It is clear Derek Ryan is relishing his new position on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Ryan has four points in four games since being moved to the right wing along side Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele. That line has had instant chemistry and they’ve combined for 11 points at 5×5 in four games.
Ryan is 35 years of age. He was 29 when he made his NHL debut March 1st, 2016. After a solid, but not spectacular, three-year WHL career he played four seasons at the University of Alberta and four in Europe before he signed a two-way contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 15th, 2015. He scored 55 points in 70 AHL games before getting a late-season recall and realized his NHL dream playing six games He signed another one-year, two-way deal that summer and cleared waivers when he was reassigned to the AHL. He scored 13 points in nine AHL games to start that season before being recalled on November 11th. He’s remained in the NHL ever since.
He skated in his 389th NHL game last night. Very few players are NHL rookies at 29, and Ryan has had to believe in himself along his journey to the NHL when no one else did. He is a proud player and I appreciate his honesty.
Last night he shared his thoughts on a few topics about the Oilers recent success and it was clear where he stands.
It started when he was asked about the contributions from numerous players over the past four games.
“I can speak for myself, I can’t speak for the whole group,” said Ryan. “But it feels like we feel that everyone is getting a chance and opportunity to provide help. Obviously, we can’t rely on Connor and Leon to do everything. We need support for those guys, and for everyone in the top six. I think it’s good for myself to just get some confidence built up, to play more, get more opportunity offensively. I think that’s helped.”
It is important to note Ryan is speaking for himself. He is getting more opportunities and has had instant success.
He was asked if his confidence is from getting opportunities or how he is playing.
“For sure a bit of both,” he replied. “It was just hard earlier in the year when you’re not playing much, you’re sitting on the bench and it’s pretty hard when you’re sitting there for 15, 20 minutes and you’re expected to go out there and contribute. I don’t know, older legs, maybe it’s just me. But it’s hard. Those legs get stagnant and you don’t have the confidence to make a play. When the puck’s going in, or you’re making plays and the line is scoring, that confidence kind of snowballs and helps with the game as well. But I think it’s a combination of both.”
Ryan also added he felt it isn’t just him who needed more opportunity, but that he never had a conversation with Woodcroft about his role.
“I didn’t have that conversation, but I think it’s evident in how he’s running the bench that he wanted to get the nine, 10, 11 guys in the forward group going more. I know it’s something I’ve talked with guys in the bottom-six — we needed that, or we felt like we needed that. I can’t speak for Woody, but I feel it’s been pretty clear by how he’s run the bench,” said Ryan.