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Better late than never for Hurricanes' Ryan

Carolina forward scores in NHL debut at age 29

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Ryan's first NHL goal

CAR@NJD: Ryan ties game in NHL debut with PPG

3/1/16: Making his NHL debut, Derek Ryan rifles it past Cory Schneider on a power play, earning his first NHL goal to tie the game in the 2nd

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NEWARK, N.J. -- Carolina Hurricanes rookie center Derek Ryan is living proof that good things come to those who wait.

At 29 years, 63 days, Ryan became the oldest player in the history of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes to score a goal in his NHL debut in Carolina's 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Ryan, recalled Monday from Charlotte of the American Hockey League where he served as captain, scored his first NHL goal on his first shot 4:36 into the second period. The power-play goal tied the game 1-1.

Randy MacGregor (28 years, 126 days) was the oldest to score in his first game for the Hartford/Carolina franchise on Nov. 12, 1981, at the Philadelphia Flyers, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's been an unbelievable day, first getting the news on the plane that I would be playing and then telling my wife, who was in tears when I told her," Ryan said. "My son, dad and my sister all made the trip [to New Jersey]. 

"It's one of those moments you dream of as a kid; just playing the game, let alone scoring the goal. So it's emotions you can't really describe. It's unbelievable and something I'll probably cherish for the rest of my life."

Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner retrieved the puck for Ryan after his goal.

"After I scored, coach [Bill Peters] said to me, 'How did that feel?'" Ryan said. "I said, 'It felt pretty good.'"

Ryan, who centered the fourth line alongside left wing Brock McGinn and right wing Chris Terry, went 12-7 on faceoffs (63 percent). His personal cheering section included his wife and son, who flew in from Charlotte, N.C., and his father and sister, who traveled from his hometown in Spokane, Wash.

"It's pretty unbelievable, no question," he said. "It was just an awesome day, an emotional day, playing my first NHL game and [to score a goal] was just icing on the cake. I can't really put it into words. We got the win and my emotions came over me. 
"Obviously I'm super blessed and happy to be here."

Ryan was the oldest player to make his NHL debut with the Hurricanes; the previous oldest was forward David Gove, who was 27 years, 272 days old when he played his first NHL game Jan. 31, 2006. After his junior-hockey career, Ryan spent four seasons at the University of Alberta and then four seasons in Europe. 

The Hurricanes signed him to a one-year, two-way contract June 16, 2015.

Charlotte was traveling back from two games against Manitoba in Winnipeg on Monday when Ryan learned he would have to grab a connecting flight to New Jersey to play Tuesday.

The trade that sent center Eric Staal to the New York Rangers on Sunday gave Ryan his NHL opportunity. He was asked after the game if he felt he was able to fill Staal's skates in his first NHL game.

"Did I replace Eric Staal?" he asked. "Lord, no. I don't think we're even in the same ballpark."

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