Ryan Fitzgerald Wins Prospects MVP in Front of NHL Dad
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In his role as assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tom Fitzgerald was on duty Saturday night, helping scout players at the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.
However, Fitzgerald also was on duty as father to one of the 38 2013 NHL Draft-eligible players on the ice, Team McClanahan center Ryan Fitzgerald.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It was a winning role on both ends, as Ryan had three assists and walked away with the game MVP trophy in Team McClanahan's 5-2 victory.
"I'm there working and being a dad," Tom Fitzgerald told NHL.com. "I'll put some notes down on all the other players but I won't do it for my own son. It's a hard situation [but] people have gone through it before me. … You just want him to feel good about himself and be confident in himself. We just saw him and he looked pretty happy, that's for sure, and that makes us happy."
The Fitzgerald family had nothing to not like about Ryan's game. He made a beautiful cross-ice feed to Hudson Fasching for an easy tap-in goal to open the scoring, and his clean faceoff win on an offensive-zone draw 6:06 into the second set up Seth Jones' goal that launched his team's three-goal outburst that blew the game open.
Ryan Fitzgerald capped his game with a nice drop pass that led to Dakota Mermis' third-period goal. He even picked up a pair of penalties, but neither led to a goal-against.
"Staying out East poses some questions on if I can play with the big boys out here," Ryan Fitzgerald said, "so this is a pretty big stepping stone for me. I think I did a good job."
Fitzgerald played for Malden (Mass.) Catholic High School last season, scoring 31 goals to help the team win the Division 1A championship, and he was named a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association all-star. Rather than test himself in the United States Hockey League prior to starting at Boston College in the fall of 2013, Fitzgerald opted to stay close to home this season and play for the Valley Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
"There's good competition there, and honestly I didn't want to move," Ryan said.
Tom Fitzgerald also liked the decision -- from a scouting and parenting standpoint.
"The path he's taken, going to Malden Catholic for three years, and it was really important for us as a family that he graduate from Malden Catholic. And that's what he wanted," Tom said. "And two, it was time for him to take another step to get ready for Boston College. … In the East, you play high-school hockey, you have a split season from Labor Day to mid-November. You practice maybe once a week, twice a week, and if you have a tournament you might have six games in a weekend. That's not the best way to get ready for college. [Playing for Valley] we get him home every night at 6 p.m. for dinner. He's working out with [strength coach] Mike Boyle."
All the hard work paid off Saturday.
"I went out there and played 110 percent," Ryan said. "I played to my strong suits and thought I played pretty well."
His coach Saturday, Rob McClanahan, was especially impressed with how Fitzgerald handled himself in the faceoff circle.
"Fitzy won a lot of faceoffs," he said. "Faceoffs are … it's an area that sometimes is overlooked. It's a key component to the game of hockey. The goal Seth scored was off the faceoff. That's a big part of the game. He was a big, big factor and had a great game."
Tom Fitzgerald agreed.
"That's what he can do, that's what he's capable of doing," he said. "To look that guy off and pass it backdoor, that's what he's capable of doing. It's a confidence thing with him. Use the things God gave you, your vision, your skill, and keep working at the other stuff. He has the capabilities to do that. It's trying to help him find consistency in that. Once you start being consistent, the confidence goes. As the game went on he had the puck a little more and he was confident."
Then Tom Fitzgerald took his scout hat off and put his dad hat on.
"At the end of the day," he said, "when you can see the smile on your son's face, that's the best part."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK