Osprey captain reflects on breakout year
Bay Roberts’ Ryan Dawson is known for his flashy puck handling ability.
He has a penchant for making defenders miss with his vast arsenal of puck wizardry that includes toe drags, shoulder shimmies and spino-ramas.
Watch the Tri Pen Osprey of the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League and you’ll see Dawson darting in and out of space with the puck, looking to put it in the net or set up a teammate with a pinpoint pass.
“That comes from hours and hours in the driveway shooting and handling the puck,” he said in a recent interview.
While his ability to handle the puck is what jumps out at you, there is a subtle part of the 17-year-old’s game observers don’t initially notice.
That is his ability to protect himself.
Standing at just five-foot-eightinches, Dawson is not the tallest player on the ice, but he has no second thoughts about mixing it up in the corners with defenders who have two or three inches on him. Why is that? It is because of his uncanny ability to protect himself and the puck.
“It is something I started developing my first year in midget,” said Dawson. “The players were bigger and I needed something.”
How he does it is simple. Dawson will see his defendor coming and instead of being hit, he initiates the contact.
A low centre of gravity allows Dawson to maintain his balance after the initial contact and throw his opponent off balance.
“They think I am not looking and then I lower the shoulder,” he said. “I like to initiate the contact.”
Dawson has also looked to the professional ranks for inspiration. Players like Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane, who is five-foot-11inches, have provided him with an idea of how to better protect himself.
“I like to do the button hook,” said Dawson, the son of Kelly and Annette Dawson. “I speed down the boards and then jam the breaks on. The defenceman can’t keep up.”
Always known as a scorer, Dawson has had a strong season so far when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
The young athlete is second on the Osprey’s roster with 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 16 games. That is up from the previous season where he tallied 17 points in 23 contests.
Dawson got off to a slow start offensively, notching only two points in the team’s first four games, but he got things going after that, tallying 22 points over his next 12.
In that span, he is averaging close to two points a game and has made it on the score sheet in nine games.
“My line is really coming together,” said Dawson.
Lyndon Thorne (20 points) and Cameron Simms (14 points) have been excellent foils for Dawson’s offensive abilities.
“We work well together,” he said.
Growing into a captain
Dawson serves as the captain for Tri Pen and has done so for the last two seasons. It is a role he takes great pride in.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Dawson, reflecting on when he was named captain at the start of last season. “I thought maybe an assistant captain or something like that, but not captain.”
He took the promotion in stride and led the team as best he could, learning as the season progressed.
“I was looking to learn from someone last year,” said Dawson.
That is not the case this year, where he has become the captain then-coach Byron Vatcher envisioned.
“I’m a lot more comfortable in the league and I know what it takes to win,” said Dawson.
This season Dawson has watched his team come together and the results are showing. Heading into last weekend, the Osprey were first in the five-team league with 24 points.
He sees it as a result of the team and players coming together off and on the ice.
“Everyone is more confident and comfortable in the league,” said Dawson.
His parents make a habit of recording most of Dawson’s games, either on a handy Go-Pro camera or a digital recorder.
It makes for a handy learning tool where he can watch the tape and learn from the mistakes he made during any particular game.
Dawson has a library of games from which to pull information from.
Tri Pen Osprey captain Ryan Dawson has an impressive ability with the puck.
Tri Pen Osprey captain Ryan Dawson.