One would think that an 18-year-old heading into his draft season in the Western Hockey League would be thinking of Vancouver, the site of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Instead, Ryan White has focused his sights on Lethbridge.
Playing the Hurricanes in the first round of the 2006 WHL playoffs, White, who turned 18 just two weeks ago, is more concerned with how his Calgary Hitmen are faring in this year’s postseason.
Finishing second in the league in points behind only division rival Medicine Hat Tigers, the Hitmen are currently deadlocked at two games apiece with their Highway 2 cousin in Lethbridge.
“I think I feel more pressure to win games at this point,” said White, who went on to add that the playoffs are more important at this juncture to him.
“I’m not feeling any pressure on myself. I want to play good for the team.”
And heading into hockey’s second season, White has done just that.
Finishing first in team scoring with 53 points in 72 games alongside linemate and New York Rangers prospect Brodie Dupont, White has surprised even himself with the season he’s had.
“I had pretty high expectations for myself, but I didn’t have expectations to lead the team in scoring, especially on a team like this where we’re winning a lot of games and playing some pretty good hockey.
“It wasn’t my goal, but I’ll take it.”
It’s been up to Lethbridge to ensure ‘Whitey’ doesn’t meet any other goals, psychologically or physically. It is this reason the 6’0, 200lb forward has garnered special attention in the series against the Hurricanes.
Through four games in the series, White has been held pointless in three games, registering just one assist after recording 33 in the regular series. Facing Lethbridge’s top checking line of Kris Hogg, Michael Kaye and Mark Olafson, Calgary’s top line of White, Dupont and Derek LeBlanc have been neutralized so far in the playoffs.
Hitmen bench boss and general manager Kelly Kisio knows what White has meant to the club, and how important it is to get him going in the playoffs.
“He’s a key guy for us who plays a lot of minutes and most every night he comes to play and he comes to compete,” revealed Kisio. “He’s one of our key guys on and off the ice.”
As much attention as White has seen on the ice, the Brandon, Man. native has garnered special attention off the ice as well.
Rated 22nd overall on Central Scouting’s Mid-Term Ranking, and the fourth highest skater listed from the Western League, White has caught the eye of many scouts frequenting Calgary’s Saddledome.
When the rankings came out in January, White was taken aback at his positioning.
“I was a little overwhelmed,” said White. “It was a pretty big step for me. Just to be mentioned among one of the top guys in Canada and around the world, it was a good pat on the back.”
A deserved pat on the back, according to Kisio, who expects his top center to improve upon that by the time Central Scouting puts out their final ranking.
“He’s probably jumped up in the rankings from the start of the year,” offered Kisio.
A strong showing at the annual CHL Top Prospects Game will also help White. With a goal in the game, White says being able to play against the league’s elite was an experience in itself.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking,” admitted White with a smile. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great experience for me to get to play with those guys and to meet Don Cherry and Bobby Orr is just a great experience. You’ve got to go out there and play your game. There’s a lot of media there and it’s a pretty big circus but you have to go out there and play like you’re playing for your regular team.”
White suggested that despite his strong showing at the game, held this year in Ottawa on Jan. 18, one game is simply one game, and shouldn’t factor heavily into consideration on draft day.
“It’s only one game, but at the same time it’s nice to see who you are up against.”
Before heading to the Top Prospects Game in Ottawa, White enlisted in help from several veterans on the Hitmen. In recent years, the Hitmen have sent players such as Carolina Hurricanes prospect Brett Carson, undrafted Riley Merkley, and Jeff Schultz (WAS).
He’s done the same with the entry draft and its process.
“I’ve talked to them lots,” admitted White, referring to Carson, Merkley, Schultz and Dupont. “There are guys here who have been through it before. It’s great to have those guys who have been through the experience and they just give you tips and little things like that. It works out well.”
After having the luxury of coaching White for two seasons, Kisio has a firm faith that his project will not be disappointed on draft day.
“He’s done real well for himself and I’m sure he’ll do well in the draft,” said Kisio.
White just wants a shot.
“I just want to get a chance somewhere and have a team have faith in me.”
Right now, that team with faith in White is the Hitmen, as he and his squad look to take an edge in the first round of the playoffs against the Hurricanes.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.