On Nov. 23, 1985, Bryan Ewing
was born in Wheeling, W.Va.
Twenty-three years later, he found himself playing professional hockey there.
Sure, players occasionally find themselves playing in their hometown. But that's usually reserved for places like Montreal or Toronto.
"I was born here, but my family left when I was 10," Ewing told NHL.com. "I really don't remember much. But it's pretty cool being back here."
The Wheeling Nailers are certainly happy to have him. The rookie forward has been one of the ECHL's top scorers this season, as he enters the final weekend of the regular season with 43 goals and 47 assists in just 65 games. His 90 points rank second in the ECHL behind only Florida's Kevin Baker.
"I got off to a slow start in October, but I adjusted pretty well after the first month," Ewing said. "I have 90 points, so I must be doing something right now. I'm having a good year, but I'm playing with good guys too, so that makes my life a lot easier."
Even though he's just a rookie, Wheeling coach Craig Puhalski isn't surprised by what Ewing has been able to accomplish. Puhalski said he saw something special in the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder way back in training camp.
"I don't think it's surprising," Puhalski said. "I saw him in Wilkes-Barre's training camp, and I knew he had a real good knack around the net. He was a player that was very tenacious on the puck. Maybe I didn't think he'd have as many points as he does, but points aren't everything as far as being able to make it to the American League level. But he's had a good offensive year."
Ewing put up solid offensive numbers during a four-year run at Boston University, but nothing quite like this. Last season, he had the opportunity to spend some time skating on the same line as Colin Wilson
, who was selected seventh by the Nashville Predators
at the 2008 Entry Draft. In 39 games with the Terriers, Ewing had 17 goals and 26 assists.
"That was a lot of fun," Ewing said of his college days. "Jack Parker is a great coach. I got to play with Colin Wilson
a little bit my last year, so that was a lot of fun. He's a great player. He'll probably be in the NHL after this year if he leaves school early. There's a lot of great players coming out of BU."
There are a lot more to come, evidenced by the Terriers' run to the Frozen Four this season. Ewing said he keeps in touch with several players and has been following the club closely.
"I'm best friends with all of them, so we keep in touch," Ewing said. "They're especially great this year. It's too bad we couldn't do that last year, but good for them. Hopefully they'll win it all."
Puhalski had never coached a played from BU until Ewing came along. Obviously, it's going to be difficult for any future BU graduate to duplicate what Ewing has been able to accomplish at the ECHL level this season -- but they're always welcome in Wheeling.
"They've always had a prideful team there," Puhalski said. "They've always turned out good players and good teams. Bryan just fits into the mold. I've never had a BU player before, but if they keep coming like him, that'd be good."
Ewing, who was not drafted by an NHL club, got a brief taste of the American Hockey League earlier this season. Although he did not register a point in three games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Ewing viewed the short stint as invaluable.
"It was a great experience to get up there," Ewing said. "I didn't get much ice time, but it was great to work with Dan Bylsma
. He's a great coach. He's really smart. He's doing a hell of a job for the (Pittsburgh) Penguins now. It was great to get up there and play a couple of games."
"I got off to a slow start in October, but I adjusted pretty well after the first month. I have 90 points, so I must be doing something right now. I'm having a good year, but I'm playing with good guys too, so that makes my life a lot easier." -- Bryan Ewing
Puhalski believes Ewing has the ability to become a full-time player at the AHL level. Clearly, Ewing can score goals. Now, Puhalski would like to see Ewing become more of a complete player.
"There's some things defensively that he needs to work on, and he's very much aware of it," Puhalski said. "He's got to do a better job of picking up people away from the puck and working as hard defensively as he does offensively."
At 23, it appears Ewing has a bright future. He's hungry to show that he can be a regular in the AHL. Perhaps next season, he'll be given that opportunity.
"I hope so," Ewing said. "That's what I'd love to do. I want to play in the AHL and hopefully move up from there and play in the NHL. It's a dream of mine since I was little."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.