WILMINGTON – John Ferguson has been watching members of the Fitzgerald family play hockey for a long time.
The Bruins Director of Player Personnel played with Tom Fitzgerald at Providence College during the late 1980s and later played against him during their time in the pros.
These days, Ferguson keeps a close eye on Fitzgerald’s son Ryan, a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Bruins and the leading scorer at Boston College last season.
So, when Ferguson was asked if the younger Fitzgerald had any similarities to the older Fitzgerald, he did not hesitate.
“You know it’s interesting,” Ferguson said at last week’s Boston Bruins Development Camp. “There are some similar attributes in his two-way game and his consciousness with and without the puck. Ryan’s hands might be a touch quicker around the net and [he] doesn’t quite have his father’s size, but I think the aggressiveness is pretty similar.”
Fitzgerald’s hockey bloodlines run even deeper than his father, who played 17 years in the NHL, including his final season with the Bruins in 2005-06. His cousins include NHL legend Keith Tkachuk and Tkachuk’s son Matthew, who was drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Flames last month, as well as current Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes and his brother Kevin, a forward with the New York Rangers.
Fitzgerald’s younger brother Casey is coming off of his freshman season at BC and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of this year’s draft.
Put simply, Fitzgerald has been surrounded by the sport for as long as he can remember.
“It’s definitely something that other kids aren’t used to,” said Fitzgerald, who will be a senior at BC this fall.
“To me, it was the norm. Growing up with buddies playing hockey, they don’t have a dad who did what my father did. It’s definitely unique and helped speed up the process a little bit in this line of work.”
As he has grown older, Fitzgerald said, his father has tried to allow him to be his own player. But there is no doubt his influence still permeates through Fitzgerald’s game.
“I’m older now, so my dad kind of takes a backseat,” said Fitzgerald. “I have guys in this organization that if I need something I can talk to them. But to this point, he’s definitely been a big factor.”
The 21-year-old native of North Reading, Mass., played for Malden Catholic (Malden, Mass.) and the Valley Jr. Warriors of the EJHL (Haverhill, Mass.) before moving on to BC, where last season he paced the Eagles with 24 goals and 47 points, both career highs.
It was a significant jump from the 17 goals and 25 points he tallied the year before as a sophomore. His performance earned him Hockey East First Team All-Star honors.
“I think maturity and coming back with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder after my sophomore season,” Fitzgerald said of the reasons for his uptick in production.
“I definitely upped my tempo off ice in the weight room. It was something that I prided myself on last summer. There’s still a lot of room for improvement there, but I think that’s kind of one of the things that helped me succeed last year.”
His progression was evident at last week’s Development Camp – Fitzgerald's fourth – where he made quite an impression on the Bruins brass.
“Ryan, as much as probably any of the guys here, has made strides every single year since he’s been drafted,” said Ferguson. “He had an outstanding season last year at Boston College and he’s obviously turned into one of their go-to players. He’s gotten quicker, he’s getting stronger.
“He’s addressed many of the areas that you need to as a young player who gets drafted. But like others he needs to improve in different areas. And he’s demonstrating that he has done it and continues to do it.”
With his senior season fast approaching, Fitzgerald would like nothing more than to continue building off of the momentum from last season, while also taking on more of a leadership role during his final campaign at the Heights.
“As a team, we always have high expectations,” said Fitzgerald. “Going in, we want to win everything we play for. Personally, just kind of build off last season and keep that momentum rolling.
“My ideal senior season is I’d like to go out on top, win everything we can from a Beanpot to a National Championship.”
The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp was presented by AT&T.