LAS VEGAS -- From Hungary to the NHL, and from the side of the red carpet to being on it. Welcome to the Derek Ryan story.
Five years ago, Ryan was the guy with his wife and friends here on vacation. They realized the NHL Awards were going on and decided to check out the action on the red carpet, spotting Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dustin Brown of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Ryan even took a picture of Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk.
"Not a selfie … I was way too far back," Ryan said, smiling. "It's crazy to look back on that and think, wow, five years ago. I was there. And now I'm going to be walking the red carpet with my wife."
The Carolina Hurricanes forward on Wednesday was on what's now known as the NHL Awards Magenta Carpet as one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Anaheim Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano and Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson were the other finalists for the award given to the player who exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Ryan, 30, in April completed his first full NHL season, playing 67 games. He had 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists), with eight of the 11 goals on the power play. In 2015-16, he played six games with the Hurricanes and scored twice.
Video: MIN@CAR: Ryan pokes home rebound for power-play goal
The 2017 NHL Awards presented by T-Mobile felt "a little surreal" to Ryan. He admitted as much as he stood in a room full of NHL standouts on Tuesday.
"I feel a little out of place," Ryan said. "A couple of years ago, I was battling my way through the European leagues and all of a sudden here I am at the NHL Awards and just kind of taking it all in."
It was a long way from his first year in the Austrian League with the Hungarian team, Alba Volan Szekesfehervar in 2011-12. The NHL represented a distant dream.
"It's a small town about 45 minutes from Budapest," Ryan said. "But it's pretty hard to feel close to the NHL when you're living in Hungary and playing in a foreign country.
"After being a broke university student in Edmonton for four years, I was enjoying the paychecks and wasn't really thinking about the NHL. ... I was getting paid to play hockey and that's every hockey player's dream."