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An Interview With Maple Leafs' Prospect Kenny Ryan

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Yesterday I had the chance to interview Kenny Ryan currently of the Windsor Spitfires and hopefully soon to be a member of your Toronto Maple Leafs. Ryan was drafted 50th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs last year in Montreal. The last time he was featured on the site he had just made the decision to leave Boston College for the Windsor Spitfires. He had previously spent two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program where the coaches had nothing but good things to say about him. The move prompted quite the back and forth on SBN's Western College Hockey Blog.

Four months afrter making his decision he's adjusted to the rigours of the Ontario Hockey League while playing on the defending Memorial Cup Champions. He's picked up 12 goals and 16 assists in 42 games so far this season. Kenny was an invitee to the US' World Juniors 29-man camp in December but unfortunately was one of the last cuts. I'd upload the audio of the interview but the recorder being close to my computer resulted in some painful feedback. The transcript after the jump might not do Ryan justice as he comes across as well-spoken, thoughtful, and funny which sets him apart from most hockey players.

Thanks to Derek Zona of SBN's Copper & Blue who has been doing yeoman's work getting the SBN hockey megaverse prospect interviews, Rob Gagnon of the Windsor Spitfires for arranging the interview, and Kenny Ryan for taking some time to answer my questions about his move to the OHL, why he wears # 26, and what Top Gun character he'd be.

You're in the middle of your first season with the defending Memorial Champion Spitfires. The team's only lost 9 games this year and has already clinched a playoff spot. How do you feel it's been going for you personally?

I came from Boston Cllege and college hockey play compared to the CHL or OHL is a little bit different. Personally, it took me a bit longer than I was expecting to adjust to the style of play and how many games we play and just the whole overall speed of the game.

I think that as every game as gone on this season I have gotten better at some of the little details that will hopefully get me to the next level. As a team I think we've gotten stronger as the season has gone on. We've had some injuries and some suspensions (Editor's Note: some is an understatement.) that we've had to fight through. But I think that with the record that we've had even with a lot of guys out it shows that we're a good team and we're looking to make a long playoff run.

After the Maple Leafs drafted you 50th overall this summer did they offer any guidance about where they thought your development would be best served?

I remember at the draft this summer, after I was drafted by them, we were up in their suite talking with them and Brian Burke came over. We were just talking and he said "you know, I know you were drafted by Windsor and you're going to Boston College." He said just "from our standpoint know that whatever decision you would like to make we are going to back you up on that." I told him at that point that I was going to go to Boston College and he said "that was a great deicision I think that you'll do well there."

You know when I got there, college is for a lot of people but personally I don't think that the style of play and everything was for me. I loved my time there, it was great, but I think that this was a better choice for me. When we were going through that decision we didn't even tell the Leafs until the decision was made and everything was worked out that I was going to Windsor. They were again supportive of my decision but they didn't influence it at all.

How often are you in contact with the Maple Leafs?  

I talk to them quite often. Probably once every two weeks and they probably come to my games once every two weeks. It's such a good league there are always guys getting scouted and they aren't that far away. It works out well.

Do they come and give you specifics to work on or are they just checking in on you?

I think it's more just kind of that they are in the building. They are there watching and just kind of seeing how I'm progressing along in the season and my development.

You came up through the National Team Development Program. In the past year they've won gold medals at the World Juniors and the Under 18s and they also have put some representatives on the Olympic Team. How did your time in the program help you improve your skills?

I think for me personally it was a great experience. I learned a lot about the type of player that I will have to be to hopefully play at the next level. It makes you a lot stronger off ice. You mature a lot because you move away from home when you are 15 or 16. I thought it was a great program. We were playing against the best kids in the world from different countries and it makes you compete at a high level every day.

I've noticed in looking at your profiles that you've put on about 20 pounds over the past year. That's obviously the product of a lot of hard work. Who would you credit with helping you develop a strong work ethic?

You know from a strict work ethic standpoint I think it kind of just comes from my brothers and my dad. They were all athletes and from when I was little we'd always be competing agianst each other and one person would always want to beat the other. I think that always just kind of stuck with me.

As I grew up and wanted to get stronger everyone has been there with me from coaches and trainers and those guys really make the difference.

You wear 26 for Windsor. Is there any significance to that number?

Not really. Three years ago I went to a CCHA tournament down at the Joe Louis Arena and Ryan Jones played for Miami of Ohio, he plays for Nashville now, I just loved how he played. He hit everything that moved, he was a goal scorer, a big power forward, had hair down to his shoulders. Looked crazy and I liked it a lot and that was pretty much the only reason. I knew nothing about him or anything.

He was kind of like a Hanson brother.

(Laughs) Exactly

In the run up to the draft NHL.com asked you and a lot of the other prospects five questions to give fans a better sense of your personality. One of which was in what movie you'd like to be in and you said Top Gun. First, off, great answer. But, if you were in Top Gun, what character would you be?

Hmmm I don't know. That's a tough question. I had a nickname when I was on the U18s as Iceman just like for random stuff. I would probably go with him. He's a good looking guy and I like to think that I am as well. (laughs)

Editor's Note: I promised Kenny I'd let him know what the female readers thought so shares your views.

You grew up in Michigan which helps explain why you also said that your favourite player was Darren McCarty. Were you able to watch Hockey Night in Canada growing up?

No, we never got Hockey Night in Canada but Darren is actually a close family friend of ours. My dad knows him very well. He came to my first game in Windsor when I played. I mean, I watched the Red Wings growing up but he was more of a personal friend which is why he was one of my favourite players.

Now that you're a Maple Leaf are you considering changing your favourite player to Wendel Clark?

(Laughs) No. (Editor's Note: This answer did not endear him to me)

One last note: My co-editor is a Boston University alum...

(Laughs) Oh, that's tough. I feel bad for you.

(Laughs) See, I told him that I was going to ask you if you had anything to say to him and he thought that you wouldn't have been there long enough to get involved in the rivalry.

Yeah, I wasn't there long enough but I still do follow up and BC happened to win the Beanpot and the outdoor game this year so they're doing alright this year against BU. Chemmy note: Outdoor game BU 3 BC 2. It's understandable, BC isn't very successful so they'll take what they can.

I'll make sure that it gets rubbed in his face.

(Laughs)

Editor's Note: This answer endeared him to me. I told Chemmy that Kenny asked "Where's Your Beanpot?" and the reaction was worth it. Now he pledges to give him the Dominic Moore/Rickard Wallin treatment when he makes the Leafs.