Ryan Fitzgerald has been one of the most convenient prospects for scouts and coaches to keep tabs on for quite awhile; playing all four years at Boston College and playing in Malden Catholic High beforehand. It helps that his game seems to be a very prototypical Bruins player that would make any fan interested in what he brings to the table: physical, tenacious, and productive.
Fitzgerald brought all of that to his first year as an AHLer and had a great first year in Providence in 2017-18 because of it; winning the rookie of the year award and leading first year players in goals and points. And he managed to keep that pace even when he was sidelined with injury in early December, and didnt come back until January.
Yes, even the P-Bruins couldn't escape long stints of injury. Funny how that works. And it's a real shame, had he stayed healthy andkept his pace, there was a real good chance that he'd have been in the top 3 of Providence forwards.
Fitzgerald is a player that, while immensely skilled, compliments this by loving the physical game like a family member: he goes to it willingly, and with abandon. Hes perfectly willing to get into the dirty areas to fish out pucks, and loves driving hard to the net, where his slick hands can find good leverage in tight space to get a good shot away and right past goaltenders. He also marries this with an innate ability to slip through defenses in order to create prime scoring opportunities, and a head for the game that allows him to be one step ahead of most.
Boston Bruins prospect, Ryan Fitzgerald, now has 4 goals on the season. This one’s a beauty pic.twitter.com/tCkcLbpWIv— AHL Stats (@AHLStats) November 13, 2017
As to why Fitzgerald can only make it to the 9 spot in spite of all of that success, and the perhaps unfair reputation as a forgotten prospect by fans? Well first, the absolute lack of any hype around his game in comparison to other prospects who happen to share his position at forward doesn't help. Second, and more pressing are his physical dimensions, at least as of this writing: he is tiny for a player at 5'9, and even tinier at 175 lbs. Even guys like JFK, who is somewhat average size, maybe a hair slighter than a normal player and does not play a physical game, is closer to 200 lbs. than he is.
Finally, given the position open for the B's this year in the 3rd line center spot, theres an expected level of responsibility on defense needed for the job, and Fitzgerald regrettably seems more like a scoring forward than a 200 foot player, which is what the B's tend to prefer. His versatility can make him an attractive option for a team looking to inject some life into their middle six, god forbid that they begin spluttering like a cheap Soviet era car engine.
Fitzgerald will look to prove this lingering doubt wrong in preseason, which for him starts at the reasonable time of 1pm on Sunday afternoon on NHLN, unlike a lot of his compatriots. With that, he could easily gain some traction as a player worth watching.