By RYAN MCCRACKEN on September 12, 2019.
He may not have earned a trip to main camp, but Ryan Chyzowski still turned a few heads with the Winnipeg Jets.
The 19-year-old Medicine Hat Tigers centre returned to the Gas City Wednesday after competing in all three of Winnipeg’s games at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase in Belleville, Ont. Chyzowski says he’s fired up and feeling confident for the Western Hockey League season ahead.
“They talked about how I was an invite and a young kid at the camp so they didn’t have much expectation for me but I impressed them,” said Chyzowski, who had one assist between his three games. “I showed them that I can be a 200-foot pro hockey player out there. It gives me the confidence knowing that I just showed my identity, showed my style of play. I played the best I could and obviously I didn’t make it to main camp, which was a goal of mine, but I walked away pretty confident in how I played and what I showed out there.”
Tigers assistant coach Ryan Smith, a product of Winnipeg, says he has a few friends working with the Jets and heard only good things about Chyzowski’s performance as a free agent at the camp. While he was sent home earlier than he would have liked, Smith says Chyzowski – who picked up his assist in an 8-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators to open the Rookie Showcase – likely left a lasting impression on not just the Jets, but the teams he competed against as well.
“The important thing is that he puts himself on their radar,” said Smith. “That’s where you can get a little bit selfish. He has to go there, and did go there, with the intent of catching some eyes. I think he did that. So he’s coming back with a lot of confidence and a little bit of disappointment not getting to main camp, but that’s OK. He created a buzz there and he got a chance to showcase himself not only to the Jets but to other teams that were at the rookie tournament.”
One of those teams was Mads Søgaard’s Senators. Chyzowski crossed paths with his Tabby teammate in Winnipeg’s final game – their second against Ottawa but first against Søgaard – dropping a 2-1 overtime battle to the Sens due to an unbeatable performance from the big Dane.
“He was pretty good, actually we couldn’t beat him at all and he came in halfway through the game,” Chyzowski of Søgaard, who stopped 18 shots. “It was tough for us to lose that last game but it was a pretty cool experience playing against Mads.”
The camp marked Chyzowski’s second in as many seasons after taking in the experience with the Vegas Golden Knights last summer, though he says he was given a lot more opportunity with the Jets and as a result felt more comfortable in all situations.
“I think this year I felt a little bit more included in it all and a little bit more up in the lineup, playing lots,” said Chyzowski, who netted 27 goals and 28 assists with the Tigers last season. “I played every game out there and it just kind of gave me that confidence and the feeling that I could kind of go out there, do my thing and just worry about myself. It made it a little bit less stressful. I felt a little bit more comfortable out there and I think it showed in my play.”
Chyzowski added there is a lot he will take away from the rookie camp experience heading into the WHL season, from consistently improving his speed on the ice to developing a stronger mental game in his second straight as an alternate captain with the Tigers.
“It was a pretty fast pace of play out there,” he said. “They all play with such consistency that it’s kind of shift-in, shift-out there’s not much room for mistakes. But mistakes happen, that’s one of the things I learned, that you can’t really get too down on it. You’ve got to regroup real quick or else it comes at you fast.”
Søgaard staying with Sens for main camp
The Tigers will be without Søgaard for a bit longer after the Senators announced Wednesday they will keep the 18-year-old Danish netminder for main camp.
Fellow Tigers James Hamblin and Brett Kemp also spent the first part of September competing at rookie camps with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, respectively, though both are expected to return to Medicine Hat this week.
“That’s a real nod to those guys individually,” Smith said of having four players at pro camps. “They’ve done really well. But also for the organization it’s something to be proud of. As guys go through, it’s cyclical here – you can only spend so much time and when they move on, ideally we want them to move onto pro. These guys are on the right track.”
Smith added the Tigers always hope their players will sign a contract and remain with their respective NHL clubs for the season, but if they’re returned they often come with a new level of confidence and greater understanding of what they need to do to excel at their level.
“We hope we don’t see them, we want them to move on, but when they come back they make us a stronger team,” he said.
Brett Kemp made an immediate impact with the Rangers at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., netting both of New York’s goals in a 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets to open the tournament. Kemp went on to add an assist in a 7-4 win over the Dallas Stars, finishing the tournament with three points over four games.
Hamblin also had a big night with the Leafs, scoring once and adding three assists to help Toronto rally from a three-goal deficit to force overtime in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets. Hamblin also competed in Toronto’s 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, where he had a plus-one rating to finish at plus-three with four points over two games.
“Jimmy, coming back for his 20-year-old year as captain, he’s got lots to prove that he’s ready to turn pro next year,” said Smith. “With Brett and Ryan having possibly one more year, they’ve got a little more time, but they’re both focused there. And Mads obviously is on a path, coming over last year and now being drafted and getting into NHL camp. All of them are really focused individuals who make us a better team. When they do come back we welcome them with open arms.”