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Kraken Prospect Ryan Winterton Continues to Overcome Hurdles

After a couple of tough blows, Seattle prospect Ryan Winterton has dealt with questioning himself, and questioning if that chance would come for him. He says he’s ready to fight back for a second time, and get back on the NHL radar again.
Ryan Winterton

Ryan Winterton was preparing for his first NHL training camp when the game was taken away from him for the second time in as many years.

Already over a year removed from his last OHL games, just one U-18 tournament respite in between, and Winterton injured his shoulder at Hamilton Bulldogs training camp mere days before he was set to fly to Seattle.

He came to Seattle anyways, though he was unable to participate with his fellow prospects. That stuck with him when he finally returned last month.

“I was off for five months, supposed to be two months, two to three months rehab,” he said. “But the doctors and everyone didn't think I was ready to go back. So it was kind of an extended process. And then, of course, you start to miss a game more and more.”

Winterton, a center, described feeling “a bit bitter” during the course of the season before he was cleared to play again. He had gone so long without playing, and the opportunity to go to an NHL training camp was the light at the end of the tunnel.

The bitterness evaporated once he got to take the ice with the Bulldogs.

“I'm happy I'm back,” he said. “It was hard to keep a positive mindset sometimes when you're kind of battling through injury and not being with your team and stuff like that. It's hard sometimes. I think Hamilton and Seattle did a really good job with my mental state and making sure I was okay.”

In 12 games since his return, Winterton has posted 18 points, seven of them goals. His last season was 2019-20, when he tallied 23 points in 53 games, so he’s on pace to shatter that.

It’s a good rebound for an 18-year-old who wondered for nearly two years if he would ever get the opportunity to prove his talent.

“I was pretty nervous and anxious about the draft just because I saw these other guys playing and I was just kind of at home,” he said. “I was just training in skating, not really playing games, and no one's really ever seen you. So it was tough.”

Getting into games in the U-18 tournament was his lone opportunity to boost his draft stock. He scored two goals and two assists in seven games while Canada went on to win gold. Winteron said he was hoping to get a call in the third or fourth round, but wasn’t sure if he had done enough to get himself on the radar.

That he hasn’t played much hockey in the past two years sets him a few years behind other Kraken prospects. Matty Beniers, for example, is likely to be a part of Seattle’s roster next season; second-round defenseman Ryker Evans will likely get a shot as well.

Winterton, though he has had the potential for an explosive campaign in his second OHL season. In his first game back, he scored a goal and had four assists.

For all the pent up anxiety about returning and proving himself, there was also a lot of motivation. So when Winterton was cleared to return, he knew this was his last chance left.

“I had a lot of time off to kind of watch other prospects play and watch other people my age, or maybe even play older players, and I was just kind of sitting at home during COVID,” he said. “And then my shoulder, and suddenly again, was sidelined, just watching all these players play. So, for me, taking that year off, knowing that I can showcase myself, that was tough. So now I’m back and I want to prove myself.”

Winterton described himself as an offensive playmaker who wants to become more reliable in the defensive end to be a two-way forward.

Not playing for so long is enough to jar the confidence of any player, especially an 18-year-old who hadn’t seen consistent time since he was 16 years old. Gaining confidence can be a challenge for young players trying to catapult into the NHL conversation as it is.

Winterton has dealt with questioning himself, and questioning if that chance would come for him. When it did at Kraken training camp, he was dealt another blow. He says he’s ready to fight back for a second time, and get back on the NHL radar again in time for a redo in Seattle.

This time, he has some of that confidence back. This time, he’ll have at least half a season of OHL games behind him, and won’t need that chip on his shoulder, because he’ll have already proved to himself that he’s back.

“There was kind of a mental thing, too, when you come back with a shoulder injury,” he said. “Some people tend not to hit on that side, they tend not to do a lot of stuff with that side after but for me, it's been kind of good. So far, I haven't really thought of it too much, which is kind of how it should be.

“I'm just really glad to be back.”

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