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Derek Ryan named one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The 30-year-old doesn't have the Very Special Episode quality to him, but no one in the Canes’ locker room has been more dedicated to hockey.

Jamie Kellner

Update 4/24/17: Derek Ryan has been named as one of the three finalists for the Masterton Trophy, along with Andrew Cogliano of the Anaheim Ducks and the presumed front-runner, the Ottawa Senators’ Craig Anderson. The release from the Canes is below. Our story from March, when Ryan was named as the Canes’ nominee for the trophy, follows.

Over the years, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, named in memory of the only player to die as the result of an on-ice play in NHL history, has become a comeback player of the year award, typically going to a player who has overcome tragedy or a life-altering situation to continue playing in the NHL.

Which is why Derek Ryan is unlikely to win the award at the NHL Awards in June. And that's fine. But by the letter of the trophy’s description — awarded for “perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey” — Ryan, the Carolina PHWA chapter’s 2017 nominee for the Masterton, is a perfect fit.

At age 30, Ryan has finally found his spot on an NHL roster after a cup of coffee last year. His journey through hockey has been well chronicled: a native of Spokane, Wash., he played for his hometown Chiefs (and a coach named Bill Peters) in the WHL before heading to the University of Alberta. Canadian university hockey is rarely a breeding ground for future NHL players, and after four years there Ryan went overseas.

Oh, he could score alright. Ryan averaged well over a point per game in six of seven seasons at the U of Alberta and with pro teams in Austria and Sweden, and he missed going seven for seven by a solitary point in his first professional season.

But going through such an unconventional route meant that he was well off the radar for NHL teams, until the Hurricanes took a flyer on him in the summer of 2015, signing Ryan to a two-way contract. Finally, Ryan had a toehold and a clear path to an NHL job.

Fifty-five AHL points later, and an NHL debut finally under his belt at age 29, Ryan had achieved his long-term goal. And it became a permanent NHL job on November 11, when Ryan and Brock McGinn were called up to the Hurricanes. Ryan has missed two games as a healthy scratch this season since being called up, but has otherwise played in every game.

At age 30, Derek Ryan is finally an NHL regular. All the detours through the back woods of professional hockey have paid dividends.

Ryan’s unconventional road to the NHL has been a study in perseverance and dedication to hockey. He is a worthy nominee for the Masterton, and an inspiration to people in any walk of life who have their eye on a goal and will not rest until it's achieved.


Winner to be named June 21 at NHL Awards in Las Vegas

Carolina Hurricanes forward Derek Ryan has been named as one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The Masterton Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) recognizing the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The winner will be named at the 2017 NHL Awards to be held June 21 in Las Vegas.

Ryan, 30, was nominated for the Masterton Trophy on March 25, by the Carolina chapter of the PHWA. In its news release announcing Ryan as its nominee, the chapter stated:

Few players have taken a longer, or more unlikely, journey to the NHL than Ryan, undersized and undrafted, who has finally established himself with the Hurricanes as a 29-year old rookie.

His journey took him through nearly every level of hockey, from juniors to Canadian universities to the UHL and AHL and Austria and Sweden. He finally got his first NHL shot last season with the Hurricanes, then became a full-time player this season.

Ryan’s decade-long quest to become an NHL player epitomizes perseverance and dedication to hockey and makes him an ideal choice for the Masterton Trophy.

Ryan (5’10”, 170 lbs.) completed his second full season of North American professional hockey in 2016-17, scoring 11 goals and earning 18 assists (29 points) in 67 games with the Hurricanes. The Spokane, WA, native began the season with Carolina’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, notching five goals and earning eight assists (13 points) in Charlotte’s first nine games.

Ryan made his NHL debut with the Hurricanes during the 2015-16 season, nearly a decade after concluding his four-year junior hockey career with Spokane of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He played his first NHL game at New Jersey on March 1, 2016, scoring a goal that night to become the oldest player (29 years, 63 days) in Carolina franchise history to score in his NHL debut. Along with scoring two goals in six games last season with the Hurricanes, Ryan led all Checkers scorers in 2015-16 with 23 goals and 55 points, finishing 19th in scoring among all AHL players

Ryan played his four seasons of junior hockey in Spokane, including the final two (2005-06 and 2006-07) under now-Hurricanes Head Coach Bill Peters. Following his junior hockey career, Ryan played four seasons at the University of Alberta where he helped the Golden Bears to four conference titles and two Canadian Intercollegiate Sports (CIS) national championships. After college, Ryan played three seasons in Austria before spending the 2014-15 season with Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He led Orebro in assists (45) and points (60) that season, and was named the SHL’s Forward of the Year. On June 15, 2015, he signed a free-agent contract with the Hurricanes.