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Komets’ Ryan Culkin hoping for healthy season

Defenseman Ryan Culkin had an assist in Saturday's 3-2 Komets' loss to Kansas City on Saturday night. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

If Ryan Culkin has one overwhelming wish for this hockey season, it’s that he gets to be a part of all of it. He wants to play every game, as many minutes as possible.

Culkin, 23, is at the very least an American Hockey League-caliber player but he hasn’t had much luck proving it on the ice during his first three pro seasons. Because of injuries, a fifth-round draft choice by Calgary in 2012, he played 37 games as a rookie in 2014-15, 60 in 2015-16 and 35 last year.

He suffered a severe wrist injury as a rookie followed by a shoulder injury and then a back injury. The wrist injury was probably the worst as fell to the ice and sliced it on the back of an opponents’ skate, cutting three tendons. After coming back, in rookie camp he crashed into the boards awkwardly and suffered a third-degree separated shoulder which kept him out of the lineup for two months. Back-to-back injuries meant he didn’t play hockey for almost nine months.

Culkin bounced from Calgary’s organization to Arizona, and this year he’s starting with the Komets. He’s hoping a fresh start changes his luck. As a 6-foot-2, 201-pound defenseman, he has the size, skating ability and passing skills to possibly develop into something special on the blueline. Now he just need some consistent ice time to regain his game.

“They just told me to come down here and play and get some confidence,” Culkin said after getting an assist in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Kansas City. “I’ve been very unfortunate, but it happens and there’s always adversity. I’m actually lucky to be here with this group of players and coaching staff and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do. We have a great group of guys, and I could tell that from the first day.”

To prepare for this season, Culkin said he spent the summer at home in Montreal working with his trainer and adding about five pounds of muscle.

“After my second injury, I went through a down period, but I spoke to a psychologist and he just told me to stay positive,” Culkin said. “I’m trying to be more positive, and I hope to bring that to this team. I’m enjoying my time here. I just want to play and be the best that I can. I’m going to develop here and we’ll see what the future holds. I feel good so far.”

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