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Chilliwack's Howse is getting better with experience

by Adam Schwartz
Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins is used to being drafted early. He was the first pick in the team's history when he was selected third in the 2006 Western Hockey League bantam draft.

That high draft standing only meant Howse would face lofty expectations. Improvements came when he was put on a line with Oscar Moller and Mark Santorelli, prospects of the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, respectively.

"Obviously being drafted high puts a little bit more pressure on you than the lower draft picks," Howse told "I went in there my first season and I had an all-right year; I didn't have a great first half but I bounced back in the second half. I learned more by the second half. At the start of the year I didn't play much and I got to watch a lot of hockey and I took note of how the other guys played and what they did. I sat next to Oscar Moller in the dressing room and that helped me a lot, and during the second half of the season I wound up playing with him and Mark Santorelli. Playing with two guys like that makes life a lot easier than playing with a couple checkers, and both of them have showed me a lot of things that I didn't know before."

In 54 games as a rookie, Howse finished with 10 goals and 17 points. He began with 4 goals and 6 points in his first 32 games, but improved drastically in the second half and scored 6 goals and 11 points in his final 22 games.

Moller helped Howse on and off the ice, and the two developed a convenient friendship. 

"I sat beside Oscar in the dressing room and we would hang out after practice," Howse said. "Any questions I had I'd go to him if I didn't go to the coach, and during battle drills in practice, like two-on-ones, me and him would always pair up. It helps so much playing with such a highly skilled player."

This season, Howse's line was broken up when Moller left Chilliwack to play for the Kings and Santorelli went to Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Without his usual linemates, however, Howse saw his offensive production increase to team-highs of 31 goals and had 44 points in 61 games.

Howse, who is ranked No. 37 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its final ranking, is a much different player than the slick-skilled Moller. Howse brings a brash physicality to the game and is particularly effective on the forecheck and crashing the net.

"I'm an offensive power forward," said the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Howse. "I try to use my size on the forecheck to my advantage as much as I can. I have to improve on my coverage in the defensive zone. I need to work on my play along the wall since I'm playing my off wing. One main thing that I'm focusing on is getting the puck out of the zone on my side of the ice. It's important for me being a power forward to drive the net."

Howse said he felt more comfortable with his surroundings this season and knew what to expect coming into training camp, which attributed to his improvement.

"I felt I knew a little more coming into this year," Howse said. "The first year was different because I was living away from home and wasn't sure what to expect, but I was treated very well and my billet family also treated me very well and I made a lot of friends. This year I came in and I knew what to expect. There was a little bit of pressure from the start, but I knew what was coming and I knew all of the guys already, so I felt more comfortable."

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