Written by Stuart Miller-Davis, Carleton Sports Information
Photo by Marc Lafleur
WICHITA, KANSAS — Carleton men’s hockey forward Ryan Van Stralen (Prescott, ON) has found a new home in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with the Wichita Thunder.
After playing his final game in the red and black of a Ravens sweater on February 18, Van Stralen quickly turned around and 10 days later found himself in the lineup for the Thunder on February 28, where he scored his first professional hockey goal.
“Pretty fortunate to get my first goal out of the way and be able to start building some confidence,” Van Stralen said in a phone interview. “It helped a lot to get here and get my feet wet as soon as I could.”
Wichita’s head coach, Malcom Cameron, a former U SPORTS hockey player with Dalhousie, said it was one of his players who alerted him to Carleton’s 6-foot-3, 207-pound winger.
“Once I initially heard about him, I contacted his former coach, Marty Johnston to get a good read on him and thought he’d be a good fit,” Cameron said over the phone.
“We brought him in with the notion we were going to give him an opportunity to be successful and so we put him with our top players. We thought he complimented them really well,” Cameron said of Van Stralen.
The player, Etienne Boutet, a former member of the McGill Redmen, played with Van Stralen on Team Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Kazakhstan. The team won a bronze medal in what Van Stralen called “hands down one of the coolest experiences.”
“That’s definitely the thing I will most cherish. I think that if you put on a Canadian jersey and play for Canada, it’s something really special,” Van Stralen said. “I have to give my teammates some credit, it is a team game and you can never do it alone. I was fortunate to play there with some special players.”
The Prescott, ON native said it was an opportunity he never would’ve had without attending Carleton.
“It’s been an amazing four years,” he said of his time with the Ravens. “I played with some special people and met some amazing friends.”
Van Stralen’s 48 goals in his OUA career put him fourth all-time in Ravens history. He also amassed 45 assists and 226 penalty minutes in 97 career games.
His focus now turns to the Thunder and working hard to get to the highest level he can.
“I think every hockey player wants to progress as far as they can and keep developing. I don’t think anyone is ever satisfied when you’re playing hockey,” Van Stralen said. “The plan is to work hard here and contribute as much as I can. It’s my first time in professional hockey and I’m just trying to become better each day and become more of a professional.”
Cameron said that he didn’t have a chance to see him play before the Thunder’s 5-3 loss against the Fort Wayne Comets in Van Stralen’s first game but said he brings a lot to their lineup.
“He brings some size, he’s a good skater and he’s got some pretty good hands. So, whenever you get a big player that can move like him, has a pretty good shot and has a nose for the net, it’s real bonus.”
Van Stralen said the biggest difference between university hockey and the ECHL is possession time.
“They are quicker on you when you have the puck so, your decision making has to be a lot faster and is much more important. When you get puck, it’s quick movement, give-and-go’s and quick decisions,” the former Ottawa 67’s assistant captain said about the league’s style of play.
Cameron echoed that the game is much faster and added that guys are much stronger, a style he thinks will suit Van Stralen.
“At our level we have guys who have played NHL games and lots of American league games so, their games are more polished. When you can get a guy like Ryan who’s got that package, physically they’re able to handle that transition better than a smaller player.”