By Warren Kozireski —
During his junior year of college hockey at Canisius College, now Binghamton Devils forward and Buffalo native Ryan Schmelzer wrote on his WordPress hockey blog: “A lot of people think they have to pay a lot of money to get their kids on the best team and that is the only way you will get noticed. There are many different routes in achieving your goal. Wherever gets you the most ice time and opportunity to play should be the leading factor in this decision.”
Schmelzer has lived those words.
Coming out of the Amherst Knights and then Williamsville East and one season with the Wheatfield Blades (GOJHL), the soon-to-be 27-year old forward played three-plus seasons with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres where he was assistant captain in 2012-13 when he committed to Canisius and captain in his final year (2013-14).
He netted 40 goals and 96 points over four year with the Golden Griffins and again was assistant captain his junior year and captain during his senior campaign. Named Atlantic Hockey’s Best Defensive Forward in 2016-17, he was also twice named to the conference postseason All-Star teams in each of his final two campaigns.
After seven professional games with Adirondack after his collegiate career came to a close, Schmelzer was inked to a pro tryout contract with New Jersey for training camp in 2018-19 and made their AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
Playing largely on the third or fourth line, the 6’2”, 188 lb. center finished fifth on the team 14 goals and added ten assists in 66 games and was signed in July 2019 to a one-year American Hockey League contract.
Before the AHL season was suspended in March, Schmelzer had already matched last season’s point total with 24 and had gone from a -14 plus/minus in 2018-19 to a +9 this season. He was seeing time on both special teams as well.
And the stoppage couldn’t have come at a worst time as he was enjoying a career-best five-game point streak that included being named the AHL Player of the Week for the period ending March 8.
“Sometimes it just takes a little bit to get your feet wet and find what works for you and your game,” Schmelzer said. “Coaches have done a good job in giving me a role that I’ve stayed focused too and I just try to bring it every day.
“Power play is kind of new recently and just trying to get in front, get some screens and win some puck battles. Penalty kill has always been a part of my game.
“Part of my role is to play a 200-foot game and be hard in our own end, so that is definitely a focus and it helps that our team has been a little bit better this year. When everyone is playing well, things seem to go your way and so far, that’s the case.”
Ryan’s sister, Holly, just completed her sophomore year in Division III with once-beaten and top-ranked SUNY Plattsburgh.
If the pattern of his career holds fourth, Schmelzer should be wearing a letter on his jersey next season no matter where he ends up for his third full year as a pro, but he is just playing it year-by-year and looking for another contract.
“You’d like to have security, but you have to roll with whatever comes and take what’s best for you.”
If you are the superstitious type, you might believe that part of his success this season comes from switching back to the #26 he wore in college after being given #10 last season in Binghamton.
“I got a text this summer from the equipment staff saying that I would be wearing #26 this year. Ben Street’s number has been 10 throughout his career and he wanted to keep 10 and I was like, perfect. I didn’t say anything so they offered it to me and I figured, why not? It worked in college so hopefully we can continue that.”
Seems to be working.