It was an “absolute honour” for Ryley Risling to be named the Vees on Vees Most Popular Player.
It was one of two awards Risling claimed on Feb. 19, while he was also named Most Improved. It felt good for Risling knowing the players in the dressing room like him, especially enough to give him that award.
“The tough times you can kind of loosen up the situations, maybe say something and get the guys mind off of things day in and day out,” said Risling, a Medicine Hat native. “I’m really proud of it. I’m so thankful my teammates thought of me for that award. I could do nothing but smile when I got it.”
“He’s got a great attitude. The guys obviously embrace him,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson.
Risling likes to joke around and keep things light. When it comes to game time, he isn’t shy to voice his opinion to get his teammates going. Away from the rink, he likes to have a good time with them.
He was selected by the coaching staff as most improved because Harbinson said the Robert Morris University commit elevated his game. Harbinson said Risling is a big part of the Vees, who rank 17th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. Harbinson pointed out in January that when Risling sat out during a four-game suspension, the team struggled without him.
“At the beginning of the year there was a lot of things that needed to change in his game to be effective day in and day out,” said Harbinson. “The one thing Ryley has done is he has taken the constructive criticism, the coaching and has applied it to his game. He does whatever we tell him to do now. He competes really hard. He brings a lot of energy and excitement and he’s a very good teammate sticking up for guys. He plays a well rounded game for us.”
Every shift Risling makes a point of using his six-foot-three, 190-pound frame to play physically. Risling averaged nearly a point-per-game in midget then .64 points-per-game in the AJHL with the Canmore Eagles according to www.eliteprospects.com.
With the Vees he is averaging .50 points-per-game. Risling had a brief nine-game stint in the USHL with Waterloo, where he scored once before returning to Canmore. Risling said while he wasn’t that bad in the defensive zone, he knows that side of his game could have been better. Since coming to the Vees he feels he has become a better player at both ends of the ice.
“To move on to the next level, I think the way I’m playing now and the way they have me playing here, is the way I’m going to be successful in my hockey career,” he said.
The tough part of getting there he said had to do with his mindset. It required shifting from scoring to shutting down the opposition. Risling added that teams need guys that can score, but players with a physical presence who can be shutdown guys are also needed.
“I think that is the biggest change in it,” he said. “By far for me, this year hockey has been my most improved hockey.”
Now he’s focused on helping the Vees win the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup.
“I think we have the tools to do it,” he said.
Vees notes: Forward Taylor Sanheim has been out with an injury and it is unknown when he will be back. More information on his health would be known after the weekend. Joey Leahy and Mitch Meek are also out, but are expected to be ready for the playoffs. Sam Rossini, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament, has been skating at home at Inver Grove Heights, Minn. and working out with the University of Minnesota, where he has a scholarship, will be ready if the Vees play in the league final. Harbinson said he will rejoin the team on March 15. Mat Robson, Grant Cruikshank and Harbinson have been nominated as finalists for the BCHL’s annual awards, as voted by league coaches. Robson is up for the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as MVP, Cruikshank, the Bon Fenton Trophy as Most Sportsmanlike Player and Harbinson the Joe Tennant Memorial Trophy as coach of the year.
Follow Emanuel Sequeira on Twitter @pentictonsports