Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Derek Ryan

When you play in the bottom six forward group, it’s often hard work for not a ton of glory. In his second season with the Calgary Flames, center Derek Ryan toiled in the bottom six and played with a bunch of different players.

While he didn’t rack up a ton of points, he was quietly effective.

2019-20 season summary

(Data courtesy Natural Stat Trick.)

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Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZF% PDO
68 10 19 29 14:32 49.07 -1.15 43.7 1.027

The Washington State product suited up for his ninth pro season – fifth in North America – in 2019-20. Like the rest of the Flames, he took a step back offensively from the prior season. Aside from a pair of games missed via illness, he was a regular presence in the lineup.

Ryan spent most of the season centering the third line: he played the bulk of the year with Milan Lucic on one wing and one of Dillon Dube, Sam Bennett or Johnny Gaudreau on the other. His other most-common linemates were Andrew Mangiapane and Alan Quine, in combination with Bennett on a fourth line unit. He also played on the second penalty killing unit and had spot power play duty.

Ryan’s usage saw him get a lot of defensive zone starts and linemates that were the leftovers from the top six. But he largely overcame these obstacles, and his grouping with Dube and Lucic was easily the team’s most consistent unit from when they were put together in mid-November until the pandemic pause. That consistency allowed the Flames coaching staff to tinker elsewhere, because they always had a safety net. That’s everything you hope to get out of your third line.

In the post-season Ryan was demoted to the fourth line in favour of Bennett, and he did his job as he always does: quietly, calmly, and effectively. He did his level best to elevate combinations of Zac Rinaldo, Mark Jankowski and Tobias Rieder to playoff effectiveness – you can’t help but hope he gets a little bit more to work with in the future.

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Compared to last season

Ryan scored fewer goals than he did in 2018-19 – 10, compared to 13 – and had fewer points – 29, compared to 38 – but he was actually a little bit better at generating offense at even strength. The big knock was his personal shooting percentage dipped by almost 3.5 per cent. (He shot below his career average, in fact.) His PDO was among the best on the team, though, suggesting that his linemates tended to bury their chances.

Even with the percentages dipping, Ryan was among the team’s most efficient players. On a per-60 minute basis, only five regulars (Mangiapane, Tkachuk, Lindholm, Backlund and Gaudreau) generated more five-on-five points.

What about next season?

Ryan is heading into his third and final season of his current deal with the Flames. He turns 34 at the end of December and currently carries a $3.125 million cap hit. Reportedly he’s interested in sticking around, but much of that might depend on the economics of things – the cap is going to be flat for awhile and the Flames might not have the ability to pay a third or fourth line center as much as Ryan would desire. Ryan’s age, despite his relative lack of tough mileage due to his unique career path, may also be an impediment to signing long-term in Calgary again – the club may wish to open up spots for their prospects to create a “push from below” and some energy in their lineup.

Long-term, Ryan might not be long for the Flames, but he’s built up a reputation as a valued player within the Flames room and the type of guy that can play in tough situations with some of the team’s lesser lights and make the best of it. He may be called upon in 2020-21 to do something a bit odd: mentor his own potential replacement in the form of Glenn Gawdin, who impressed in Stockton in 2019-20 doing many of the things that make Ryan such a valued NHLer.

2020 Player Evaluations

Mark Giordano | Sean Monahan | Sam Bennett | Johnny Gaudreau | Elias Lindholm | Dillon Dube | Milan Lucic | Rasmus Andersson | Andrew Mangiapane | Cam Talbot | David Rittich | Noah Hanifin | Matthew Tkachuk