Season to remember for Stanton
St. Albert product patrols the blueline for Vancouver Canucks
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 06:00 am
Rexall Place – Skating in front of his biggest fans against the team he grew up idolizing while playing minor hockey in St. Albert was a dream come true for Ryan Stanton.
And topping off the memorable moment for the Vancouver Canucks’ defenceman was witnessing the final game of Ryan Smyth’s NHL career.
“It was an awesome experience and it was exciting to have family and friends at the game,” Stanton told the Gazette after the 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“It was pretty cool, especially with Smytty retiring tonight. He was one of my favourite players growing up. It was cool to see all his highlights and seeing how much respect the city of Edmonton has for him and what a good hockey town it is.”
It was game No. 63 of Stanton’s NHL career and he was the only Canuck on the plus side defensively at plus one during 17:56 minutes of ice time.
The former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider finished his first NHL season with a plus-five rating while recording one goal, 15 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Canucks.
“It’s definitely been an exciting experience to play my first full year in the NHL. I’ve had a good time. It’s a good group of guys and a great organization,” said Stanton, who was interviewed by Scott Oake on Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours show on Dec. 14 and played in the Heritage Classic at B.C. Place, a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on March 2.
The St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus admitted, however, that the season “had its ups and downs.”
“I had a good start and then ran into that injury,” said Stanton, who was shoved from behind into the end boards by Zenon Konopka in a Dec. 17 game against the Minnesota Wild and suffered a left ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup until Jan. 23.
“I’ve been trying to get used to the level of play and the calibre of players here. It’s almost a confidence thing. You get a lot of confidence playing and I have over 60 games now,” added the six-foot-two and 196-pound Canuck who wears No. 18.
“It feels good to get the first year under the belt and I just want to keep getting better and better every year.”
Stanton, 24, celebrated his first NHL goal on Oct. 17 against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sedin twins assisted on the third-period marker and Roberto Luongo posted his 63rd career shutout in the 3-0 win in Buffalo.
“It was exciting. The team was working down low like always and they kicked one out to the point kind of in the slot. I just came and sort of put a shot at the net and it went over (Ryan Miller’s) glove luckily enough and I was happy to get my first goal,” said Stanton, who logged 18:47 minutes of ice time in the win.
The Canucks claimed Stanton off waivers from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Sept. 30. He was unable to beat out defenceman Mike Kostka, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, for a depth role on the team.
“It was the first time I’ve ever switched organizations in my life. It was eye-opening but everybody welcomed me with open arms,” Stanton said. “This is another first class organization and I was happy to come here.”
Last summer he re-signed with the Blackhawks for two years ($550,000 per year, according to www.capgeek.com) after spending the last three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s farm team in the American Hockey League.
The undrafted Western Hockey League product of the Moose Jaw Warriors registered nine goals and 60 points in 224 games with the IceHogs and was honoured as the team’s most improved player in 2011 and their top defenceman the last two seasons.
His first NHL game was with Chicago on April 27 in St. Louis. He was plus-one, with one shot, one hit and a high sticking minor in 17:05 minutes of action in the 3-1 loss to the Blues.
In the NHL playoffs Stanton was a member of the Blackhawks’ Black Aces throughout the Stanley Cup run. He didn’t play in the playoffs but participated in the post-game festivities – which included hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup on the ice in Boston in his No. 55 Blackhawks’ jersey – and the team’s victory parade.
On Aug. 28 Stanton brought the Stanley Cup to St. Albert for a celebration with family, friends and fans at Meadowview Diamonds as his slowpitch team, the Brew Crew, played the Thirsty Beavers.
When asked what his proudest achievement of the season was with the Canucks, Stanton replied: “Just becoming a regular in the lineup. It’s not easy to make the NHL. There is tons and tons of hockey players all over the world trying to make the NHL and I’m lucky enough to be on one of the 30 NHL teams,” he said.
“Obviously I would like a little more success with the team and would love to be heading into the playoffs right now but unfortunately that didn't happen. However it’s been a whirlwind and I’m definitely happy to be here and excited to be in the NHL.”