I had an oportunity recently to ask Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ryan Craig a few questions. This is the jist of what I got out of this interview.
The season has been for Ryan Craig, like most of his fellow Wheat King teammates, a dissapointment. Due to injuries and an overall poor team talent wise to play with, Craig has seen his stock for the June NHL entry draft fall. An enlarged spleen (brought on by a case of mononucleosis) forced him to miss the under-18 tournament in August and a shoulder injury sustained after the Top Prospects game forced him out for another three weeks. At the beginning of the season, Craig was being touted as a potential first-round pick. However the injuries, combined with lower then expected numbers on the score sheets this year, has led to Craig’s drop in the rankings.
Craig, who is represented by good people in agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports, believes it’s only a matter of a little hard work to get his game to the next level. While continuing to enhance his strengths (strong two way player, leader, hard worker, power forward, good positioning, and easy to coach) he will try to tackle the problems he sees in his game. He feels he must continue to get stronger and work on his skating, especially in terms of lengthening his stride which Craig hopes will give him more speed. I’d like to add one more problem area however. His work on the boards. If Craig has control of the puck along the boards, he can easily keep control of it and no amount of hitting, jabbing and prodding will get him to give up the puck (not at this level anyway). However, if the opposition player he is covering has the puck, Craig more often then not will not do more then breath on the guy. While he had shown improvement in this area before his latest injury, for most of the season this has been the biggest area of concern I have seen in his game. At 6’2, 200, Craig should not be intimidated to use a little force to get the puck loose. It’s not advisable to allow the opposition to hang onto the puck in your zone as long as Craig does sometimes.
Craig tries to emulate the play of Brendan Shanahan of the Detroit Red Wings. I believe he is on the right track and going to the prospects game, which Craig sites as a great experience meeting all the best players in the CHL and Don Cherry and Bobby Orr, will only further to help him on his way.
I find it hard to explain the low point total of Craig (15 goals, 13 assists for 28 points in 55 games). It’s not do to ice time, as even Craig has said he is pleased with all the ice time he has gotten and he has also worked in every situation (pk, pp, last miutes of big games). Probably the only explaination can be do to the alarming number of injuries that have plagued this organization. By years end, the man-games lost total is expected to hit 400 (included is fellow prospect Mike Wirll who’s out for the year with a blood clot on the brain). Washington Capitals anyone? This has made playing with consistent linemates an impossiblity for Craig. As well, Craig has sited the draft. While trying to block it out and have a good year, he admits that it’s hard to do at times.
The season is coming to the finish for Craig and the Wheat Kings. With the playoffs slipping farther away everyday, Craig won’t have the playoffs to help him regain some of his lost ranking. He just needs to finish on a high note. His season can be summed up best by his own statement “In some areas I have reached personal expectations, such as playing time and consistency. But for points and team success it hasn’t been the best year”