January 22, 2015

Losing & Kanata Days In the Rear-view, Van Stralen Re-embraces Winning

For the first time since 2012, the Ottawa 67’s and Ryan Van Stralen are gearing up for their imminent berths in the playoffs.  This time, however, they aren’t in it together.

As the OHL team that selected Van Stralen in 2009 finally seems to be on the right path, the Prescott native is just a Canal skate away, playing for a loaded 16-5-0 Carleton Ravens team.

“One of the reasons I joined Carleton was I knew they'd be strong with an opportunity to win, and we've proven ourselves as a competitor,” said Van Stralen on being on a successful squad once again.

“I'm not saying the last two years in Ottawa weren't fun, but it can take a toll on you not making the playoffs twice in a row.  It was frustrating, and it's more enjoyable here.”

Sitting pretty as the second-best team in the OUA’s East Division, the rugged winger will go into this year’s postseason in a much more prominent role than the third line, checking-unit rookie OHLer he was last time he made a playoff appearance.

His six goals in 21 games don’t jump off the page at you, but his willingness to work in front of the net and be dominant on and around the goal line -- evident especially in his last year with the 67’s -- has landed him some powerplay time.

Van Stralen, who has appeared in all 21 of Carleton’s games to this point, is learning the new style of game on the fly.

“Here the game is really fast.  The size is different too, a big difference between playing against 16-year old players and now against 24-year old players,” says Van Stralen on playing in a league where his large 6’3 frame isn’t towering over a majority of opponents anymore.

“Maturity in the physical aspect is definitely noticeable.”

Maturity off the ice is equally as important, leaving a shortened workload in Junior to taking a full set of university classes.

“We have personnel to come help us, Carleton's really good with that and it makes the transition easier,” adds the 21-year old, who hasn’t yet declared his major, but wants to major in criminology next year.

“It's not as hard as I thought it'd be.  There are days where you don't want to go to class, it's all up to you.  You really have to be devoted some days.  Some days are fun, some days are tough.”

From the moment he committed to playing in the CIS in May of 2014, Van Stralen’s career has been a busy one.

Staying local, he was invited to Senators rookie camp in early July. 

Two months later, he joined the Chicago Blackhawks at the rookie tournament in London, playing on a line with first-round pick Phillip Danault and scoring two goals in a game against Toronto’s rookies.

“From that you just take the pro atmosphere and how they handle themselves every day” adds Van Stralen.  “It’s really something you need to see if you want to go pro someday.”

Between pro camps, classes and being an everyday player in the CIS, the past eight months have been some of the most occupied of his career, although it’s likely a welcome change from a break on the sidelines that preceded it.

Unlike most 20-year olds on bubble teams in the OHL, Van Stralen wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline.  When the Oshawa Generals claimed overager Alex Lepkowski, a potential trade for Ottawa’s long-time power forward was nixed.

The end of the 2013-14 season, an embarrassing 12-1 loss on the final day of the season to take them out of playoff contention, was that much more painful for the overaged players that stuck with the club.

Philippe Trudeau – who recently joined the CIS route as well when he signed with St. Thomas University – was in goal for nine markers against, while Van Stralen scored the lone goal in his final OHL game, a bittersweet tally that never had a chance to impact the final outcome.

Van Stralen makes it clear he doesn’t miss losing with the 67’s, but he still can’t help but feel a connection with his former squad.

“I haven't watched a lot, maybe three or four games, but they're playing well this year, their home record speaks for itself.”
Once playoff time does roll around, he may be one of many that comes back to Lansdowne and hops back on the 67’s wagon.

No comments: