season and scored just under a point per game (22 goals, 38 assists in 63 games).
As a kid he cheered for the Detroit Red Wings and was a big fan of tough guy Darren McCarty, but now models his game after another Michigan native and current Vancouver Canuck, Ryan Kesler.
“He competes every night and he has a little bit of an attitude when he plays. He’s a solid two-way player, but definitely brings some offence.”
After posting 21 points (nine goals and 12 assists) in 59 games with the Marlies last year in primarily a checking role, Ryan entered this season looking to build on those numbers but will have to be patient.
The 6-foot, 210 pound power forward suffered a sports hernia injury from participating in various exercises during his offseason training regimen and required surgery.
I think it [sports hernia] was just from overtraining and doing too many different things”, said Ryan.
“I was skating, working out, boxing, and doing some yoga. I wanted to come in and have a big season and I think I just over did it.”
Ryan is itching to join his teammates who will kick off their season at home against the Grand Rapid Griffins on Saturday.
“It’s pretty tough not being able to be out there, but it’s part of the game and part of the process. Everyone is going to have their share of injuries and ups and downs.”
An excellent swimmer, Ryan began to get serious about hockey when he was about 14 and credits his family (his parents and two brothers) for his success.
In 2009-2010 he began the year at Boston College and played there for almost two months, but felt he had better chance to play in the NHL by joining the Ontario Hockey League.
“The OHL has more of a professional style of play in the sense that we play 68 games and then have our playoffs that can go seven games, so it was just a personal decision and it worked out well.
“My family and I decided that this would be the best route for myself and as for the school part I’m taking classes online and am working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree.”
Ryan says the best advice that he’s been given is not to get too caught up in the moment whether it’s good or bad.
“You’re going to have some really awesome days when things are going really well for you personally and you’re going to have some rough patches too where you’re wondering why me, but you have to remember nobody is going to feel bad for you.”
His approach to the game is simple.
“Don’t think too much and show up every day ready to work and things will work out.”
I have known Kenny since his birth. He is a wonderful young man with unyielding tenacity and an overpowering love of the game. The Leafs could not have a better man waiting to show the hockey world his great talents. His grandpa would be very proud oh him as I am.
Best of luck to him and the Leafs this season.