by Martin McConnell
Broadview Heights 15-year-old Ryan Rucinski is becoming a hot commodity in the world of minor league hockey. Recently, both the United States Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League picked Rucinski in their selection drafts this year.
One minor league having their eyes on Rucinski at the age of 15 is impressive enough, but two separate leagues selecting an American prospect at his age is especially uncommon. The OHL drafted only 39 Americans this year in 303 total selections.
“There’s a ton of great competition out there and I love being part of it all,” Rucinski said. “You’re only as good as your last play so I have to keep working hard.”
In addition to being selected by two minor leagues, Rucinski also earned a roster spot at the USA Hockey National Camp, which will take place in Amherst, NY this coming July. The camp invites the top 200 American prospects born in the year 2006, and the top 20 will move to the International Five Nations tournament in Switzerland this August.
Rucinski currently plays lacrosse for Padua Franciscan High School in Parma and made the honor roll during his freshman year. For high school hockey, he opted to stay with his travel team, the Cleveland Barons. Last year, the U15 Cleveland Barons team ranked 6th in the nation with coach Bob Krosky at the helm.
“[Ryan] is a player who will do all that is needed,” Krosky said. “He can score goals, he can kill penalties. … He’s a player that’s not afraid to go into the corner and bump, and make the hard plays.”
Rucinski’s coaches speak highly of his play, highlighting his nose for the puck and his goal-scoring abilities. They speak even higher of his in-game IQ and vision while he is on the ice, especially for a player who is so young.
“He can see stuff two, three, four plays ahead,” Krosky said. “He’s able to read the play. … Ryan is the type of player who can read and react to what [the opponent] is doing.”
Coach Josh Harrold coached Rucinski at the ages of 11 and 12, and now coaches the U16 Cleveland Barons team. He noted that Rucinski’s skill, along with the rest of the team, has allowed them to compete as one of the best youth hockey teams in the United States.
“We’re playing probably one of the hardest schedules in the country this year, so there is no margin for error,” Harrold said. “To be honest, this is virtually a miniature version of pro hockey right now.”
Harrold said that it is his job to prepare his players for Division I college hockey, and eventually professional hockey. He explained that Rucinski and his teammates have the skill to get to that level, but preparation is the key to their success.
“A lot of what I do, I steal from NHL games and Division I college hockey games,” Harrold said. “The difference between pro hockey and U16 is how the pros take care of themselves. … It’s my job to teach [these] 20 guys the beginning phases of that.”
Skill on the ice runs in the Rucinski family, and Ryan is the next in a long line of talented athletes. Ryan’s father, Jeff played Division I college hockey and finished his career in the International Hockey League. The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Dylan Duke, Rucinski’s cousin, last year. His other cousin, Tyler Duke, is NHL draft eligible this year.
“I definitely have a lot of inspiration around me,” Rucinski said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m just going to keep training as hard as I can and want to play hockey as long as I can.”