(1090 The Fan) — About a month and a half into his tenure as a Seattle Thunderbird, forward Ryan Gropp seems to be finally settling into his role.
Playing on the third line with fellow forwards Alexander Delnov and Branden Troock, Gropp had a goal and two assists Friday as Seattle cruised past Saskatoon 6-2.
Gropp, 17, signed on October 15th after being selected sixth overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. After his three point game Friday night, Gropp has three goals and three assists in 14 appearances in his rookie season. The rookie from Kamloops, British Columbia said he’s finally starting to feel comfortable in the WHL.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable out here. I knew it would take me awhile to get going, just a couple games, now I’m feeling really comfortable out there, confident and it’s working out,” Gropp said.
“(It’s) definitely a huge difference,” added Gropp, speaking about the change from playing with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League to playing in the WHL. “I think guys here are a lot faster, a lot stronger — the pace is a huge step (up).”
At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Gropp was highly sought after prospect and it was expected that he would provide Seattle with talented young tandem alongside rookie Mathew Barzal, he of the T-Birds’ second-leading 25 points.
However, it has taken Gropp some time to get healthy and acclimated to his new team and the new league. For what it’s worth, Gropp confirmed the injury is behind him.
“I’m one hundred percent now. It was tough coming off the groin injury, having to work my way back into things but now I’m feeling really good,” admitted Gropp.
His coach liked his play Friday.
“Gropp, Troock and Delnov had a good game for us,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said of his third line Friday night. “That’s a line that I think can continue to build and you see Gropp continue to improve.
“There’s some good things to build with there.”
Power Play Starting To Come Around For Seattle
Seattle entered Friday night’s contest against Saskatoon — which sported the league’s top-rated power play — ranked 19th in the WHL on the power play, scoring just 16.5 percent of the time.
Despite the ineffectiveness, Seattle finished 3-for-5 with a man advantage against the Blades. It has now scored at least one power play goal in four of its past five games.
Coach Konowalchuk and his team have been working diligently on the special teams play over the past couple of weeks and the effort has clearly been paying off.
Delnov scored twice on the power play and Ethan Bear added one in the third period.
“The guys worked this week on the special teams and it seemed to pay dividends today,” Konowalchuk said.
“We’ve got two good units. The one unit today, Delnov and Gropp, they were working some good plays down there and it was good to see.”
Now Seattle just has to keep it going to raise its standing.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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