Quebec Remparts defenceman Culkin a Flames prospect on the rise
Some thought the 2012 fifth rounder was snubbed by not getting a world junior camp invite
You’re having a good season when you’re snubbed for the national junior team camp — and your feelings are hurt, legitimately hurt. And people can understand your reaction.
“Obviously, I was hoping to get (an invitation), but there are so many talented players out there,” says Ryan Culkin, rearguard of the Quebec Remparts. “It was a little bit of disappointment, but, hey, I’ll keep working hard.
“Hopefully, maybe in two years, three or four years, I’ll get another invitation to somewhere else.”Given his startling progress, it’s hard to count him out.
A winter ago, Culkin was a 25-point guy and a subsequent fifth-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames.
Nothing wrong with any of that, of course.
But it’s not this — 27 points in 33 games (only three defenders in the QMJHL have generated more offence) and full-fledged participation in the Subway Super Series.
“Honestly, I’d just say I’m playing with a lot more confidence, especially since I went to the (Flames’ development camp in July),” he says. “Practising with the level of players that were on the ice opened my eyes and showed me that I can compete with those guys and I can play at that level.
“So I’m playing with a lot more confidence. I’m joining the rush a lot more. I’m taking more shots on net. Everything’s going my way.”
Even he admits he’s caught off guard by his production, though.
“Oh, big time,” says Culkin, chuckling. “If you had told me that I’d have more points halfway through the season than I had all last year, I wouldn’t believe you. It’s very impressive from my standpoint and I hope to continue on that path.”
In every way is the lad growing.
Culkin was six foot one and 176 pounds last season.
Now he’s nearly six-foot-two and 185 pounds. Now he’s the workhorse on the second-best team in the QMJHL, the 23-8-3 Remparts.
“I love the challenges and so far I’m very happy,” says the Montreal native. “My role has changed. I’m playing against the top players on the other team — I have a shutdown role. And I’m also relied on to create the offence.”
He’s also relied on to create yucks.
Culkin turned 19 last Saturday — don’t believe online data indicating that his birthday is Dec. 25 (“It was a misprint and everyone thought I was born on Christmas Day” — and in the round of tweets congratulating him, one pal referred to him as the “team clown.”
“Uh, I like to pull the occasional joke and keep the team loose before the game or during practice,” he says. “But I know when it’s time to be serious and I know when it’s time to have some fun.”
For his birthday party, as an example, he purchased a brand-new sweater. Said garment was a terrible eyesore, but that had been the point.
“Most of the time, I make fun of myself to make guys laugh,” says Culkin. “I like that role, getting the guys laughing all the time.”
Little chortling, if any, can be heard coming from the coach’s office.
And while Culkin may be disappointed that the skipper hasn’t worn goalie pads for any practices — “I’ve been waiting for years, but not yet” — he’s got nothing but good things to say about Patrick Roy.
“My first time playing in front of Pat was very, very intimidating — he’s the best goaltender of all time,” says Culkin. “Now he’s my coach, he’s my friend. He’s the best coach I’ve ever played for. He’s honest during the game, before the game. He always knows what to say. A great coach.
“He can teach you more about the game than you ever knew. So I’m getting better as a player, on the ice and off the ice. It’s really showing come game-time.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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