Q&A with Rory Rawlyk

By Holly Gunning





Q&A with Rory Rawlyk

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Undrafted,
Rory Rawlyk was invited to the New York Rangers 2001 training camp on a tryout
basis in 2001.  After a good camp, the
6’4”, 200-pound defenseman was signed to a contract, but returned to the WHL to
play two seasons, one for the Vancouver Giants and one for the Red Deer
Rebels.  In 2002-03 with the Rebels, he
had 26 points in 52 games.  This season
he turned pro and was assigned to the ECHL Charlotte Checkers by the Rangers.  There’s been no rookie learning curve for
the Alberta native though, as he already has 23 points in 46 games. 

 

Rawlyk
spoke with Hockey’s Future following Charlotte’s 5-4 loss to the Gwinnett
Gladiators last night.  He earned two
assists in the game.

 

HF: How do you think your season is
going so far?

RR: Really
well, actually, definitely putting up some good numbers and being the youngest
guy on the team I’m feeling confident in the way I’m playing and definitely
with 23 points right now I think I’m off to a great start.

 

HF: Has the league been what you
expected?

RR: It’s better
than I expected for sure.  Back when we
were younger it was known more as a fighting league.  But there’s a lot of skilled players here now, and a lot more
guys with contracts who are trying to make it up to the next level.  So it’s definitely a great league and it’s
been really good.

 

HF: How has the adjustment been from
junior for you, have you had to adjust your game at all?

RR: I don’t
know, just confidence I think.  The
first couple of weeks was kind of tough, getting going, but as soon as I got some
confidence and was playing a lot, power play and penalty kill and that, it
hasn’t been too hard to adapt.  I’ve got
more points this year than my total in junior and we still have a lot of games
to go. 

 

HF: 
Can you describe your game?

RR: Being
an offensive defenseman, I like getting points, getting in the play, and doing
what I can to help chip in offensively. 
Last year playing for Red Deer Brent Sutter coached me, and really
taught me to play good defense, so that’s been a big help.  That’s the part of the game where as a
defenseman you have to take care of first, but definitely if there’s an
opportunity I like to jump in. 

 

HF: Have you had coaches who tried
to make you a more stay-at-home guy given your size?

RR: Not too
much, every coach I’ve had basically knows my style of play.  They try to teach you better defensive
coverages, that kind of thing, because when you get up higher levels, quicker
forwards, you have to be more aware. 
I’ve never really had a coach hold me back.  Definitely this year they’re not making me hold me back too much.

 

HF: What do you think you still need
to improve on?

RR: It’s a
maturing process more than anything. 
You’re young, playing with older guys. 
They’re physically more mature and everything like that.  I think it’s just going to be a matter of
time.  On ice, there’s always things you
can get better at.  I think just being
confident, feeling relaxed out there, that kind of stuff, I think that’s the
biggest thing.

 

HF: You mentioned playing against
players who are physically more mature, do you think putting on weight is one
thing you need to do?

RR: Yeah,
that’s definitely one thing.  But that’s
my body type.  I eat and eat and it’s
just one of those things that will come with time.  That’s how my dad was when he was young and he’s 6’2” 225 now, so
it’s just a matter of maturing.  I don’t
think people should look too much into that, it hasn’t held me back or
anything.  If I’m putting up numbers and
that’s my game then obviously I’m doing the right thing.

 

HF: How much do you weigh now, by
the way?

RR: 200.

 

HF: Is Marc St. Jean your normal
defensive partner?

RR:  Actually, we’ve had quite a few.  I started the season playing with Bilotto a
lot, and then me and Jeff State were together. 
Just only recently me and St. Jean have been together.  With guys going up and injuries and all
that, I’ve played with everybody.  I
feel comfortable with whoever they put me with.  We’ve got some good players on the back end and you just have to
work together and I think everyone can take care of their own job out
there. 

 

HF: Have you had any major injuries
or adversity you’ve had to overcome in your career?

RR: No,
nothing too major.  I had a separated
shoulder last season.  I was on a roll,
things were going good and that put a little road block there.  But it’s just one of those things that’s
going to happen.  It wasn’t too big of a
deal. But I got traded to Red Deer when I was injured so they kind of took a
chance on me. That turned out to be the best move for me and that was amazing
playing there for Mr. Sutter, it was unbelievable.  I guess it turned out for the better.

 

HF: Was the coaching the only thing
that made that situation better for you, or was there more?

RR: The
guys there.  The guys were
unbelievable.  We just had such a tight
group and we were a great team.  We went
to the final that year.  I was putting
up numbers, playing with confidence.  It
was an hour and a half away from my hometown so my family and friends could
come out.  But definitely the biggest
thing was the coaching.  Mr. Sutter was
unbelievable, a huge part of my hockey career for sure. 

 

HF: 
When was the first Rangers training camp for you?

RR:  I was there for two years.  I signed when I turned 18, but I could never
play until I was 20, so this is my first pro year of my contract.

 

HF: What did you learn at Rangers
camp that you were able to take away?

RR: It was
unbelievable.  I was 17 at the time when
I went and I was playing with Leetch and Messier, guys like that. Who wouldn’t
learn something from that?  They’re
amazing hockey players.  Just puck
movement, Leetch, he was really good with that. I played with him for a little
bit my first year.  You see what it
takes, you watch those guys and how they are. 
Just hanging out with them off the ice, going out for dinner, that kind
of stuff, it just matures you as a person for sure. Going away, being in New
York during September 11th, there was a lot of stuff that helped me
mature as a player and as a person off the ice.  Going to the camps opens your eyes and gives you that extra drive
too.  You see that, how they live and
all the perks of it, that makes you want to get there so much more. 

 

HF: Did camp get easier for you each
year?

RR: Yeah,
because you’re going in with a little more confidence.  My first year I had a really good camp and
the second year I was really nervous because you have a contract now and you
have to perform.  So I was really
nervous that year.  But this year I felt
really good and had a strong camp, was more relaxed out there, just a maturing
thing, you get a little more comfortable. Having gone there and met those guys
makes it a lot easier when you go into the dressing room, a familiar faces kind
of thing.

 

HF: Did they tell you anything in
particular to work on, or maybe explain to you why they sent you to Charlotte,
to get more ice time or whatever?

RR: Well I
think that has a lot to do with it, getting ice time, which has definitely
helped, but I don’t know, it could also be a numbers thing.  New York has a lot of guys, at camp there
was like 13 defensemen.  It was kind of
hard to beat out some of those guys.  I
think I’ve definitely had a strong year so far and I’m definitely hoping that
they give me a chance, go up to Hartford. 
That’s the most important thing, I want to get there right now.  But definitely I’m here right now and I’m
just concentrating on here and hopefully that will work itself out. 

 

HF: 
Did they give you any on-ice things to work on?

RR: There
wasn’t anything really like that.  It
was more ‘get that first year pro under your belt’ kind of thing, ‘play more
physical’, that kind of stuff.  Your guy
in front of the net, just little things like that everybody has to work on at
all times.  Just get there and get some
ice time. 

 

HF: You’re the youngest player on
the team, what is that like?

RR: It’s
fun, they have fun with me.  The oldest
guys are Hartman and Egeland, our captain. 
They’ve been awesome.  They’ve
helped me out a lot.  When I first got
here, things were a little rocky and they really helped me through some
stuff.  We have tons of fun, they’re
great guys.  With [Derek] Wilkinson
being our head coach now, that’s definitely a lot better for me.  Me and the other coach weren’t really seeing
eye to eye.  Wilkie was amazing, always
helping me with stuff and was always there to talk to, and not having him here
I feel a lot more confident and it’s been really good.  It’s a great team, a great group of
guys.  I knew a few from the Western
League when I played there. Ryan Cuthburt from Kelowna, we played them in the
finals and Mike Wirll from Lethbridge. 
New York always has that camp in Calgary in the summer and me and Ryan
and Wirll actually roomed together for a month basically so we got to know each
other. It’s definitely good having those guys here too.

 

HF: Is Wilkinson using you any
differently than the old coach was?

RR: A lot
more ice time I think.  I played a ton,
don’t get me wrong, but I’m playing a lot more penalty kill with him.  Power play I’m out there first line every
time.  But definitely penalty kill I’m
playing a lot more.  With guys out, the
last four games it felt like 40 minutes. We’ve been going, going, going, but
today we had six back there, still a lot [of ice time], but you’ll go to a few
less shifts with a full lineup out there. 

 

HF: What would people be most
surprised to learn about you?  Any
hidden talents, or anything like that?

RR:
[laughs] Hidden talents. I don’t know, I like joking around, I’m a funny guy, I
do impersonations.  Actors, Chris
Farley, stuff like that.  I have fun. I
try to get the parties going when we have them.  Just have a good time.  I
talk a lot, loudmouth kind of thing, and a lot of guys could back that up
[laughs].  I hope to keep that a good
thing.