No. 21 is turning out to be a lucky one for Kerby Rychel: the 21-year-old scored his first career NHL goal in his 21st NHL game for the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
“Obviously, it’s nice to get one,” Rychel said after the game. “It took a little bit longer than I wanted it to, but it was a great play by (William) Karlsson and I was just trying to drive the net. He made a great play over to me, and I just put it in.”
Karlsson fed Rychel a near perfect pass for a tip-in finish to beat Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and open the scoring for the Jackets at 9:30 of the first period.
Rychel’s goal was scored on the team’s ninth shot of the first 10 minutes of the game.
While the young forward was pleased to finally notch his first career NHL goal, it came during a game that the Jackets dropped to the Capitals.
“It’s cool, but you try to keep playing,” Rychel said. "Obviously, there’s a lot of game left and you can’t just stop there.”
Rychel logged 13:44 through 20 shifts and fired four shots on goal. It was also a multi-point game for Rychel as he picked up an assist on Ryan Murray's third period goal.
And as for that lucky No. 21 (which Rychel also happens to wear on the back of his sweater), the Torrance, Calif., native said the number was given to him in training camp this year, but hopes the number will continue to bring good luck this season and beyond.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool actually,” Rychel said of the connection to the number. “Coming into the league, you don’t really get to pick your number at first. But I like it. I wore it in junior for a bit my rookie season, so it’s pretty cool I wore it in junior and up here.”
The game marked Rychel's 16th of the 2015-16 season after appearing in five games a season ago. With each passing game comes an increased dose of confidence, which is perhaps connected to an increased level of responsibility from coach John Tortorella.
“I think I felt pretty comfortable (Tuesday),” Rychel added. “I think I started making more plays with the puck and I think a lot of the nerves keep going away each game, but I definitely felt really comfortable.”