It’s well known among hockey fans that it’s important to have balance throughout all four lines on your team. For the San Jose Sharks, their fourth line got a big boost on March 15 when Patrick Rissmiller was recalled from the Cleveland Barons, San Jose’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.
At the time of his promotion, Rissmiller led the Barons in assists (37), was second in points (52) and fourth in goals (17). He had also appeared in his first AHL All-Star Game, the only Baron to do so in 2005-06.
“He’s got a real good sense for the details of the game, offensively and defensively and that’s from great coaching in the minors,” said Sharks Assistant Coach Tim Hunter. “He’s put his time in and has more speed than a lot of people realize. He uses it to forecheck and protect the puck heading up the ice. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with his overall game.”
Rissmiller, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound center has come a long way. The Belmont, Mass. native spent the better part of four seasons in the minors before cracking the lineup in San Jose. He hasn’t sat since.
“He’s been doing a great job,” said linemate and center Mark Smith. “I’ve been playing with him pretty much since he’s gotten here. He’s a big tall player who really uses his reach in the corners holding guys off. I think as he comes into his frame a little more, he’ll be real deadly down low.”
Rissmiller was not considered a standout player when playing at Holy Cross and when the 2003 NHL Entry Draft came and went, the center didn’t find his name on the draft board. He did catch the eye of Sharks scouts, however, and on June 30, 2003, the team signed him as a free agent. Now, nearly four years later, Rissmiller is playing some of the best hockey in his career. And what better time to do it than now in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” said Rissmiller. “At first it was kind of day-to-day. The whole concept of being where I’m at now is fun. Sometimes I think it’s a little crazy, but I’m having a blast.”
In 18 games for the Sharks this season, Rissmiller registered three goals and three assists while playing the majority of the time with Smith and Marcel Goc. There’s no doubt that he has made remarkable strides in his game to be able to compete in the NHL.
“Coming in I wasn’t too sound defensively,” said Rissmiller. “It’s been something I’ve tried to work on over the years and I just try to keep it as simple as I can here. I try to grind it out down low with ‘Smitty’ and Goc or whoever’s on our line. We’ve been pretty successful by keeping it as basic as we can.”
“I think the biggest thing is he has learned from coming here,” said Barons Head Coach Roy Sommer. “Sometimes you wondered if he was getting it, but his defensive game has greatly improved over the four years. He was a minus player and now he’s turned himself into a plus player. He gets pucks out on the walls and gets pucks in. Something he didn’t do a lot down in Cleveland was finish checks, but he’s brought that into his game up here and it’s allowed him to stay in the lineup.”
Hunter and the coaching staff use Rissmiller’s line when they need a spark on the ice. They have even played so well together as a unit that they have earned power play time in the playoffs. How have they responded with that? By scoring two goals, one by Rissmiller.
“We’re always looking for four lines to throw over the boards to get the job done at both ends of the rink, and “Smitty”, Marcel and “Riss” have seemed to have gotten the job done,” said Hunter. “They give us good momentum shifts. In the middle part of our series with Nashville they did a good job of getting the job done, getting the pucks deep, cycling and giving us momentum when they were on the ice.”
Rissmiller enjoys playing with Smith and Goc and hopes to continue to provide opportunities for the Sharks to win in the second round.
“I think we’re on the same page, trying to keep it real simple,” said Rissmiller. “We can all make plays. We have confidence in ourselves and each other. It’s just the position we’re in. We want to make sure the puck stays out of our net and focus on keeping the puck in their end. Things have gone well for us and we’ve been pretty successful. I’m sure they’re as happy as I am to contribute in any way we can.”
With the second round quickly approaching and hopefully two rounds to follow, Sharks fans won’t have to worry about their fourth line. They are providing the type of play that any NHL team would be fortunate to have.
“This is nice,” said Rissmiller. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be. Being in this position, playing this late in the season, is probably something I didn’t think too much about. It was really more that I wanted to be here and I wanted to be playing everyday. Now we’re in the playoffs and it’s just the icing on the cake.”