Colorado Avalanche should steer clear of Derek Ryan


The Colorado Avalanche are reportedly one of the front-runners to sign Derek Ryan from Örebro, Sweden. He was the league’s best scorer in 2014-15, but the Avalanche should steer clear of him.

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As per Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, the Avalanche are one of the favorites to land American-born forward Derek Ryan, who has spent the past four seasons in Europe. Ryan spent his junior career with his home town’s Spokane chiefs. He never got drafted by an NHL team and went on to play university hockey at the University of Alberta in the Canadian CIS.

Ryan has drawn lots of comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson. They were both born in Spokane, played for the local Spokane Chiefs in the WHL and went undrafted. Both players are centers that measure 5-foot-10 and both make up for their size with speed and skill. And yet, I am absolutely against the Avalanche signing Derek Ryan.

Let’s start with the most obvious argument. In his final WHL season with the Chiefs, Tyler Johnson scored 53 goals and 115 points in 71 games. Derek Ryan scored “only” 28 and added 31 assists for 59 points in 72 contests. Therefore, Johnson scored almost 200 percent of Ryan’s production.

Not surprisingly, Johnson got signed by an NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, after that season. Ryan, however, decided to secure his education by joining U of A, as many young hockey players do when there is no guarantee for success. He did prove that he is good enough to play professional hockey somewhere, just maybe not in North America.

Derek Ryan suiting up in a game for Swedish club Örebro. Mandatory credit: Alex Micheu Photography

That is why Ryan went on to play in Austria and now Sweden, while Johnson kick-started his NHL career. In both the EBEL (Austria) and the SHL (Sweden), Ryan led the leagues in scoring. Surely a great achievement. Nevertheless, the stats should be looked at carefully.

The Austrian league is one of the weaker leagues in Europe, behind the respective leagues of Russia, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and others. But he also led the Swedish league in scoring, right? Well, yes. But we are talking a league in which 34-year-old Jeff Taffe is the No. 2 in scoring, with only one less point than Ryan, and Chicago Blackhawks draftee Bill Sweat is No. 10.

So let’s take a look at someone that has gone a similar path. Just about a year ago, the Minnesota Wild signed Finnish top-scorer Michael Keränen. I would say that Keränen and Ryan are fairly similar players, except for Keränen’s height advantage at 6-foot-1. Both are quick skaters with very good stickhandling and are mainly offensive-minded.

In his first season in North America, Keränen played 70 games for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, where he scored ten goals and 37 points. He did not play a single game in the NHL. One may argue that he was not put in the perfect situation, as he mainly played bottom-six minutes although he is an offensive forward that is not all that great defensively.

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I do believe that Ryan is a decent player. He just won’t be as good as Tyler Johnson and quite possibly not as good as Micheal Keränen either. But enough rambling about Ryan himself. There is another issue with the Avalanche being interested in him.

Coach Patrick Roy wants to get bigger down the middle. I mean, you can sign a player outside of your philosophy if you think he is worth it, but I wanted to remind you anyway. The thing is, the Avalanche have this other 5-foot-10 center — 2010 17th overall pick Joey Hishon.

Roy actually said that he would have preferred a bigger player over Joey, so why bring in another small guy? Ryan is 28 years old, five years older than Hishon, is probably less talented and plays a similar style. There simply is no point in bringing him in.

Ahead of Ryan on the depth chart would be Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, John Mitchell, Hishon, as well as Freddie Hamilton, Jesse Winchester and even Marc-André Cliche. Even if O’Reilly got traded for defense, there would be many players to surpass on Ryan’s way to the NHL.

If the Avalanche do sign Ryan, I could see him and Hishon starting as the San Antonio Rampage’s No. 1 and 2 centers, unless Hishon makes the NHL out of training camp this year. There he would likely go a similar way as Keränen and never play a game for the Avalanche.

Derek Ryan may be a good player. However, he is 28 years old and probably not better than who the Avalanche have. So please do me this favor and steer clear of him. Derek Ryan, don’t take this personally, but please join the Maple Leafs or Capitals (who are also in the mix to sign him).

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