Derek Ryan has taken several steps in his hockey career and took another one Friday.
The Canes trimmed 16 players off the training camp roster but Ryan wasn’t one of them. The forward, signed to a free-agent contract in June, took part in the team’s practice at PNC Arena and will center a line with Brendan Woods and Joakim Nordstrom in a preseason game Saturday against the New York Islanders in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ryan, 28, couldn’t ask for much more -- for now. He came to the 57-player training camp on a one-year, two-way contract, knowing Canes coach Bill Peters but few others, and has stuck around with some solid, heady overall play.
“It’s hard to have expectations when you’re 28 and coming into your first NHL camp,” Ryan said Friday. “I mean, I know I’m a skilled player and I know I can compete at this level. Basically my goal is to come in and prove to not on the staff and everyone else that I can play here, but myself as well.
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“I had success last year in Sweden, in one of the best leagues in the world, and coming into camp I just wanted to prove to myself I can play here. I’m just getting more comfortable every day with the guys and with the systems. That’s kind of the plan — settling in more every day.”
The Spokane, Wash., native put in parts of four seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. In the final two seasons with the Chiefs, Peters was his head coach. He also played at the University of Alberta.
But Ryan soon had his passport out, headed overseas to play pro hockey. He spent three seasons in Austria — with Szekesfehervar and Villach — and then last season with Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League.
Ryan, used mostly at center, had 15 goals and 45 assists in 55 games for Orebro and was named the league’s most valuable forward and most valuable player.
Ryan said Peters, whom he calls “Petey,” probably had a hand in the Canes signing him this summer but noted the SHL is a highly scouted league.
“It’s a different game with the bigger ice and you could maybe argue more skill,” Ryan said. “I think it’s the third-best league in the world. There’s the NHL and KHL and then the SHL. It was a big jump for me to make the jump from the Austrian league and obviously it’s a big jump, a big step, from the SHL to the NHL.
“I’m used to that. I’m used to adapting to new styles of play. You’ve got to be adaptable. It’s a big adjustment but I’m used to that.”
Ryan scored in the first minute of the Red-White scrimmage Sunday, whiffing on the puck but quickly reloading to beat goalie Drew MacIntyre. He centered Andrej Nestrasil and Chris Terry for the White team and the threesome was sent out to begin the three-on-three overtime.
Ryan then had 15:46 of ice time Monday in the preseason game against the Washington Capitals, going 9-7 on faceoffs and getting off three shots in the Canes’ 2-0 loss.
The Canes are well-stocked up the middle — Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Riley Nash, Jay McClement. All but Rask have one-way contracts and Rask is in the final year of his entry-level contract.
Ryan realizes he may start the season with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, but has his sights set on being in the NHL.
“Obviously I’m not coming back from the SHL to play in the American Hockey League. That’s not why I came,” he said. “If I have to go through Charlotte, that’s fine. It’s understandable. But in time I want to be with the big club, for sure. That’s my goal. That’s the reason I’m here.”