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Craig invested in Monsters' success

Cleveland captain helping young team achieve their goals

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

There are many players to know on the Cleveland Monsters roster. But one name you should know for sure is that of team captain, Ryan Craig.

"He's a good leader," Oliver Bjorkstrand said. "He knows what to say to the guys and how to keep a team together. He's a huge part of the team if he plays 17 minutes or seven minutes He's going to help out the way he can. He has always proved that. He helps the team a lot."

Craig is no stranger to leading a team. He captained his WHL team, the Brandon Wheat Kings, and was the leader of the Pittsburgh Penguins' AHL team before joining the Jackets organization in 2012, where he was named captain in his first year and has held the title ever since.

This season Craig has nine goals and six assists in 58 games played. He works to produce on the ice - providing the game-winning goal against Chicago on Tuesday - but perhaps more impressive is what he brings to his team off the ice working with his teammates.

"His human intuition is kind of remarkable," Jackets' assistant general manager and Monsters general manager Bill Zito said. "He combines a warrior mentality with emotional sensitivity and when you combine those two things with Craig's zeal for hockey, it's impressive.

"In the hierarchy of human beings, he would be right up there at the top."

Player after player will tell stories of how Craig has helped them in their time with the Monsters, but for the 35-year-old center, who learned from watching captains he played for, everything he does is rooted in the shared goal for the team to succeed.

"It's about winning hockey games no matter where you are, and playing at the highest level," Craig said. "It's not always about the guy that scores the goal, it might be about the guy that makes the block or gets the puck out the shift before or things like that."

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That's the message Craig wants to get across to his teammates and he won't hesitate to say things "in black and white" to guys who need to have things delivered that way. But he is always focused on letting his teammates know that he's invested in their success as much as they are. 

He's not a decision maker, like a coach, and Craig believes that means he can deliver messages he needs to deliver. His focus is on helping each player succeed because that means the team will succeed.

"The last two years here I've been on an American Hockey League contract and it's been perfect," Craig said. "I'm not the one that's competing against other players for a call-up. It's a different mentality. I want to see them go up, and I've always wanted to see that even if I'm competing with them.

"But now it's in a different sense in that they don't see that I'm competing for the same job. We're at different points in our career and yet our goals are still very similar in the fact that I want them to play in the NHL, I want to see them in the NHL and to do that they have to help our team while they are here."

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Craig is quick to point to alternate captains T.J. Tynan and Jamie Sifers along with other members of the Monsters' leadership group who help hold up team values and work to get buy-in from new players as they join the team.

"You understand that everybody works a little bit different," Craig said. "And yet you understand that your goals are all the same for the most part. Whether it's guys coming in here from college and junior hockey, or coming from the NHL, everyone can still add something to our team and at the same time we can all add something to each other to get to where you want to go personally."

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