New York Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan is the 26th team captain on the historic original six team. Ottawa Senators fans might appreciate the diamond in the rough story that Callahan brings to New York. This young New York Rangers captain was drafted 127th overall much like Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was drafted 133rd overall.
I am a hug fan of players that are hidden gems in the NHL entry draft system. The yearly rankings of all the top 10 picks in the NHL Entry draft from year to year have a possible superstar among them. Who is looking at depth charts well into the fourth round of any professional sports draft? That deep in the draft you could find a Callahan or an Alfredsson.
These two players make any NHL General Manager stay up late at night pouring over hundreds of junior player profiles. Fearless and unprecedented team play just might be 130 picks from the top of the draft, who a team gets that dedication from could be playing a smaller role on any Junior hockey team in the world. How important is scouting to an NHL team? I think these two players are an example of what comes from great scouting reports and patience.
I took real notice of Callahan and the way he dictates his presence this year during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In an early January game against the Leafs at the Air Canada Center Ryan Callahan started against a gritty third line. The Leafs coach wanted to send a message to the Callahan line, letting them know they are in for a tight checking game. Callahan called the bluff and stayed out on the ice for 15 extra seconds of his shift in order to meet up with the top line of the Leafs. Off the Leaf bench skated Phil Kessel, across the blue line he receives the puck against the half boards and Ryan Callahan is there to meet him with a thunderous check. Callahan just answered the proverbial bell. You want to put the test on Ryan Callahan? He puts the test right back to you as a coach on the other side of the ice. That example isn’t something you see on the stat sheet outside of a “hit”, but it plays out in the course of a game, a season and a career that makes a player a great one. He made an early impact on the opposing teams superstar and made his presence known.
Ryan Callahan is nothing less than a John Tortorella kind of player. Battle ready, grit along the boards, fearless shot blocker and the type of player that can put 40 points on the board over a season. Any General Manager in the NHL would want such a player.
As the writer who follows the Blue and White Leafs and is sitting under his signed Mats Sundin 500th career goal plaque, these next two paragraphs will send some social media hate my way for sure.
I have said this on many occasions in the company of my Ottawa Senators friends; “If just a few more players on the Ottawa Senators played the way Daniel Alfredsson does night in and night out, the team would have been a dynasty.” Alfredsson is a player who started out as the lone goal scorer that the Senators then managed to put some talent alongside. His leadership skills blossomed early and like his New York Ranger competitor became a captain at 27 years old.
I made note of a Daniel Alfredsson play he made this year at a game I attended. Alfredsson enters the offensive zone against the Boston Bruins on home ice already down 2-0. He makes a backside pass to his offensive support crossing the blue line, the Senators are trying to open up the game in order to get back the three goals they trail. Alfredsson has his pass intercepted and it develops into a two on one going the other way. His forward teammate on the ice with him at the time Kyle Turris takes a long skate around the Bruins net to get up the ice while Alfredsson stops and starts back checking right from the moment the puck starts towards the Senators end of the ice. Alfredsson reaches the Bruin player with the puck as he makes time for more offensive support. After Alfredsson checks the puck from the Bruins player and disrupts the mistake he started, the captain then heads for the bench.
Again not the type of play you read about in the scoring summary, not the type of play that defines a period of hockey or even a game. But the small hockey plays that put a player above those around him. With his head down and catching his breath on the bench after a sprint back up ice, he sends a message down the bench to the player he was on the ice with. If that message was to take responsibility for his mistake or give advice on the back check, it doesn’t matter because it was leadership being displayed. Every team in the NHL needs one or two of those types of players.
With my small comparison here we are looking at a player who is at the end of his NHL career that has stayed loyal to the NHL club that drafted him. Daniel Alfredsson the fourth round pick that became the cornerstone that the Senators needed to build a team around. Ryan Callahan the quiet, all-encompassing player that the Rangers need to complete this Stanley Cup run. Two players that make an impact by example and with quiet resolve. Reminds me of an old Toronto Maple Leafs captain that Leafs Nation misses dearly; Mats Sundin.
First round or fourth round, there are diamonds in the rough and sometimes when they shine they have a lasting impression. They might start off as a mediocre scorer and then turn into a natural leader, they might just be a flash in the pan. In my opinion that is what makes the NHL such a great game to watch.
As a fan of the NHL I plan on following Callahan and watching his progression. Should be a long illustrious career in New York for Ryan Callahan and a possible championship ring, something he might be wearing in short order.
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