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Culkin thrilled to take the next step in his career

by Andrew Halipchuk / Calgary Flames

I’m so happy and excited. It’s like a dream come true. You always dream about one day playing in the NHL when you’re a kid and this is one step closer.Ryan Culkin

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames have locked up another young defenceman by announcing the signing of Ryan Culkin on March 28.

Culkin who was drafted in the fifth round (124th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, is currently in his fourth and final year of junior eligibility, playing with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL.

“I’m so happy and excited,” Culkin said. “It’s like a dream come true.

“You always dream about one day playing in the NHL when you’re a kid and this is one step closer.”

The-20-year-old compared yesterday’s signing to being drafted by the Flames two years ago in Pittsburgh, PA.

“[The feeling of] getting drafted is indescribable, you always want to be drafted but signing was the next step,” Culkin said. “It’s one of the hardest things to do.”

The Montreal product credits his hard work ethic and will to get better as reasons for getting a deal done with Calgary. Culkin attended the Flames development and training camp last summer before being returned to the junior ranks for his final year of eligibility.

“I felt I was ready, but ultimately it came down to their decision and they probably made the right decision,” he said of management's choice to send him back to the QMJHL. “I think I’ve benefitted from coming back [to juniors] one more year, by getting bigger and stronger, it’s only going to help me in the future.”

The young defenceman returned to the Quebec Remparts, the team he had played for in his first three years of junior hockey, but was traded to the Voltigeurs mid-way through the season.

“I was fortunate enough to be coached by Patrick Roy for three years, I learned so much with them [Roy’s coaching staff], Culkin said. “Coming back this year I had the opportunity to learn from Phillip Boucher, he taught me a lot since he was a defenceman in the NHL.”

He now gets to learn from the likes of Martin Raymond, Louis Robitaille and former Flames defenceman, Denis Gauthier, who round out Drummondville's coaching staff.

In his final year in the QMJHL, the blueliner is enjoying a career-season scoring eight goals, and adding 42 assists for 50 points in 65 games played.

“When you come back as an over-ager, you want to be the best 20-year-old in the league,” he said. “I came back to camp wanting to be the best, so I worked extra hard in the gym, on the ice and off the ice.

“It sounds cliché but when you work hard, good things come out of it.”

So far, Culkin and the Voltigeurs lead the Victoriaville Tigers 3-1 in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. Culkin is tied for second on the team in scoring in the postseason with five assists in four games and leads the team in penalty minutes with six.

“I’ve had a great year, but it wasn’t just me,” Ryan said. “I’ve had great teammates that really helped me out; I couldn’t have done it without them.”

With one last chance at junior hockey’s top prize, Culkin knows how important it will be to finish his junior career as a champion.

“It will be huge, you [always] look to end on a high note,” he said. “I would love to win a Memorial Cup, [or] even a President’s Cup.

“We have an unbelievable team, a great coaching staff and if we’re on the same page, all work hard and keep going like this, we’ll be very successful.”

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