Ryan MacInnis says he never sensed pressure to go back on the blueline, where his father Al built a Hall of Fame career over 23 seasons in the NHL.
From the outset, the 17-year-old who now plays for the same Kitchener Rangers franchise where Al MacInnis made strides toward The Show felt at home as a centre. At At 6-foot-3½ and 185 pounds, the younger MacInnis is projected to be a rangy, two-way centre who can make everyone around him better. The St. Louis native whom NHL Central Scouting sees as a >second or third-round NHL pick has been dropping hints of a potential breakout. Last weekend, he had his first three-assist game for the Rangers.
"When I was little, he [Al MacInnis] just let me choose whatever position I wanted," says Ryan, who joined the Rangers after a season with the U.S. under-17 team in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Centre is just the most fun. You get to go all over the place.
"His [father's] advice is just keep working. Make every shift your best ... I'm starting to get more comfortable, getting used to the game. Hopefully it will keep on seeming slower."
MacInnis has two goals and seven points through 17 games for Kitchener, whose young nucleus might struggle to score collectively on many nights. That might tamp down his final numbers, but he will bear watching over the run of a full season. Kitchener has produced some intriguing post-first round picks over the years, with Buffalo Sabres selection Justin Bailey serving as the most recent example.
Rangers coach Troy Smith is willing to mention MacInnis in the same breath with a NHL veteran who came through the OHL.
"The last few games in particular Ryan's starting to move his feet more and create some offensive opportunities.
"He's kind of like a Stephen Weiss [who played his junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers]," Smith says. "He's a very smart player. He's able to distribute the puck very well. I think he's going to be a good two-way centre. A guy who can put up points but also play in the last minute [of tight games]."
1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?
"I like to watch Jamie Benn and Anze Kopitar. They're just big centres. They're both good defensively. Jamie Benn's a tough guy. Anze Kopitar's a great goal scorer."
2. When you were growing up among NHLers, was there anyone you're grateful to for giving you a lot of advice?
"Erik Johnston lived with us for a year, a year and a half in St. Louis and he gave me a lot of tips. I was a little sad when he moved to Colorado."
3. Who has helped you ease in to playing for a new team in Kitchener?
"A lot of the older guys. Even the younger guys like [fellow 17-year-old forward Darby] Llewellyn have been great for me."
4. If there was no hockey, what sport might you play?
"I played lacrosse when I was little, up until last year [when he joined the U.S. under-17 team]. I was a midfielder."
5. Favourite TV show or movie?
"Favourite movie, I would have to say Warrior [with Tom Hardy]."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.