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MAJOR MILESTONE

Derek Ryan will skate in his 300th game tonight: "I have to pinch myself every now and then just to realize that I'm in the NHL and this is a dream that I had to work harder than most to get to."

by ALEX MEDINA @alex_medina5 / calgaryflames.com

What a journey it's been.

The road to The Show was nothing short of extraordinary for Flames forward Derek Ryan. 

From the University of Alberta, to packing his bags to play pro hockey in Hungary, Austria and Sweden - to finally the playing in the NHL.

On Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the 33-year-old will hit a milestone when he skates in his 300th career NHL game. 

But for him it's 'just another game.'

 

Video: "I have to pinch myself every now and then"

 

"That's what it feels like," he laughed. "Especially with how late in the season we are and how important each game down the stretch gets. It's definitely is a nice milestone and something I can cherish with my family later on down the line. 

"When you are in season it can be hard to really recognize these big milestones because you are so focused on the task at hand. The summer is really the time to reflect on them, but I still do take pride in it."

But he does, in the moment, admit the significance of the achievement.

"I have to pinch myself every now and then just to realize that I'm in the NHL and this is a dream that I had to work harder than most to get to."

Ryan had quite the pro career in Europe, starting with 49 points in 50 games with Fehérvár AV19 of the EBEL, to spending two seasons with Villacher SV collecting 150 points in 108 tilts and finally 60 points in 55 contests with Örebro HK of the SHL. 

On March 1, 2016, he finally made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes after signing with the club in 2015.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

"It was a great journey overall to get to live in different places and see the world which most people at younger ages don't usually get the chance to experience," he said. "To be immersed in their world and experience the different cultures was something that I'll never forget. 

"Hungary was probably the most obscure but coolest places that I got to live in and at the top of highlights in my career. 

After spending parts of three seasons with the Hurricanes and appearing in 154 games, the Spokane product has since skated in 146 tilts for the Flames since signing with the club as a free agent in 2018.

Ryan has been a key fixture in the Flames lineup, the meat-and-potatoes type player that does the little things right and gives it his all each time out.   

 

Video: "They're a formidable opponent"

 

That workhorse style has earned him high praise. 

"He understands what he needs to do, extremely prepared as a pro and a team first guy," Flames Interim head coach Geoff Ward said. "He does whatever he has to help the team win and plays relentless style of game. You win with guys like him and he's been an important piece of our team for years now. 

"To see him have success at this level and be able to play this long is great for him especially with how late he arrived in the NHL scene with his time in Europe." 

And, how fitting it is that the milestone is coming in the same month that he scored his first career NHL goal back in 2015. 

"I was actually cruising through Facebook a couple days ago the other day and saw the anniversary of it was coming up and saw videos and comments about it. 

"It's moments like that when you look back and think 'wow here I am now and this is pretty cool.'"

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