For better or worse, little guys tend to get overlooked in hockey.
Their size — or lack thereof — often gets them tagged with unwanted criticism. But it just goes to show you, you should never judge a book by its cover.
In fact, in the past decade alone, the Rangers have employed two of the best “Little Men” to ever step their skates onto Seventh Avenue.
And the Broadway Blueshirts are poised to add a third “Little Man” to the lineage; Ty Ronning.
Ty Ronning talks about watching his dad Cliff play as a kid, his confidence level and what he wants to prove at this his third year at the Rangers prospects camp.
The 20-year-old right-winger measures in at a generous 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds. But his heart is the size of Mt. Everest.
“You’ve got to play with passion,” said Ronning.
He certainly does and his Marek Malik-style shootout-winning goal during Thursday’s scrimmage is evidence enough.
“The shootout was getting into the late rounds,” said Ronning. “And I know Malik did it a long time ago. It’s just something I occasionally fool around with. But who knows, maybe one day I could do it in the NHL.”
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 28, 2018
“Smaller players who want to play in the NHL have to have parts of their game that excel; they have something special about their game,” Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark said.
Ronning certainly has that, what with his 61-goal, 84-point performance for the Vancouver Giants (WHL) last season.
But what makes this Burnaby, British Columbia native tick?
“I was rollerblading before I could walk,” said Ronning. “I wanted to be like my dad (former NHL player Cliff Ronning). And I remember, Mike Dunham — former Team USA goaltender — used to come around and we’d skate a bit and practice. I was always taking shots against him and he’d never let me score.”
To this day, you can see the look in Ty’s eyes when he talks about Dunham not letting him score as a child. Ronning always wanted to prove he belonged and that he could be just as good — if not better than everybody else.
“Hockey is a roller-coaster sport,” said Ronning. “There’s plenty of ups and downs, but it’s how you handle the adversity that determines who you are.”
Speaking of adversity, Ronning certainly had his fair share.
“I broke my arm and had to get a plate put in,” he recalls, “and then I ended up breaking my collarbone and needed a plate in there too.”
Along with the issue of his size, he also had to overcome several potentially debilitating injuries. He also faced some self-doubt about whether he could make his NHL dream come true.
But he never gave up; instead, Ty persevered. And now he’s thriving.
“I want to play for the Rangers,” Ronning emphatically told me.
“It all comes down to hard work,” Ty continued. “It’s all about working your butt off and showing what you can do. I feel my tenacity and grit will help me stand out. And I know Coach [David] Quinn loves guys who work and play hard.”
That hard work is indeed paying off, as Ronning has made numerous people turn their heads in amazement.
“He knew he had to work harder than most,” explained Clark. “His whole character, how he treats the game and his teammates, it’s off the charts.”
For Ronning, it’s not about trying to be the “Best Little Man.” It’s about being the “Best Player,” he can be.
Perhaps the perfect compliment is this:
“I want that guy in my organization,” said Clark.
And with his Broadway debut fast approaching, it won’t be long before Rangers fans are lauding the talented winger with praises of their own.
QUICK HITS FROM CAMP
The Rangers’ prospects played their second scrimmage of camp today. And the action was even better than yesterday.
1) REMEMBER HIS NAME: Twenty-one-year-old center Gabriel Fontaine put on a show by scoring two goals — one on a penalty-shot — and drawing rave reviews from everyone in attendance.
(Quick note: In camp, when a player commits a penalty, rather than having a power play, the receiving team is awarded a penalty shot. Albeit the offending player is allowed to chase down the shooter.)
2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Nothing is more important than making a good first impression. Swedish free agent signing, Ville Meskanen, is doing everything in his power to force the Blueshirts’ management and coaching staff to take notice of his talents.
His overtime and shootout goals — coupled with his tremendous skating ability and ice presence — made him a standout player today. But that’s nothing new. Throughout camp, Meskanen has shown he’s poised beyond his years. Could his next stop be The World’s Most Famous Arena?
3) EXPERIMENTATION: For a few years now, there’s been talk about the NHL potentially changing overtime into a period that would start with five minutes of four-on-four and then, if no winner has been decided, go to five minutes of three-on-three.
Well, if the NHL wants to see that formula in action, it should pay close attention to the Rangers’ Prospect Camp; because that’s exactly how the Blueshirts run their scrimmages.
By the way, IT WORKS!
4) BLUESHIRTS FIRST-ROUND PICKS: Lias Andersson (2017 first-round), Filip Chytil (2017 first-round), Vitali Kravtsov (2018 first-round) and K’Andre Miller (2018 first-round) all scored goals during today’s scrimmage.
5) OTHER GOAL SCORERS: Lauri Pajuniemi (2018 fifth-round) and Brett Howden (2016 first-round via Tampa Bay) also scored during Thursday’s scrimmage.
Howden, in particular, was very impressive as he used his size and strength to box out defenders. And much like Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, the puck looks like it’s connected to Howden’s stick via some sort of invisible string.
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