When kids start playing hockey at a young age many dream about playing for their hometown or favorite NHL team. 5’9” Lake Forest, California native Ryan Lasch has the opportunity to play for his hometown club, the Anaheim Ducks, in the near future. If you think Ryan Lasch’s journey was an easy one, think again.
Many kids growing up in Southern California could care less about hockey; however; when Lasch was three-years-old he started chasing his dream. A dream that took him from the sunny California beaches to the shivering winters of Pembroke, Ontario at the tender age of sixteen when the L.A. Junior Kings, a triple-A team in SoCal, cut him. “I had nowhere else to go,” Lasch stated. Looking back now, the Jr. Kings are probably regretting that decision.
Ryan embarked on a frozen journey with the Pembroke Lumber Kings that play in the Yzerman Division of the Central Canada Hockey League, a circuit of the CJHL that is equivalent to the USHL and the NAHL in the United States, helping players protect their college eligibility while competing at a high level. During his final stint with the Lumber Kings in the 2005-2006 season, Lasch notched 146 points which excelled him to being named the 2005-2006 CJHL MVP. Ryan’s performance with the Lumber Kings did not go unnoticed by St. Cloud State, a D-1 hockey program, in St. Cloud, Minnesota that competes in the WCHA. Lasch said, “its pretty much history. I went there and fell in love with the school right away.”
One could take a shot in the dark and say it’s a bet St. Cloud was happy to have him. Lasch emerged as a top-notch hockey player and scholar during his four-year expedition as a Huskie. Ryan managed multiple awards every year he was there. Whether it was All-Rookie Team through All-Academic Team Lasch achieved it. Maybe the upmost achievement was when Lascher was named a Hobey Baker finalist after capturing the 2007-2008 WCHA scoring title with 53 points. When asked if it was a surprise the 181-pound right winger elaborated, “No not at all. I had a good year there. I was playing well and we had a good team. When you have a successful team like that and you’re doing well, things like that come about.” However, Ryan wasn’t the recipient of the award. Kevin Porter toppled Lasch and the other finalists for the Hobey Baker Award in 2008. Ryan set the bar for every player that plays for St. Cloud departing the Huskies as all-time point scorer. Lasch commented on the achievement saying, “It’s something I can look back on. It was a great achievement. It’s the guys who you played with for 4 years and they were a big part of that and a winning team contributes to your individual success.”
With his time at St. Cloud in the taillights, Ryan was at a crossroad. Despite being a colligate hockey standout, Lasch went undrafted and didn’t have a North American contract offer waiting so his next move was to Sodertalje, Sweden to craft his skill in the Swedish Elite League. While with the SSK, Lasch put up 30 points during the 2010-2011 season.
Ryan skipped from Sweden to Finland for an opportunity to suit up in the Finnish Elite League for the 2011-2012 season with the Pelicans. Team USA came knocking for Lasch in November 2011 giving him an opportunity to suit up in the 2011 Deutschland Cup. Lasch netted a goal and nailed an assist in that contest. After the impressive Deutschland Cup, Ryan went back to the Pelicans and assisted the club to the silver medal in the Finnish Elite League playoffs. During his one-year stint with the Pelicans, Lasch was named an All-Star along with leading the league in points, most playoff assists, and playoff points. Lasch ended the year with 78 points including playoff totals.
With his shock and awe performance in Finland, USA Hockey took notice and invited him to play in the 2012 World Cup. When asked about his reaction to being named to the World Cup squad Lasch was all smiles saying, “I was pretty pumped up about it! I thought I might sneak in there, maybe because I had a good Deutschland Cup. Also I was playing good throughout the season and I got that e-mail and I was pretty pumped up about the opportunity to play for my country.” Ryan skated in 7 contests in the World Cup while managing 2 assists.
His play in the World Cup and two seasons in Europe opened doors for the 25-year-old. Ryan commented on how playing for Team USA in the World Cup helped him gain exposure to NHL teams saying, “It was a great opportunity to showcase what I could do and it definitely helped me to come back overseas.”
Lascher, as he is known to his teammates, was right; it did open doors for him. Standing behind one of these doors was the NHL team he grew up watching and rooting for–the Anaheim Ducks. Lasch inked a two-year deal with the Ducks this summer that will keep him grounded in the Ducks Organization until after the 2013-2014 season. “Anaheim liked what they saw and now they’re giving me a chance,” said Lasch. Lascher hasn’t lifted his foot off the gas yet. The speedy forward has 3 points in 7 games with Norfolk this year which isn’t too shabby for a 5’9”undrafted prospect.
Lasch is the shortest player on Norfolk’s roster alongside Defenseman Sami Vatanen and weighs only 175 pounds. Lasch commented on his size declaring, “that’s all you heard when I was growing up playing and at every level I’ve been able to prove them wrong. It’s all about your hard work and your intensity and wanting it more than the big guys.”
Many Admiral fans may have overlooked Lasch while taking in a game at Scope, but it wasn’t because of his stature, it was because of his “pass first” mentality. Without a player that has that ability, a team may look like it’s skating in quicksand. Lascher has silenced all his critics to date and fought his way into a NHL contract. Lasch is a warrior.
Follow Ted Warren on Twitter @bauerhockeydude