Still Sinking in for Bruins' Local Draft Pick Ryan Fitzgerald
NEWARK, NJ - When Ryan Fitzgerald heard his name called by the Boston Bruins at the 2013 NHL Draft, he had a flood of emotions.
From growing up around Boston in North Reading, Mass., from running around the locker room as a kid when his dad, Tom, finished out his 17-season NHL career with the Bruins, from watching games and dreaming of one day wearing the spoked-B. He was also, just excited to be drafted.
"I think, every round, I was kind of holding my breath when the Bruins were picking," said Fitzgerald, a centerman who was chosen by the Bruins with their 120th overall pick in the fourth round.
"And finally they called my name, and it was definitely something special."
"I grew up with this. A lot of kids didn't have this growing up with a dad who played and the bloodlines I have, so honestly, to come to this day and be part of the Bruins' organization, is huge."
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward is committed to play at Boston College in the Fall. In addition to a lengthy NHL career, his father is currently an assistant general manager with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"He kind of kept that to himself. He was on the fence about whether to keep me informed or not," smiled Ryan, of his father, who sat up in the stands with him after being at Pittsburgh's draft table for the first round. "He kind of sat back and was just a dad throughout this whole process, so it was good."
His father's cousin, Keith Tkachuk, enjoyed quite the storied NHL career as well, and Ryan's uncle, Scott Fitzgerald, is the Bruins' Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting.
"Definitely seeing what they’ve done and being able to carry the torch here is definitely something big," said Ryan, of his hockey bloodlines. "They might have a little upper leg on me right now but hopefully I'll catch up one day."
I can only imagine the amount of family and friends both with him at the draft and back home in Boston who were beyond excited for the forward.
"Honestly, I can feel it right now going off," he joked of text messages coming through on his phone, as he sat in the interview area. "So I'll keep that off to the side for now and try and check up on that later."
One of those friends was most likely Matt Grzelcyk, a Boston University blueliner drafted by the B's last year in the 2012 draft.
"He’s one of my best friends, I grew up playing with him," Fitzgerald said of Grzelcyk. "I’ve been talking to him throughout this whole process about what to expect. To be in the same organization with him is something huge."
The centerman has been familiar with the Bruins' organization for years, but he's also been a fan for years, and has followed them closely. He lived through the roller coaster of the season with the Boston faithful.
"Just ups and downs of being a Boston fan and everything that happened this year with the Marathon and being a part of that, and being a part of that organization [now], it’s a dream," he said, as he spoke to Boston media for the first time in what is labeled the "gauntlet" of draft day.
It's a whirlwind for the draftees, being whisked down to meet management and the "powers that be" at the draft table and putting on the spoked-B, then signing autographs for nearby fans, being flooded with reporters' questions and putting their first autograph as a Boston Bruin to paper.
Having only been a Boston Bruin for about 10 minutes at the time, it wasn't quite yet sinking in for Fitzgerald.
"It really hasn't, to be honest with you," he said. "I'm still wow'ed by this whole process, so when I get back and have a moment to myself, it will sink in."
For those not familiar with the forward's style, he could be characterized as a playmaker, with a high compete level.
"We’ve had Ryan in and he tested well and he’s a good kid," said Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli.
"Pretty crafty kid. I think I'm a real smart player who makes a lot of good plays, and the type that gives a lot of assists, sets a lot of kids up and makes the kids around him better," said Fitzgerald, when I asked him to try and describe his style of play. "So, one of the kids who's just a playmaker on the ice."
"I play 200 feet of the ice," he also said. "Good utility guy who you can toss out there whenever you need something done."
Fitzgerald played at Malden Catholic in Massachusetts before taking his talents to the Valley Junior Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, where he put up 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) and 50 penalty minutes in 26 games during the 2012-13 season.
In April, he was named the recipient of the 2013 MIAA John Carlton Sportsmanship Award, which is awarded annually to an outstanding male and female student-athlete in an Eastern Massachusetts High School or Junior hockey. He was given the award during a Bruins' home game by General Manager Peter Chiarelli, who was shaking his hand once again on the draft floor.
"In the fourth round, we were really excited to get Ryan," Assistant GM Jim Benning said from the draft floor, of the forward who was ranked at No. 46 on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings of the top 2013 draft-eligible players.
"He’s a real smart hockey player. He plays hard. He competes hard. He’ll fit right into our culture, our competitiveness. I think he’s going to be a real good player for us."
The Bruins' culture is tough to define in just a few words, but fitting into this organization often entails a character player with a hard-nosed, two-way game, strong compete level and extreme drive to win.
"Definitely," said Fitzgerald, when I asked him if he could envision himself playing the Bruins' tough style one day.
"I've been known to have a little bit of a temper, so it's bit me in the butt a few times," he smiled.
"But that's one thing the Bruins liked about me, so I kind of had a feeling, that this might be the team to take me."