Former Brandon Wheat King Ryan Reaves has filled a physical role for the league-leading St. Louis Blues this season. (FILE PHOTO)
Ryan Reaves picked a good time to find full-time work with the St. Louis Blues.
With 12 games left in the regular season, the Blues are leading the National Hockey League with a 45-18-7 record and already have more points than they’ve posted in any full season since 2002-03.
Considering the Blues fired head coach Davis Payne after winning only six of their first 13 games this season and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock, the team’s success has been remarkable, particularly for a club that has only made the playoffs once since the 2004-05 lockout.
"It’s been buzzing," Reaves, a former Brandon Wheat King, said of the atmosphere around the team. "Our fans have been great this year. We’ve had, I don’t know how many sellouts, but a lot of sellouts this year and it’s been really good. I think the fans are getting pretty excited for the playoffs coming up here as we make this run."
While the Blues are reaching new heights this season, with a chance to match their franchise record of 114 points set in 1999-2000, Reaves’ hockey career has also taken off this season.
After playing his first 28 NHL games in 2010-11, the
6-foot-1, 229-pound winger has stuck in St. Louis all season, carving out his niche as a tough customer willing to do the dirty work to help the team win. The club rewarded his contributions by signing him to a two-year contract extension worth $600,000 per season.
"When I first got called up last year I was a little iffy breaking into the league, having to fight tougher guys and I just kinda grew confident with every fight, every game," he said. "I’ll have a good game and confidence grows and I signed that contract and I think that just kinda shows that (the Blues) have the confidence in me to play."
They just don’t play him all that much right now. He has only seen more than 10 minutes of ice time in one game this season and occasionally plays less than five.
Through 51 games, he has produced two goals and an assist to go along with 104 penalty minutes, and although he has never been a big scorer, he believes there’s still room to grow in that side of his game.
"I get a lot of scoring chances," he said. "I haven’t been getting the bounces that I want to get some points, but I’ve been creating a lot of offence by playing physical. I think that opens the room for me. But obviously, I’ve got to work on some offensive stuff to try and put some points on the board."
The son of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers star running back Willard Reaves, Ryan Reaves gave up football as a teenager to focus on hockey — a decision validated by his emergence as an NHL regular.
Certainly hockey has taken Reaves places he never considered possible, including back to his hometown for the first time as an NHLer when he suited up for the Blues in a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets last month at the MTS Centre.
"That crowd was crazy there," said Reaves, whose younger brother Jordan currently plays for the Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team. "It was one of the better crowds we’ve (played in front of) this season on the road and it was fun playing in front of a lot of friends and family. My old billets came out from Brandon and watched the game, so it was good to see everybody and obviously a fun building to play in."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 13, 2012