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Ryan Learning The Game With Spitfires

Wednesday, 05.5.2010 / 4:29 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Ryan Learning The Game With Spitfires
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Kenny Ryan’s M.O. will no doubt please Leafs GM Brian Burke.

Ryan’s job with the Windsor Spitfires comes pre-distilled: use his abundant speed to generate a forecheck and when he does arrive do so in poor humour.

The 18-year-old Ryan scored 14 goals and collected 35 points as an 18-year-old rookie with the Windsor Spitfires. He has three goals in 19 post-season games for the newly crowned OHL champs.

The Spits, Memorial Cup winners last year, will contest the national championship beginning May 14 in Brandon, Man.

Chosen by Toronto in the second round of last year’s draft, Ryan is a Detroit kid who turned down a scholarship offer from Boston College to try his luck in the OHL after three seasons in the U.S. Under-18 team.

The difference between the development league and the OHL wasn’t just the level of competition but the frequency of it, Ryan said.

“When you play in the Under-18 program, you play two games a weekend. In the OHL, you often play three games in as many nights. You go from maybe 40 games to 68. That’s the big difference. It’s like people say, you really have to learn how to take care of your body. “

At six-feet, 209 pounds, Ryan packs a punch when he reaches a defenceman.

"This year I was told to learn the defensive game. We have a lot of veterans and I watch them a lot to see the best way to play. I skate hard and make life difficult for the other team’s defencemen.  I want to be a player who is hard to play against."

Ryan was asked the biggest difference he observed after crossing the bridge from Detroit to Windsor.

“I’ve found it unbelievable how much Canadians care about hockey,” he said. “I went to the bank this morning and everyone knew who I was and everyone wanted to talk hockey.”

Which brings us neatly to the Maple Leafs. Take Ryan's example in Windsor, multiply by a million, and you have the hockey player’s life in Toronto…just.

“There is a bit of a spotlight here because of how great a player Taylor is,” Ryan said. “Some of that spotlight reflects on us, but watching how people deal with it helps you mature on and off the ice. Hopefully I can play for the Leafs and use some of the things I learned to deal with media and relate to fans when I get to Toronto.”

Ryan feels he has just begun to scratch the surface of what he can do.

“I feel like I’ve improved with every game I have played this season,” Ryan said. “We have a
lot of great players here but next year, I think I can have a bigger role.”

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