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Ryan Huddy carving a path of his own

Friday, 11.28.2008 / 10:30 AM / Prospects

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"Even growing up in Canada, as a young kid you always want to play hockey. With him, it just made me want to play hockey even more. [My father] always made it easy for me. He just gave me the opportunity to play and if I liked it, he was fine with that and if I didn't, he was fine with me doing something else. It just worked out that I liked it."
-- Ryan Huddy

Ryan Huddy had one heck of a childhood.

After all, not every kid gets to grow up under the same roof as one of the NHL's all-time great defenseman. That's right -- Ryan Huddy is the son of current Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy, who won five Stanley Cups with the club during his playing days.

These days, Ryan is trying to follow in Dad's footsteps, and appears to be well on his way. One month into the ECHL season, Ryan ranks second in scoring with the Stockton Thunder with 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) in 16 games.

"He gives me a lot of good advice," Ryan said of his father. "I was able to grow up around hockey and I was able to go to the rink when I was younger. I got to see some really good teams with the Oilers. I get a lot of good advice from him."

Whatever Charlie Huddy has been telling his son appears to be paying off. After two solid years overseas, Ryan returned to North America and was enjoying a solid rookie camp with the Oilers before suffering a concussion. For those who think Ryan is only getting a chance with Edmonton because of who his old man is, both father and son are presenting a strong argument.

"He came to rookie camp, and he was good," Charlie told NHL.com. "He played well. I just kind of opened the door for him and said, 'Hey, after that it's all up to you. You're the one going out on the ice, and you've got to perform.' I think we all know the business that if you're not performing, you're not going to play. It doesn't matter who you know. I'm proud of him that he's gone down there and that he's off to a good start. He's doing it on his own."

Even during his two years in Europe, Ryan said he heard the nepotism theory from several players. Kind of silly, considering he put up 119 points over those two seasons in Germany. Once he arrived at Edmonton's rookie camp, he let his play do the talking.

"I knew I could show well in rookie camp," Ryan said. "When I did that, I think guys kind of figured it out from there. I've been doing well here and in other places. All the guys in the organization now can kind of see that I can play. You still may have other guys thinking that, but you try to prove them wrong. It's something you're going to always have no matter what. I even got it in Europe a few times. It's a tough thing. You've just got to play through it."

Ever since his father started winning championships in Edmonton, Ryan has always wanted to be a hockey player. Not once did Charlie ever try to pressure his son into pursuing hockey as a career.

"Never … it just kind of came naturally," Ryan said. "Even growing up in Canada, as a young kid you always want to play hockey. With him, it just made me want to play hockey even more. He always made it easy for me. He just gave me the opportunity to play and if I liked it, he was fine with that and if I didn't, he was fine with me doing something else. It just worked out that I liked it."

The Oilers were one of four NHL teams that Charlie played for, as his playing career also saw stops in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Buffalo. Skating alongside former Edmonton teammates Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Marty McSorley, Huddy helped the Kings reach the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. Overall, he tallied 368 points in 694 regular season games, and 77 points in 138 playoff contests.

"We traveled around a little bit, obviously, but he got off to a good start in Edmonton just being around the rink," Charlie said. "He was always in the top four or five on his team. I guess most kids that are around it 24-7 always ended up playing and always want to try to give it a shot. He loved it."

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, it's possible that Ryan's small frame prevented him from being drafted or receiving a previous opportunity with an NHL team. Prior to his seasons in Europe, Ryan had 90 points during a four-year run with Bemidji State University.

"Probably a little bit," Charlie said when asked if Ryan's lack of size hindered his chances. "But the game's changed now a little bit. The smaller guys are able to maneuver a little bit better out there, so it's probably to his advantage. But it probably held him back. It's probably one of the reasons he played college hockey and went over to Europe."

With different rules in place since the NHL returned from a work stoppage in 2005, smaller players are able to showcase their skills a little bit better. It's the main reason why Ryan opted to leave Germany and give North American hockey another shot.

"Just being a smaller player and being more of a skilled type of player, I thought it would kind of fit me better," Ryan said of his decision to play in Europe. "I decided to do that for a couple of years. After the lockout and the rule changes, I think the NHL and the minor-league system kind of tailored to smaller guys now. You see it a lot more in the draft. You see all these younger guys putting up a lot of points but are small in stature. I think that's the reason why I came back (to North America) -- to test it out."

So far, Ryan is passing the test. If he continues to perform in Stockton, one has to believe a promotion to AHL Springfield is in the cards. Should that happen, Ryan would be just one step away from being with his father on daily basis -- with the Edmonton Oilers.

"It'd be pretty exciting, that's for sure," Charlie said. "You always dream of that. (But) it's a ways away. It's just a matter of some hard work. You never say never. There's always a chance." 

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.
   
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