LOS ANGELES — After being selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, center prospect Drake Rymsha was mostly on the outside looking in, spending more time with the Manchester Monarchs and the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL than he did with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate).
Indeed, the 22-year-old, 6-0, 187-pound native of Huntington Woods, Michigan, has been buried pretty deep on the Kings organizational depth chart, and even having spent the abbreviated 2020-21 season on the Kings taxi squad—he had played just one game with the Reign this season—Rymsha is still not one of the Kings’ top prospects. Despite that, with a few Kings forwards getting banged up going into their season finale against the Colorado Avalanche, Rymsha got the call, making his NHL debut in Denver on May 13.
“It’s been a long journey this year, being on the taxi squad for most of the season,” he said. “I just kept telling myself, work as hard as I can, have a great attitude, and hope my number gets called. Lucky enough, today, it was. For sure, it was a dream come true.”
Prior to this season, the Kings were looking for Rymsha to improve his offensive production and to be more of an agitator. But playing just one game with Ontario earlier this year, prior to making his NHL debut against the Avalanche, precludes any sort of assessment in that regard.
“I’ve played in the ECHL and in the AHL,” he said. “To finally make my debut in the NHL—it’s been a long journey, a lot of ups and downs. But this moment is something I’m going to remember for rest of my life. It’s been a great journey so far. I look forward to the rest of it.”
Rymsha indicated that he had to be careful not to let the fact that he was making his NHL debut be a major distraction for himself.
“A lot of the guys were telling me that you only make your debut once,” he noted. “It was me enjoying the moment, and realizing where I was and what was going on, but also being ready for my next shift.”
Kings Head coach Todd McLellan indicated that despite being stuck on the taxi squad all season, Rymsha never moped.
“He’s kind of an unsung hero around our group,” he noted. “He’s been with us all year on the taxi squad. He has worked as hard as anybody who dresses every night. He just sat back quietly and did his thing. Everything we asked of him, he did.”
“We got banged up here, at the end—a couple of players, and he got his opportunity,” he added. “The group was so excited for him…I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s so deserving.”
Rymsha credited the Kings veteran core for supporting him and making him feel like part of the team.
“When we found out, everybody was super excited for me, and everybody was really supportive and had my back,” he noted. “I can’t thank everybody in that room enough for sticking with me, and everything. It’s a great group in there.”
“We’ve got a couple of inside jokes with the taxi squad guys and a couple of the veterans,”
he added. “They come and hang out with us in our room quite a bit, so we’ve had a great relationship. I can’t thank the veterans on this team enough—Kopitar, Doughty, Quick, Brown—those core guys make everybody feel welcome, whether you’re on the team or on the taxi squad. It’s been a hell of a year.”
One family-related note for Rymsha: he made his debut against the franchise that his father played for.
Indeed, Andy Rymsha played in one season for the Quebec Nordiques, about three years before they moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche.
“That’s a special moment, for sure,” said the younger Rymsha. “My Dad still knows a couple of people here in the building. My parents were lucky enough to come down for the game.”
“To play my first game against the organization that my Dad played for is kind of a crazy coincidence, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings 2017 fifth round draft pick, center Drake Rymsha, shown here during the Kings 2017 Development Camp. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterone Photography.
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