- Hartford (AHL): 3 GP, 0-0-0, 11 SOG
- Vancouver (WHL): 70 GP, 61-23-84, 339 SOG
- Vancouver (WHL Playoffs): 7 GP, 1-6-7, 33 SOG
Forward Ty Ronning was presented with a challenge after last fall's training camp.
"I know he was disappointed not to stick in Hartford after camp this year," said Jed Ortmeyer, the organization's Director of Player Development, of Ronning. "We kind of challenged him to go back and prove us wrong. Go back and be the man and put up some ridiculous numbers and he did that."
Did he ever.
The 2016 seventh-round selection set a new franchise record for the Giants with 61 goals - up from last season's 25 - in 70 games, good enough for second overall in the Western Hockey League. He improved his plus-minus to plus-12, up from a minus-20 and finished with 339 shots on goal, also good enough for second in the league.
"I think it was really believing in myself," Ronning said. "I had a lot of chances last year and I think this year I really bared down and executed and put them in the net."
Video: Rising Rangers: Ty Ronning
A goal for Ronning in returning to the Pacific Northwest was to get back to the WHL playoffs, something he hadn't done since his rookie season in 2013-14. He and his teammates did just that, and although they were defeated by Victoria in Game 7, the accomplishment was still a special one for the career-long Giant.
"It was very important," Ronning said when asked about getting back to the postseason. "Just the excitement and to get into that playoff feel. Unfortunately, we came off Game 7 with the loss and we're out now, but overall, it was a successful year as a team."
The loss put a cap on his junior career that saw the 20-year-old finish with 127 goals and 91 assists for 218 points in 285 games over five seasons.
The winger signed his entry-level contract with the Rangers in March, and reported to Hartford (AHL) for the final three games of the season, which he said he wanted to do as a refresher of what lies ahead for him as he turns pro next season.
"Getting back to that feel of how high-paced the game is here in pro hockey," Ronning said after a recent practice with his Hartford teammates. "You've got like one second to make a play and I love that. I love the competition. I'm ready for the challenge and I felt it was very - I feel comfortable where I am right now [in Hartford] and I just have to keep going and keep working and good things will happen."
Ronning's impact in Vancouver extended beyond the rink, as he volunteered his time at the Vancouver Giants Hockey School and the organization's Read to Succeed Initiative, among other charitable endeavors that led him to be named the WHL's Western Conference Humanitarian of the Year.
"That is a huge honor," Ronning said. "That's great stuff. The way I look at it is I just try and be a good person. To be acknowledged for that, it's awesome. I just have to keep being a good guy."
Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton has often used the word "character" as a trait he and his staff will focus on in reshaping the roster in New York. Possibly no one personifies that more than Ronning.
"He's everything that you want in a teammate, in an athlete," Ortmeyer said. "He comes to work every day. It's obvious, but he's good in the room. He's upbeat and he provides energy. He pushes other guys, he forces other guys to work because if they don't, [Ronning's] going to pass them by.
"I think he's honest about it and he says and does all the right things," Ortmeyer continued. "I don't think you can ask for a better quality of individual."
With his junior career behind him and his pro one awaiting, Ronning said the plan is for a summer split between coasts and countries as he prepares for what will be an important training camp for him as he looks to impress management and a new coaching staff in New York.
"I think it boils down to working your butt off and enjoying the moment and trusting the process and really working with it," he said. "Nothing comes easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it as everybody says. I just have to keep working and enjoy the moment."
Ortmeyer and company presented the challenge last fall. Now, he's confident Ronning's play and work ethic will show everyone what kind of player the Rangers have.
"He knows what it takes to be a professional hockey player and he wants so badly to be a professional hockey player that he's going to do whatever he can to make sure he is one."