For Canucks fans, one of the truly exciting prospects coming down the pipe within the club’s development system is 2003 first round draft pick Ryan Kesler. The former Ohio State Buckeye got a taste of the big time last year when he dressed and skated in 28 games for Vancouver, but the youngster predictably spent most of his time struggling to keep up.
Now as a 20-year-old playing for Vancouver’s premier farm club, the Manitoba Moose, Kesler is taking strides in his development and getting ready for the day when the NHL resumes operations. After 26 games, Kesler ranked fourth in team scoring with Manitoba and is playing a ton of minutes and in all critical moments of games.
Hockey’s Future had an opportunity to have a quick conversation with the Michigan born forward when the Moose played a two-game series in Edmonton against the Road Runners. During the weekend clash of rivals, Kesler recorded a single goal in the first match up but the Moose stole both games and took over top spot in the AHL’s North Division.
HF: If the NHL resumes this season, would you rather be up with the big club or would you rather finish out the year developing in Manitoba, obviously taking money out of the equation?
RK: That’s kind of a tough question because you want to be here and win a cup with the boys, but at the same time you want to play in the best league possible and that’s the NHL if it starts up. I’d have to say the NHL. Everybody knows the NHL is the place to be.
HF: You played 28 games in Vancouver last year. With whom did you have the best chemistry from that roster?
RK: I think Trevor Linden. We play the same way, we find each other on the ice well and he made it easy transition wise.
HF: I was going to ask what sort of influence Linden would have on a young player like you, both on and off the ice.
RK: He taught me a lot, just a bunch of little stuff about the game. He’s played for so long that he knows a lot about the game and he helped me a long.
HF: In Vancouver you were definitely undersized (weight wise) compared to the players you were playing against. What have you done to address that?
RK: I’ve put on about 20 pounds.
HF: How has the added bulk benefited your game?
RK: It’s easier because I don’t get thrown around as much out there and I find it easier to move and hold off guys, which gives me more time and space out there now.
HF: What did you do to put on the weight?
RK: Just worked my bag off in the summer; weight lifting, not much cardio in the beginning and just focused on upper body and lower body strength.
HF: What is your ideal target playing weight and how far off are you from that right now?
RK: About 220. I’m about 210 right now.
HF: Obviously it’s next to impossible to put on that kind of weight during the season.
RK: Oh yeah, I started the season at 225 and I think I lost about 15 pounds since the beginning of the year. I was too heavy, it was muscle but I was a little too heavy for my legs.
HF: R.J. Umberger is a former college teammate, have you been in contact with him?
RK: No. I haven’t talked to him in a while.
HF: Was his contract situation last year a distraction in any way to the team, or what were your thoughts on that whole scenario?
RK: No, it was kind of a joke.
HF: How so?
RK: I mean, he was a first year guy wanting the cap and nothing else. You haven’t even proven yourself in the league and you want that much? It’s a little ridiculous if you haven’t proven yourself. It wasn’t a distraction and I guess he got what he wanted so…good for him.
HF: One fan wants to know ‘What is the deal with your hair in your Moose roster photo?’
RK: (laughs) It’s a little messed up and long but… I don’t know, it was just the style that day.
HF: I assume it’s good to be playing during the lockout but frustrating at the same time when you consider that you probably would be in the NHL right now?
RK: Not really. You just have to roll with the punches. It’s a great group of guys here and it’s good to be playing. This league is a really good league and playing in it is good for my development because I get to play a lot and improve my offensive game.
HF: What is your role with the Moose and how is it different then when you’re with the big club?
RK: I’m a two-way forward. I have to shut down the other team’s top line and still put up numbers. I’m supposed to do the same thing with the Canucks but last year I had a little trouble because I was underweight. I could keep up because I’m fast enough, but guys could handle me and I think that was my goal this summer to put on weight.
Talk about this story at the Canucks section of the Hockey’s Future Message Boards.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.