Those unfamiliar with the Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League may view fourth-line center Ryan Tesink
as nothing more than a player happy to be along for the ride.
"I'll give it to you right now … I'll call it," Saint John defenseman Nathan Beaulieu
said. "Ryan Tesink
is probably the most underrated player in the draft this year. He should be a second-round pick in my eyes. He's going to be a pro. He's got the heart of gold and he's a hometown kid."
So there you have it.
Beaulieu, who NHL Central Scouting rated fifth among North American skaters on its final ranking for the 2011 Entry Draft, isn't the only player from the team to feel this way.
"His tenacity is something that would inspire you to become a little grittier," No. 15-rated Zack Phillips
told NHL.com. "No matter who is in the corner, he's going in first. Even though he's small (5-foot-11, 157 pounds), he's going into every corner against the 6-foot-5 guy.
"He's not backing down from any challenges … he even fought guys bigger and heavier than him a couple of times this year. He gets hit a couple times, but takes it like a champ and gets right back up."
When told of compliments bestowed upon him by teammates, Tesink smiled.
"It means a lot coming from all those guys, for sure, because they're all great players," Tesink told NHL.com. "I think they say that because of my effort on and off the ice. I go at every shift 110 percent and am willing to take a few big hits, for sure. But they notice I get right back up and keep playing. Even if I had a few bumps and bruises, I was still going to go as hard as I could, all year long."
Tesink, No. 47 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its final ranking for the 2011 Entry Draft, did just that, and the Saint John faithful certainly approved.
When an estimated 10,000 fans flooded King's Square in downtown Saint John for the team's Memorial Cup championship victory parade May 31, Tesink was the focus of one of the more noticeable signs amidst the sea of blue and white colors.
"One sign out there said, 'Tesink for Mayor,'" he said. "I thought that was funny and the boys loved that one."
One of two Saint John, N.B., native rookie forwards on the roster -- along with Aidan Kelly
-- Tesink was the prototypical grinder who never quit. He had 8 goals and 35 points in 59 regular-season games and contributed 3 goals, 5 points and a plus-6 rating in 19 playoff games.
His finest moment came in Game 4 of the President's Cup Final against the Gatineau Olympiques when he ended the longest game in the history of the QMJHL championship series, connecting 19:16 into the second overtime of a 4-3 victory.
"I just love the game and anytime I have a chance to go on the ice I'm going to play as hard as I can," Tesink said. "It doesn't matter who I'm playing with. I'm going to work as hard as I can."
The fact Tesink was a rookie on a team full of talent -- seven players have been drafted and nine others are ranked among the top 124 skaters in North America for this year's draft -- left him little margin for error. He knew he had to push his body to the limit in the minimal ice time he received each game.
"I think I'm a great skater; I try to be the hardest worker, shift in and shift out," he said. "I wasn't a leader, but I tried to lead by example with the way I played. It obviously rubbed off on some of the boys because they liked my style."
Versatile forward Jonathan Huberdeau
, the highest-rated Sea Dog at No. 3 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters, was one of those admirers.
"He has a lot of talent, and improved so much since the beginning of season," Huberdeau told NHL.com. "When I played with him (on the same line), he made a lot of good passes. I think he's going to be a good player and whatever team drafts him, he'll be able to showcase those skills."
Prior to joining the Sea Dogs, Tesink skated for the Woodstock Slammers in the Maritime Junior 'A' Hockey League, scoring 29 points in 44 games. During the team's championship run to the Kent Cup, he had 4 goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games. But Tesink's coming-out party was at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, when he led Team Atlantic with 4 assists and 6 points in five games.
The Sea Dogs took notice and selected the 17-year-old workaholic in the first round (No. 18) of the 2010 QMJHL draft. He then made Saint John's managerial staff look like geniuses when he connected for 2 goals, 3 points and a plus-3 rating in his first QMJHL game, Sept. 10, 2010, in a 6-4 victory against the PEI Rocket.
"At the start of the year I had no clue that any of this would ever happen," he said. "I wasn't expecting to be listed (by NHL Central Scouting) or go to the (NHL Scouting Combine), especially in my first year of junior hockey. (Coach Gerard Gallant
) treated me very well all year, gave me opportunities when people were out or injured, and I ran with that. I tried to produce as much as I could."
Tesink considered it an honor to play alongside many of the finest 2011 draft-eligible prospects, including Huberdeau, Beaulieu, Phillips and No. 20 Tomas Jurco
"It was awesome to be part of it all," he said. "It got me some views because all the scouts came out to watch them. That's obviously in the back of my mind, even though I'm only playing four or five minutes (per game). There were a ton of scouts watching these guys, so if I can open a few eyes, even on only four shifts a game, I'm happy with that, for sure."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale