By PATRICK KING
Toronto Maple Leafs second-round pick Kenny Ryan has officially joined the Windsor Spitfires, the team confirmed Monday.
Ryan, who had been drafted by the Spitfires in the seventh round of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League priority selection, left Boston College less than a week before their season started last week.
It was a phone call Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel wasn’t expecting.
“I got a call on Wednesday from Kurt Overhardt, his agent, and I was bouncing off my chair,” Rychel said Monday. “I was very surprised. Obviously at this point we’re building our team for a good playoff run and hopefully a championship run again so it was a very welcome phone call — one of the best phone calls I’ve got in a while.”
Ryan was the 50th player selected in last summer’s National Hockey League draft after spending the past two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The move to Windsor brings Ryan closer to home. His father met him in Boston where they drove back to his home in Franklin Village, Mich., in time for Ryan to take in Saturday’s game between his new team, the Spitfires, and the Plymouth Whalers.
Ryan played in two exhibition games for Boston College before opting to join Windsor. He will rejoin close friend Cam Fowler, a rookie and top prospect for this summer’s NHL draft, who had been a teammate of his for a decade.
In spite of being close to home and the potential to play with his friend, Ryan originally remained committed to Boston College this season. The surprise brought by his change of heart shocked not only the Spitfires but Boston College head coach Jerry York, who said there was no indication he was leaving to join Windsor in a story on the team’s website.
“I will admit I worked really hard on (signing him) in July in Detroit, knowing he was friends with Cam Fowler,” Rychel said. “I thought for sure he was going to go to Boston and play there at Boston College.”
Ryan will join the Spitfires for practice on Tuesday and likely suit up in his first game when the Spitfires host London on Thursday.
“He’s a two-way, solid, gritty winger with a scoring touch,” Rychel described his newest player. “A kid that plays the game the right way and he has a lot of pro potential.
“He wants to come here. He wants the skills to become a pro and our coaching staff is going to give him every opportunity to do that in Windsor.”
The Spitfires lead the league in points with 19 through their first 13 games. Windsor has won their last three straight games and has the makings of another championship contender after winning last year’s OHL and Memorial Cup titles.
Windsor defenceman Jesse Blacker, who was also drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round last year, remains at home awaiting a trade. Blacker requested a trade last week due to a lack of ice time on the veteran-laden Spitfires defensive core.
Rychel confirmed four teams were interested in acquiring the third-year defenceman.
“Things are getting really interesting,” he said. “We would like to see this get done by the weekend.”