Ryan Denney was in class waiting, keeping an eye on his phone, and finally it happened – he was drafted into ‘The Dub.’
His friends at Burnaby Central secondary cheered, and the texts of congratulations started to roll in for the hockey standout from Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey. He was the only Maple Ridge player selected in the Western Hockey League’s draft Thursday.
He was projected to go anywhere from the third round to the seventh, and he went 135th overall, in the seventh, selected by one of the country’s most storied junior teams, the Saskatoon Blades.
“I’m just happy to get drafted,” he said. “I was pretty excited.”
It’s a franchise that has a long list of alumni who went on to the NHL, including Wendel Clark, who would probably like the way Denney plays.
Fans in the stands can see his strength and heart.
“He goes through walls and plays hard,” said James Eccles, the director of hockey development for Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey.
“His compete on the puck is exceptional.”
Despite his ability to play a physical game, Denney is also a puck mover, said Eccles, and he did not want to predict any sort of role that he would play in the WHL when he arrives there.
“He has lots to offer.”
Denney puts up points. He played on a line with Kamloops Blazers first-round pick Massimo Rizzo with Burnaby Winter Club last season, and had 102 points in 66 games.
“I try to play a power forward game,” he said.
If he was going to try to pick an NHLer to emulate, it would be New York Rangers star Rick Nash.
Denney played virtually all of his minor hockey in his hometown, then jumped to the Burnaby Winter Club last year to make sure scouts saw him.
His BWC Bruins won the bantam triple-A provincials and Western Canadian championships.
The scouts couldn’t miss him. He was tied for second in tournament scoring at the westerns with three goals and seven points in five games. And he blocked a shot that sent his high scoring linemate Rizzo away on a breakaway for the tournament-winning goal.
But Denney gives a lot of credit to his local association, and his father Dave, who coached him along the way, as did Mitch Bartley, who put him on the top line of the bantam A1 team as a first-year player.
“He was a big influence on me. He gave me the opportunity to be a good player,” Denney said of Bartley.
This August, Denney will be in Saskatoon for the Blades spring camp. His new WHL team and his family will decide a good place for him to continue his development – likely major midget or an academy team, he said.
Eccles said the draft is a great acknowledgement for a bantam hockey prospect.
“You’ve worked your tail off, and you’re getting rewarded,” he said.
“We’re all very proud of him.”