Dec 29, 2016

In any job, tremendous growth can be made from year one to year two, or in Joakim Ryan’s case, season one to season two.

Ryan’s intelligence both on and off the ice has never been in question. The 23-year-old played four years at Cornell, but the leap to pro hockey can present a significant learning curve.

Ryan put up solid numbers in his first year as a pro in 2015-16, totaling 28 points (2+26=28) in 66 games with a plus-11 rating and 26 penalty minutes, but it’s clear Ryan is not the same player as he was a year ago.

The Rumson, New Jersey native has emerged as one of head coach Roy Sommer’s most reliable resources and a large part of why the Barracuda are in the top five in the AHL on the both the power play and penalty kill.

“The thing I like about his game right now is he’s just playing with so much poise,” said Sommer. “He seems to have another gear when he grabs the puck he makes things happen, and he’s a huge part of the success we’ve had on the power play.”

A go-to player on the man advantage and a shutdown defender on the penalty kill, Ryan has already surpassed his goal total from last year in just 24 games and is on pace to surpass his points and PIM’s.

“The first year is always an adjustment,” said Ryan. “I know the systems, and I know how the coaching staff wants us to be playing, and I just feel good out there. I feel like I’ve just been more consistent this year, night in and night out.”

Like any good employee, Ryan listened to suggestions from his bosses after year one and used this offseason to make the necessary corrections to his game to make a significant leap in year two. The number one thing on the list was to get bigger and stronger. So Ryan spent this summer not on the ice but in the weight room, building up his 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame to be able to withstand the physical demands of pro hockey.

“One of the biggest things is I stayed off the ice this summer and focused more on the weight room, getting stronger, and I think it has really paid off because I’m feeling great.”

Four years of college will make any young kid grow up. After playing just one season in the USHL with Dubuque Fighting Saints, Ryan moved on to Cornell and was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the seventh round (#198) of the 2012 NHL Draft after his freshman season.

Ryan played seven games with the Worcester Sharks following his college career in 2015 before making the full time jump to pro hockey last season. The Barracuda are one of the youngest teams in the AHL, averaging 22 years of age and although Ryan is right around the average age, the blueliner has taken a leadership role in his second year as a pro.

“Going to college definitely helped with leadership… we’ve got a young team, but everybody has stepped up and being a second-year guy I can rely on my experiences to help out.”

On December 26, Ryan defended a teammate and fought Stockton’s Ryan Lomberg in the third period of a 3-3 game and returned to action just in time to assist on Nikolay Goldobin’s overtime winner. Roy Sommer admitted it wasn’t ideal to have one of his best defenders out for the rest of regulation, but that type of commitment to his teammates has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, front office or his fellow players.

In 2016, Ryan has emerged as another high-end prospect within an overloaded San Jose Sharks farm system.

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