Ryan Tesink Ready to Be the Wichita Thunder’s Biggest Headache
The 2015-2016 season began last Saturday night for the Wichita Thunder and, under new Head Coach Malcolm Cameron, the club has looked to be a faster, more energetic team that will play at “warp speed” according to the coach. Wanting to play an up tempo game, the team is looking to take the play to their opponents in what is expected to be a complete turnaround from last season’s disappointing last place finish.
A player who truly epitomizes that style of play is forward Ryan Tesink. Not only is the 23-year-old an exceptional skater who can notch a goal or make an offensive play, but he also is a high-energy player who fits the up tempo style the new head coach wants to play.
That is not the only reason why the forward fits so well with the team. Ryan is an outstanding hockey player who has some offensive skill, but he is not with the Thunder because they expect him to score 35-goals or tally 70-points. Instead, the forward is the kind of player that gets under the skin of opponents. The kind of guy who becomes a headache to opposing scorers and disrupts the offensive flow of games. The player that everyone loves to have on their own team, but absolutely hates to play against.
It’s Just What You Did
Ryan Tesink grew up in St. John, New Brunswick where he found that the choice to play hockey was a natural fit. Not only did he grow up in Canada, but pretty much everyone he knew played the sport, including his brother, who became an inspiration for him. “My older brother played and I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
While playing other sports as he grew up, including golf, soccer, and baseball, when he reached 15 it was time to make a decision for the long-term. Hockey seemed the absolute most logical option.
“Realistically, the only sport you’re going to make it in from there is hockey. It’s tougher to make it from baseball. There simply isn’t the same kind of attention around here.”
In 2009-10, he joined the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League. In 44-games there he scored 10-goals and added 19-assists. It was a solid season, but it was his toughness and ability to agitate opponents that really captured the attention of coaches and players around the league.
The next season he joined the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, playing for his home town Saint John Sea Dogs. In 59-games he tallied 8-goals and added 27-assists. What was most impressive was the plus-26 rating he earned while on the ice. Ryan helped the Sea Dogs make it all the way to the finals where they would win the QMJHL President’s Trophy. At the end of the season, Ryan Tesink was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the sixth round.
The next season, Saint John would win the title again, and Ryan would have an outstanding campaign. He appeared in 36-games, scoring 13-goals and assisting on 27 others. He posted another impressive +/- rating of 23 and really stepped up his game in the playoffs, scoring 7-goals and tallying 13-points in 17-games. The only negative for the forward was a knee injury hampered him during the regular season, but he stepped up his game in the playoffs, returning to be a key factor in the team’s title run.
In the 2012-13 season he was off to a great start for Saint John, posting a career high 16-goals and adding 21-assists in 35 games before being dealt to Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Ironically the Sea Dogs were swept in the first round, but he would help the Armada to reach the semi-finals before they would fall. After coming to Blainville-Boisbriand the knee would flare up, limiting him to just six regular season games and four in the playoffs.
Prior to the 2013-2014 season he attended the St. Louis Blues’ training camp before returning to Blainville-Boisbriand. It would be his last in the league. He appeared in 47-games, scoring 13-goals and adding 23-assists. The Armada would make it to the semi-finals and Ryan would score 7-goals and tally 6-assists in 14-games.
Joining the Professional Ranks
Proving all he needed to at the junior level, Ryan Tesink joined the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) for the 2014-2015 season. He appeared in 36-games with the Alaska Aces, scoring 2-goals and adding 9-assists. While he was not having the scoring touch he showed in the juniors, his ability to shut down opposing scorers was on display as he found himself matched against the ECHL’s top play-makers.
The following season he began the year with the Quad Cities Mallards where he appeared in 37-games, scoring 6-goals and adding 10-assists. The forward was living up to his reputation of being an antagonist, earning 55-penalty minutes as he continued his role as the shutdown forward for the Mallards. With 28-games left in the season, Ryan was dealt back to Alaska where he would score 3-goals and 9-assists, while earning 33 additional penalty minutes.
It was a solid start to the forward’s career. His antagonistic style was quickly earning him a reputation with opponents, but there was a lot more to his game than just that. At 6-0, 180, he was not a particularly big player, but he played with a great deal of energy and simply knew how to get under the skin of the opposition.
“I have some one-liners to use, but I don’t know if I would call them great. Half the time you just smile and that makes guys just as mad. They don’t like to think you are getting the better of them.”
A Great Fit to Continue His Career
Following the 2015-16 season, Ryan Tesink was looking for a new home. He would not be returning to the Alaska Aces, but knew he could be a great fit somewhere. It wasn’t long before new Wichita Thunder Head Coach Malcom Thunder came to call. On August 30, he was signed to a deal.
“Ryan is a gritty, hard-working player that can add a multi-dimensional approach to our team,” explained Cameron after the signing. “He is strong on the forecheck and is solid defensively. I look forward to a great season from Ryan.”
It is just one game into his Thunder career, but Ryan is the exact kind of defensive forward that the team had been looking for. While he had some quality seasons as a goal scorer in the juniors, the forward’s best talents have always been in stopping the opposing team’s best scorer. It is the solid manner in how he defends opponents and positions himself that he sees as a big reason why he has had so much success.
“I have always played well in my own end. I think I position myself well so I can make plays.”
Ryan also has the skill set that makes him the kind of gritty player that can be a shutdown forward. He loves the one-on-one matchups, working to shut down an opponent, but the big hit is the part of the game that he relishes the most.
“I love the hit. It’s one of my favorite parts of the game. I love to throw a big hit just as much as I like to score a goal.”
While the forward wishes he was more of a goal scorer, he acknowledges that he has a role and that his team is needing him to come through in that position if they are going to win.
“You need the kind of rat player on your team. Every team has one, every team needs one. It takes a lot of pressure off of the skilled guys. I want to do what I can to help my team win and I know what I do best. It is so much fun to get under the skin of opposing players.”
While possessing the skill set to excel as the “rat” of the team, there is a lot of preparation that goes into playing his role. Especially considering that many in the league are aware of what he can do, meaning that he has to make adjustments in his own game if he is going to succeed.
“I have been in the league for a couple of years so most teams know how I play. Teams know what I’m all about. I know that I am counted on to play solid defense and the offense will come after that. That means there is a lot of preparation, video, and learning the system. You have to know that player like the back of your hand, and then usually good things happen.”
A Key Piece for Success
Last season the Wichita Thunder gave up 240 goals, the fourth most in the ECHL. Playing stingier defense was a priority for Coach Cameron this season, as he expects to cut the number of goals allowed by 60 from the previous season. That is a pretty tall order, and is going to require players like Ryan Tesink to shut down opposing goal scorers if they are going to approach that number.
Ryan definitely has the skill set to be that kind of player but, most importantly, he has the mental approach to be a difference maker and a headache to opposing teams. In a league where players are looking to get noticed so they can advance their career, the forward is glad to help his team in any way that he can and to annoy his opponent the best he can.
“I’m not really a goal scorer, that’s not the role I’m here for. I’m just a tough guy to play against. I throw a lot of hits, throw my body around. Just kind of get under the other team’s skin, but also produce.”
Malcolm Cameron has had great success in turning last place teams into title contenders; he has proven this in the ECHL two times before. What isn’t really thought about is that he brings in the right kind of players to bring about that kind of dramatic change. The forward is a great example of the kind of talent that the Coach acquires.
Ryan Tesink’s name won’t be appearing on the scoring sheet each night, but you can be sure of one thing – when opposing teams play the Thunder, the names of their star players won’t be either. It’s one of the big reasons why hockey fans should have confidence that the Wichita Thunder are a playoff contender right now.
By Robert Pannier