By Ryan McCracken on November 2, 2018.
The Medicine Hat Tigers and Henrik Rybinski have mutually agreed to pursue a trade after reaching an impasse regarding the 17-year-old centre’s role with the team.
After putting up a goal and four assists through his first 14 games of the season, Clouston says Rybinski expressed a desire to be utilized as a top-six centre. But with captain James Hamblin and alternate Ryan Chyzowski centring the team’s top two lines, it was a request the Tigers were unable to fulfill.
“We had lots of opportunity for him here, right now and moving forward, and we pictured him here for a long time,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “Unfortunately the opportunity didn’t match up to the opportunity that his group was looking for.
“I think the two concerns were ice time — he definitely wanted much more ice time than we had been giving him— and then the opportunity for those minutes to come at centre, and there’s just no way. They were looking for Hamblin, Chyzowski-type minutes and that doesn’t work.”
Rybinski — who was unavailable for comment — will not be with the team while Clouston tracks down a trade. Though given the specificity of his request, Clouston says finding the right spot for Rybinski could take a while.
“He’s a really good player, yet most teams I think would be in similar situations with us. That was sort of a sticking point,” said Clouston. “There’s a process, there’s some time. Your junior career is three, or four, or five years and I think that for most teams it’ll be a challenge.”
While Rybinski’s departure makes him the second Tiger to request a trade in the past month, and the fourth over the last two seasons, former Hat defenceman David Quenneville insists the trend has nothing to do with management or coaching staff.
“It’s really out of their control,” said Quenneville. “It’s just really frustrating to me that kids think that’s just the only option instead of just good old-fashioned hard work to earn a spot in the Western Hockey League, like every other kid. I had to do the same thing when I was a young guy, so did Mark Rassell and so did Mason Shaw. We’ve all had to pitch in or work through the process to earn a spot. It’s just some guys being selfish and trying to take a different route. That’s the way I see it.”
Quenneville — a signed New York Islanders draft pick now playing for their ECHL affiliate Worcester Railers —took to Twitter Thursday to voice his disappointment after seeing another one of his former teammates request a change of scenery. As far as he’s concerned, there are no greener pastures than the Gas City.
“The grass isn’t greener on the other side, because I know the grass is very green in Medicine Hat,” said Quenneville, who had two brothers play for the Brandon Wheat Kings. “Medicine Hat is a phenomenal community, for one. And second the ownership from the Masers is second-to-none. The coaching staff as well, with Clouston and Joe (Frazer) and Mikki (Lanuk) the trainer, and just the rink staff in the Canalta — everyone working for the organization, they all mean so much to me.”
Clouston —who coached Quenneville for the entirety of his 251-game WHL career — says it’s always nice to have support from players who have been through his system.
“It is challenging because people only get a little glimpse of what’s going on,” said Clouston. “It’s great to have support. I think the vast majority of the time, when players look for something else I think it’s because they’re not happy right now. If the players can’t find happiness they think it must be somewhere else. I have a different belief. I think happiness is inside each guy and it’s up to each guy to find that and bring that to their game.”
Clouston added he believes player culture in the WHL has drastically shifted over the past decade, as agents now represent nearly every player in the league and parents factor in on hockey decisions a lot more than in previous years.
“The first couple years we used to do Bell’s captain’s clinic and Bell was a sponsor… We got three or four phones and we passed the phones around after the game so the guys could call home. That’s not that long ago,” said Clouston. “We’re now reaching a time when the parents are here at most of the games or they know how many minutes the players have played. You go back to a previous time, some parents maybe saw a handful of games, maybe one or two. It has changed, everybody has an agent and the parents are very involved.”
The Tigers open a home-and-home set tonight in Calgary against the Hitmen. Clouston says he plans on keeping newly acquired Tigers centre Logan Christensen in Rybinski’s previous role alongside Bryan Lockner and Elijah Brown.
“I think they had a little bit of chemistry. He scored a nice goal in Regina,” Clouston said of Christensen. “He seems to fit in with those two guys right now. So really from last game we’ll just keep rolling.”