Each day, I have been highlighting a player from Team USA and Team Canada leading up to the Vancouver Olympics that has a chance to stand out during the games. Today's player from Team USA is a role player, pain in the butt to play against, and has had much success on the international level: Ryan Kesler.
Ryan was drafted by the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in June 2000. Despite being drafted by Brampton, he chose to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) so that he could later play NCAA college hockey. He played for the USNTDP for 2 years putting up 99 points in 131 games while attending high school and playing against kids that were mostly 2-3 years older than him.
After high school and the USNTDP, he accepted a scholarship to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes of the Central Collegiate Hockey League (CCHL). While with the Buckeyes, he was named the George Burke Most Valuable Freshman by scoring 11 goals and 20 assists to finish fourth on his team in scoring. The following summer he was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. The following season, 2003-04, he got played in 5 preseason games for the Canucks, but was sent down to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. For most of that season, he split time between the Moose and Canucks, ultimately playing in 28 NHL games his first year. During the lockout he spent the entire season with the Moose, in which he stood out as one of the Canucks best prospects. That season he was named to the AHL's all-star team and finish 3rd in scoring for the Moose.
Kesler joined the Canucks for all 82 games of the 2005-06 season, thus starting his rookie season. In 2006-07 he suffered a torn acetabular labrum and only played in 48 games. Over the course of the 2007-08 season he was able to establish himself as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. That season he set career highs in goals scored (21) and points (37). During the 2008-09 season he was placed on a line with free agent pick ups' Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin. While playing with them he was able to better his career bests in goals (26), assists (33), and points (59). Those numbers earned Ryan league wide recognition as a Selke Trophy Finalist.
During his career he has also earned two gold medals. The first was at the 2002 World Under 18 Championships held in Piestany. After the Under 18 Championships, he was awarded the Best Player Award, since he was the best player in the tournament. The other being the 2004 World Junior Championships held in Helsinki.
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