Checking in at number 13 is another prospect that may have slipped your mind with the onslaught of new shiny, swedish defenders: Ryan Culkin. After a very promising start to his first year as a pro Culkin suffered an R rated injury to his wrist that required surgery, ending his season.
Culkin appeared as Black Ace during the playoff run (whoa, that feels cool to write) but was simply focusing on rehabbing his wrist. As with Agostino yesterday, here is a prospect who will be trying to build on the progress of last season.
WHO IS HE?
Ryan Culkin was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 entry draft, and was considered to be a smart, skilled puck mover projected in the third or fourth round heading into the draft. During his time in Junior, Culkin played for the Quebec Ramparts for the majority of his career and finished with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in 2013-14.
Culkin consistently put up points in his junior career, leading Quebec in scoring among defenders during the 2012-13 season as an 18 year old. The next season, Culkin was named captain of the Ramparts put up 44 points in 65 games between Drummondville and Quebec.
Last season, Culkin turned in a miserable preseason and looked completely out of his depth among NHL regulars. It seemed as though Brett Kulak and others had firmly supplanted him in the pecking order of Flames dmen. However, Culkin turned pro with Adirondack and got off to a fantastic start for the baby Flames.
Ryan Culkin-CGY having a solid rookie pro year (7 of their AHL team’s top 10 scorers rookies). Gets an apple off a hard slapper tonight.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) December 11, 2014
Culkin was on a tear during the first few months of the season and put up 18 points in his first 37 professional games. Culkin ended up leading the baby Flames in scoring among rookie defenceman which is to say he outscored John Ramage as he was the only other AHL Flames rookie who played a significant amount of games.
However, Culkin’s 2014-15 season ended abruptly and in a grisly fashion on February 6th. Culkin’s left wrist was gashed by an opponent’s skate during a 4-2 loss to the Utica Comets. Culkin suffered tendon damage and had to have his wrist surgically repaired days after the injury.
Culkin recalled the injury during an interview with the Herald’s Scott Cruickshank:
“I could see blood, my veins — I saw everything,” said Culkin, adding that his parents, sister, aunt and uncle happened to be in the stands. “One of the grossest things I’ve ever seen. I knew right then it was bad. An unpleasant memory.
If it wasn’t for that injury, Culkin may have merited a call up to the big club last season but instead, Culkin was relegated to rehab and the press box. A truly disappointing end to a promising season.
WHAT KIND OF PLAYER IS HE?
Culkin’s lone AHL goal is in this strangely silent highlight package. Bonus footage of Ferland scoring and Sven being hit as well!
It seems as though Culkin is a smart dman and a good puck mover who can reliably put up points so long as he stays healthy. However, at every stage of his career there have been questions about his strength, an issue that Culkin is adamant that he is working on.
This is a pretty important year for Culkin as with a new crop of freshly drafted defencemen entering the organization this year, if Culkin is going to have any sort of NHL future, he will have to play very well at the AHL level this year and out-play other dmen like Kulak, Wotherspoon, Morrison, and Nakladal for a chance at some NHL playing time.
I took a look at his output in a very small sample compared to some of his teammates in Adirondack last season and here’s what it looked like:
As you can see, Culkin’s sample wasn’t very large so it is hard to say anything really intelligent about his numbers last season, only that he was producing a good number of shots per game for a first year pro before his injury. Oh, and Nolan Yonkman isn’t very good.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT HIM?
This Drummondville sweater is insanely badass.
Our own intrepid Ryan Pike garnered this quote from Adirondack head coach Ryan Huska about Culkin earlier this year:
I think his overall play and I think once he, as you mentioned, at the beginning of the year, tough again… he was trying to find his way. He managed to put together a number of games back-to-back-to-back where he played really, really well for us, to the point where we put him with Corey Potter as the top pairing that we used against the best lines, and he still had some power play time and he was still killing penalties. So he was probably at the higher end of the minutes-played for our defensemen most nights, and he became a guy that we trusted in all situations. So he was having a great year and I would be willing to be that if the unfortunate injury didn’t happen, he would’ve seen games with the Flames this year for sure.