The way that Worcester defenseman Derek Joslin
has been flying around the ice this season, it's clear that a few extra ounces haven't slowed him down.
Don't be fooled by the ease with which Joslin handles leadership and responsibility. The weight of an "A" has been known to sit heavy on the chests of all types of players, many much older and experienced than Joslin, 21, a second-year pro.
"I definitely didn't come into the year expecting a letter," Joslin said. "He (coach Roy Sommer
) just came in at the beginning of the season, said 'You are going to be a leader this year. You are very consistent, get along with all the guys.' I was thrilled."
Calling Joslin consistent is as redundant as noting that ice is slippery. He's played in all 32 Worcester games this season, and skated in every one of the team's 80 games last season. That followed three full years with the Ottawa 67's when he dressed for every regular season and playoff contest.
"It's a nice little streak going. We'll try to keep it up," Joslin said. "People are starting to bring it to my attention. I try not to think about it. I'm kind of superstitious."
More important than just showing up every night, Joslin quickly appears to be getting a lot better. He opened with a solid 10 goals and 24 assists last season, and this year ranks tied for sixth among AHL defensemen with 20 points (7-13). There's a decided aggressiveness to his game this year, one that stems from overcoming a shyness about shooting and figuring out ways to exploit lanes that are open for just a blink. He's second among AHL defensemen with 100 shots on goal.
"I'm trying to do everything San Jose has told me to do, shoot the puck, get my shots on net," Joslin said. "I had fun last year, but was new to the league. Maybe I was a little more nervous. I've played these teams before. I know what to expect on the ice."
That, in turn, circles back to Worcester asking more from him as one of the team's stabilizers. Dependability is important, but for all of Joslin's iron-man moments he also understands that quality can be fleeting.
"It's tough to stay consistent in this league. You play so many games," he said. "I come to the rink knowing I'm going to play. The coach depends on me. But it's something I have to earn as well. There's someone waiting in the wings to take my job."
Ryan stands out --
Look around the Albany lineup and you won't see many point producers like Michael Ryan
The 28-year-old forward leads the team with 10 goals despite playing in only 24 games. The Rats' total of 81 markers overall is tied for the third-lowest figure in the league.
Ryan sees something different as he looks around the bench, though. He spots a group of guys who are where he once was. Considering how he developed, he could have a point.
Ryan, the finisher, was once Ryan, the offensive afterthought. In his first three seasons with Rochester, 2003-06, Ryan put home just 28 goals total. He matched that output in 2006-07 alone, and is on pace to surpass it this season.
"I was in the same position as these guys at 22, 23. It's all about having the confidence to score. They might not have that mindset yet," he said. "My first two years, I'd be lucky if I'd play 10 minutes a night. I just had to gain the confidence of my coaching staff. I always knew I had the offense, but you need the chance, you need the opportunities. It's a bit of a process trying to be in the lineup every night."
"My first two years, I'd be lucky if I'd play 10 minutes a night. I just had to gain the confidence of my coaching staff. I always knew I had the offense, but you need the chance, you need the opportunities. It's a bit of a process trying to be in the lineup every night."
-- Michael Ryan
Ryan can also relay how it's an even more vexing task staying there for an extended stretch. After paying his dues in Rochester, Ryan finally broke through by spending all season with Buffalo last year. He contributed 4 goals and 4 assists in 46 games.
But the Sabres let him go as a free agent, so he took a shot in Nashville's camp this year. The Predators offered him a two-way deal, and it was an offer Ryan could refuse. He went home and skated with his old college team, Northeastern, for a month.
"It was nothing against Nashville. My decision was just to step away from everything all together," he said.
When Ryan decided he had enough of the perspective from afar, he signed a two-way deal with Carolina at the end of October. He got in a pair of games with the Hurricanes in November before coming back to start over again with the Rats.
"I'm trying to get that hunger back that I had a few years ago," he said. "Once you play in the NHL, it's not that easy to go back to the American League. I'm not going to complain about it."
Take that boss! --
Lake Erie forward Chris Durno
may be one of the few men around who got his current job by roughing up his boss.
David Oliver wasn't in charge at the time, naturally. He was just an AHL foe of Durno, one who generally disliked what the younger player tried to get away with on the ice.
"He was one of those guys who made your life miserable out there," Oliver recalled. "Whether those hits were in a timely fashion or late, he made you notice him out there."
The impression lasted. Fast forward to last summer, when Oliver was filling his responsibilities as Monsters GM. He wanted someone rugged and experienced to help add salt to the roster. He remembered the unpleasant style of Durno, and signed him as a free agent for Lake Erie.
"That's why he's here," Oliver said. "When you are looking at a guy to guide your youth, the way he plays is the way we want our young players to play."
The 6-foot-3 Durno, 28, has given Oliver more than just an agitating factor. He's on track for his best offensive season, and paces Lake Erie with 19 points (8-11). That effort helped earn him a recall to Colorado on Dec. 30.
"It does feel good to have someone you played against have that respect for you." -- Chris Durno
"I've had a lot of opportunities here. I feel like I have a good relationship with Dave here," Durno said. "It does feel good to have someone you played against have that respect for you."
So, if Durno knew he was cheap-shotting the man who would be responsible for his future employment, would he have stuck to coloring within the lines?
What do you think?
"No. No," Durno said. "Definitely not. If I laid off, I wouldn't be in this situation here."
Around the AHL --
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Chris Minard
is on a seven-game goal-scoring streak (10-1), setting a franchise mark. His 7 game-winning goals are one shy of the team record set last season by current Sound Tiger Kurtis McLean
, and he also has at least one point in each of his 14 road games this season (13-9). ... Lowell broke a franchise record for goals in a game in beating Providence 8-1 on Dec. 27. The five goals scored in the first period tied the club high. ... Binghamton's Denis Hamel
tied a franchise record with 11 shots on goal in the Sens' 3-2 win over Syracuse on Dec. 26; two nights later, against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton managed just 14 shots overall. ... Binghamton beat the Crunch on Dec. 26 and Dec. 30, scoring a total of eight goals overall. Seven of those goals came on the power play, while one was short-handed. ...The Sens' 4-1 win at Hershey on Dec. 27 was their first at Giant Center since Jan. 23, 2005, snapping a 16-game winless streak at the building. ... Steve Downie
has recorded eight points in the first three games of the Norfolk-Philadelphia season series this season: 4 assists in one game as a Phantom, and 3 goals and 1 assist in two games as an Admiral. ...The Marlies won three games last weekend using three different goalies: Adam Munro
, James Reimer
and Justin Pogge
. ... Syracuse scored 2 shorthanded goals against Hamilton on Dec. 27 after only recording one all year to that point. ... Defenseman Shawn Belle
had 3 points in 63 games for Houston last season; he's posted 9 in 32 games for Hamilton this year. ... Grand Rapids' Jamie Tardiff scored eight seconds into a game vs. Peoria on Dec. 30, the quickest goal to start a contest in Griffins history. ... Houston left for a season-high eight-game road trip on Dec. 31, which takes the Aeros to eight different cities in a 12-day span.