By Dan Hickling
Special to newyorkrangers.comRyan Callahan
, the most recent 2004 draft pick to sign with the Rangers organization, didn't have to wait long for his first taste of pro hockey. Just hours after signing his first NHL on May 10, Callahan joined the Hartford Wolf Pack for the balance of their Calder Cup series against Portland.
Signing with an NHL team was a moment that Callahan, a high-scoring right wing selected 127th overall in the 2004 Entry Draft, has dreamt about ever since he was a "squirt" growing up in Hilton, N.Y.
"It's exciting," Callahan said following his first practice with the Wolf Pack. "Just coming into this atmosphere at playoff time. It's exciting to join the team like this. I had some butterflies, but I knew some of the guys from camp, and they've all been great to me."
Callahan had a strong camp, and had originally earned a spot on the Pack's opening day roster before being returned the Guelph Storm for his fourth OHL season and second as team captain.
He finished the 2005-06 season with a flourish, too, potting 52 goals and 32 assists to lead the Storm in scoring. He also established a new Storm regular season mark for goal scoring, topping out at 130.
Along the way, Callahan earned recognition from the OHL's coaches for his intelligence, touch around the net, and commitment to defense.
One of his Guelph teammates in 2004-05 was Hartford defenseman Daniel Girardi, who spent this past season with the Wolf Pack.
Girardi said that Callahan brings a lot of energy to rink, to go with a wealth of puck sense.
"He's a feisty player," said Girardi. "He's a hard worker and can put the puck in the net. He's a real good player."
Callahan said his additional year with Guelph proved to be beneficial.
"I had a good season at Guelph," he said, "so I'm happy to have ended that on a high note."
Although he practiced with the Pack, Callahan did not play in either of the team's last two playoff games at Portland. But just being in that atmosphere was a valuable experience.
"It's hard getting a guy in during the middle of a series," said Hartford coach and general manager Jim Schoenfeld. "Ryan has been off the ice for over a week. We're just going to start working him day to day."
Schoenfeld said that if Hartford had advanced into the conference finals, Callahan might have played in at least one game.
Of course if it was up to him, Callahan would have jumped right into the Hartford lineup. But he was content to wait his turn.
"I'd like to get in," he said. "When the time comes, I'll be ready."