Spitfires’ Verbeek trying to find game after return from injury

By Jason Menard
Ryan Verbeek - Windsor Spitfires

Photo: Windsor Spitfires forward and 2014 prospect Ryan Verbeek missed the early portion of the 2013-14 season due to injury (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

In the eyes of NHL Central Scouting, Ryan Verbeek is still a work in process. Listed in the organization’s most-recent watch list, Verbeek was bestowed with the “LV” designation — limited viewing.

Being mentioned at all was a bit of a surprise for the 5’11” centre currently playing in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires.

“Yes, I was. Last year, I didn’t get to play that much,” he said. “Last year I showed what I could with the ice time that I had — I went out there and tried to show what I could do..

“This year I’ll show a lot more. I have a lot more to show also.”

But that show got off to a bit of a delayed start. Verbeek suffered a back injury during the exhibition season, which was eventually diagnosed as a herniated disc. No surgery or treatment would work — it would only heal with rest.

“It was really frustrating seeing my team out on the ice and I couldn’t do anything for them,” Verbeek said. “All I could do was sit at home, rest it, go to the doctor, and that’s it.

“There’s nothing you could do for it, you just had to sit at home and wait for it.”

Verbeek has played in 15 games so far this season, scoring two goals and adding five assists. They’re not overwhelming numbers yet, but it’s a good sign for someone who was overwhelmed by conditioning upon his return from injury.

“The cardio was the hardest thing,” he said. “Oh, the first time I was out there, I was just sucking wind — I was just dying out there on the ice. I’m feeling a lot better. I don’t have any problems right now.”

It took him approximately three weeks to get back into full game shape. His resurgence has coincided with the improved play of the Spitfires, who have insinuated themselves into the OHL race with six wins in their last 10 games, en route to a 15-10 record.

“We’re playing as a team now,” Verbeek explained. “We’re all on the same page, chipping pucks in, taking pucks to the net, cycling behind the net. Everything’s working well for us.”

If the name Verbeek sounds familiar, it’s for good a reason — Ryan’s uncle Pat Verbeek played 20 years in the NHL, finishing with 522 goals, 1,063 points, and 2,905 penalty minutes. Pat earned the nickname ‘Little Ball of Hate' for his gritty style of play, and Ryan said he feels he has some of that style in his game.

“Oh yeah, I have some grit in me,” he said. “I may just have to wait until after juniors to fully show it.”

Being related to someone with well over 1,500 NHL regular-season and playoff games under his belt hasn’t been a hinderance, Ryan explained. In fact, he said there’s more positives than perceived negatives.

“No, it doesn’t. It’s kind of nice having an uncle who played in the NHL. There’s no real pressure — I just play the game that I do,” he said. “I guess it opened more doors. He’s been in the NHL, so he has contacts. I guess it could help.”

Now that Verbeek’s conditioning has rounded itself into shape, he’s hoping to tap into that family scoring touch.

“I’ve got to score more,” he said. “I keep getting the chances, but I’m just not putting them in. I want to work on my play around the net.”

Verbeek said he’s putting in the time after practices and trying to work on finishing around the net. The opportunities are there, he said, but for some reason he’s not able to put the puck behind the goalie.

So has Uncle Pat given him any advice as he progresses through his draft eligible year?

“He just said keep it simple, do what the coach is saying, and play hard,” Verbeek said. “That’s all you can do.”

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