By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Ryan Kubic’s hockey career hasn’t been long by any stretch. Yet, in the short amount of time since he has played as a goaltender, his accomplishments haven’t been anything less than remarkable. With a Western Hockey League future on the horizon, Kubic is focused on taking that next step in his hockey career.
When he started playing hockey, Ryan Kubic was not a goaltender, something that is most impressive given the fact that he was the second goalie off the board in the 2013 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.
As late bloomers’ go, this one’s pretty good.
Kubic started off playing the game of hockey when he was five years old. He was a forward. However, his team needed a goalie for three-on-three, and although he didn’t want to go in at first, they still put him in the nets. Turns out, he loved it.
“I was playing three-on-three at the Highlander Arena and I had my old leather pads on and was pretty nervous; not sure what to expect,” says Kubic about his first time in goal. “When I would go down I could barely get up because the pads weighed as much as I did.
“I remember a shot in the second period by a guy older than me and he ripped it right at my head. I’ve never felt anything like that before so I skated to the bench and said to my dad, ‘My ears were ringing, what should I do?’ He said, ‘Get back in there, the ref hasn’t blown the whistle yet.’”
The rest is history.
Kubic, who was age-advanced as a seven-year old, started playing with eight year olds in 8A1. He did it again as a 12-year old moving up to Bantam 2 Winnipeg Hawks.
Eventually, he was selected 39th overall by the Vancouver Giants back in May after putting up incredible numbers for the Hawks.
He played in 28 games last season, and put up a perfect 15-0 record in all of his starts. His goals-against average was a stellar 1.35 and his save percentage .952 to go along with four shutouts on the season.
“As soon as I got drafted…I was actually in social studies class,” Kubic said. “When I found out I was really excited to be going to an organization like Vancouver, knowing the guys who have gone through there like (Milan) Lucic and (Evander) Kane and having a coach like Don Hay, it’s really great.”
Kubic says that playing for Hockey Manitoba’s Program of Excellence made him pretty nervous at first, but he’s now gained a wealth of experience.
“There were a lot of kids in it, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Kubic. “I made it to the Top 40 though, and then the Top 26. It kept me on my toes because over the summer I had to keep training hard and improving.”
It helps that the head coach of Team Manitoba, Doug Sinclair, is also an assistant coach on his Midget AAA team, the Winnipeg Thrashers.
“He is a great goalie,” said Sinclair. “He shows the maturity and the consistency. For me, as a scout, he is very consistent, very technical, and very calm. He doesn’t get rattled in net, he keeps going, keeps squared to the puck.
“The things I love about him the most are his ability to track pucks and his competitive level. He has earned his way.
“When it comes to U-16, he is our clear-cut No. 1 (goalie).”
You get a sense when you talk to Kubic that hockey is No. 1 in his young life. It is that determination, that will to be great at the game, which may just land him a rare roster spot in the WHL as a 16-year old netminder next season.
Sinclair wouldn’t be surprised.
“He has the ability to play at the next level,” Sinclair says. “It is very uncommon in the WHL that you have a 16-year old goaltender like (Eric) Comrie or Leyland Irving. But to me he has that maturity in net and has got that compete and he has that technical aspect of his game down.
“He will make it interesting. He will give himself a chance next year, he will give Vancouver everything in the world to think about before they decide.”
In the meantime, Kubic would prefer to look at taking a few small steps for now.
“I am just taking baby steps right now, just taking it one day at a time and worrying about the task at hand,” he said. “When it comes to what I’ll do over the summer, I’ll make sure I am ready and well fit and hopefully I have a shot.”