BostonBruins.com - Coming from a family rooted in hockey tradition certainly helps as you pursue the dream of playing in the National Hockey League. However, even though North Reading native and forward Ryan Fitzgerald has been around the game his whole life, he still realizes how hard it will be to achieve the goal of one day wearing the spoked-B uniform.
Fitzgerald, son of current Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM and former Bruins player Tom Fitzgerald and nephew to Bruins assistant director of amateur scouting Scott Fitzgerald, was certainly ecstatic when the Bruins selected him in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
Fitzgerald spent the past year playing for the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League putting up 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points in 26 games. Before that, Fitzgerald won was part of back-to-back MIAA Super 8 tournament championship teams in 2010-11 and 2011-12 with the Malden Catholic Lancers.
There is certainly an adjustment period for anyone participating in their first development camp, but Fitzgerald seemed to settle in rather quickly as he hopes to improve his game.
“It’s been going great,” said Fitzgerald about his progress at development camp. “I mean coming in as a first year kid you kind of have a little jitters, but I was able to sink right in and the nerves kind of went away, so now it’s just been fun.”
With how quickly Fitzgerald seemed to settle in, Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney immediately took note saying, “Everything he does on the ice is with a purpose. You can tell that it’s his intent to get better every day because he knows how high the mountain really is. His dad’s been really realistic with him as to how hard it is to play in the National Hockey League.”
“He uses his hockey sense extremely well on the ice. He’s got really good skills but I think his hockey sense stands out for me first and foremost.”
Although Fitzgerald made a lot of progress at his first development camp, he acknowledged that he still has areas to improve.
“Yeah, I mean strength is one thing. I’m not the biggest kid so I got to be well conditioned and be a little stronger than most little kids would be so that’s probably the biggest asset,” said Fitzgerald.
One player that Fitzgerald tries to model his game after is Bruins standout leader Patrice Bergeron.
“I think we have a lot of the same qualities just being able to play at all ends of the ice and to be able to make plays on the offensive side so he’s probably one of my favorite players to watch,” admired Fitzgerald.
This upcoming fall, Fitzgerald is committed to play for Boston College and head coach Jerry York while having the opportunity to play against some tough competition throughout the country.
The toughest opponent, however, could be located rather close by as he faces his friend and fellow Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk at Boston University.
With a smile on his face, Fitzgerald spoke of his friendship and the upcoming Boston College Boston University games saying, “I mean Grizz [Grzelcyk] is one of my best friends growing up. I played with him since I was probably nine or ten years old. To be at different schools, especially rival schools, is something funny so we kind of kid about it a lot. We know when the puck hits the ice there’s no friends.”
Overall, as development camp draws to its conclusion, Fitzgerald continues to rely on his father’s knowledge of the game to help further his own development.
“Just how he carried himself, that’s one thing he kind of harps on me about,” said Fitzgerald of the advice his father gives him. “Just how to be a good guy off the ice and on the ice so it’s great advice from him.”
Even though his father’s advice is valuable, Fitzgerald knows the road to the NHL will not mirror his father’s.
“We’re different players,” said Fitzgerald. “So hopefully make my own name for myself down the line.”