STOCKTON, CA -- Injuries are a part of playing professional sports that cannot be avoided. They are unfortunate and typically happen without warning.
That’s what happened to Calgary Flames prospect and current Stockton Heat defenceman Ryan Culkin back in September at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC.
The upper-body injury has kept Culkin off the ice ever since and has delayed the start of his sophomore season for over a month.
“It definitely hasn’t been easy, especially because it’s kind of a back-to-back injury after last season when I cut my wrist open,” Culkin said. “That took some time to sort of get my strength back and what not. I’ve been working hard battling through it and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting into the lineup shortly.”
Getting back into the lineup shortly is exactly the plan, as head coach Ryan Huska said that Culkin is still considered day-to-day but is “getting closer” to returning to the blueline.
“I’m extremely excited, especially because it’s a new city,” Culkin said with an ear-to-ear smile. “I want to help the team out because we’ve had our ups and downs so far.”
Culkin’s imminent return will add yet another high quality piece to an already solid blueline in Stockton.
Originally a fifth-round selection of the Calgary Flames back at 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Culkin brings a two-way skill set to the ice of which every team at any level can never have enough.
Last season with the Adirondack Flames, the then-rookie defenceman got off to a hot start, scoring at least a point in six of his first nine games as a pro. That stretch included a five-game point streak in which he scored one goal and six assists.
“I love to join the attack and help to create some offence, but most importantly I want to help out in the defensive zone,” Culkin described. “I love to score goals and be that fourth attacker, but the main priority as a defenceman is always your own net.”
For Culkin to replicate the success he had before his injury last season, the 21-year-old knows he has to ease his way back into the lineup and not get too anxious on the ice.
“You never want to come back and try to do too much,” Culkin explained. “It will definitely take some time, but I’m just going to try and keep it simple, play my game as a two-way defender and help out in any situation I can.”
Exactly when fans will see #3 back on the Heat blueline remains unknown, but it seems as if it is right around the corner according to both Huska and Culkin himself.
No one is happier about that than Culkin.
“I’m just excited to get back out there with the boys,” Culkin stated.