Photo credit: Jack Murray
For the first time in two years, the NHL Draft will be held in person, this time on July 7 and 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Que. This year, NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings include five players that played in the BCHL last season.
Leading up to the draft, we will speak with the prospects to get their thoughts on the process and a variety of other subjects.
The BCHL’s 2022 NHL Draft coverage is presented by Chevrolet.
Penticton Vees defenceman Ryan Hopkins had a stellar rookie campaign in the BCHL. He finished the regular season with the second most points among Vees blueliners with 31 in 47 games. He was also a key piece to Penticton’s playoff run, chipping in six points in 12 games and helping the team to a Fred Page Cup championship. At year’s end, he was named a member of the league’s All-Rookie Team.
Hopkins is ranked as the 101st North American skater by NHL Central Scouting heading into the NHL Draft.
We caught up with him to discuss the Vees championship run, his adjustment to the league and the upcoming draft.
BCHL: You and your teammates are fresh off a championship in May. What was the celebration like for the team and the community?
Hopkins: Penticton was a great community to come back to, especially bringing a championship with us. When we came back, we had a bunch of fans waiting for us. We all celebrated. It was a really great experience and really cool to see all the people in the community come together.
BCHL: You played in front of great crowds during the playoffs, but especially the two home games in the finals where you had 4,000-plus fans each night. What was it like playing in that atmosphere?
Hopkins: I’ve never played in front of that many people. Just feeling that energy from the fans and how loud the building was, that helped us a lot. We fed off of it. That was a really amazing experience, seeing all the people in the community come out and watch us and support us. From top to bottom in our organization, we really appreciated that.
BCHL: During the 2020-21 season, you didn’t get any game action in due to the pandemic. What was it like for you at the start of last year to get back up to speed?
Hopkins: Playing games and practicing are completely different things, so it took me a bit of time to get back into game shape, as well as mentally, the way I think about the game sometimes. I also dealt with some injuries at the start of the year, but that stuff happens. I just tried to adjust as quickly as I could and get back to the game. It was nice. With COVID and not playing, I missed it a lot, so being able to play this year was really special.
BCHL: The NHL Draft is next week. If you were speaking to an NHL general manager who was thinking of selecting you, how would you describe your game and how would it translate to the next level?
Hopkins: I play a strong two-way game. I like to play physically in the corners and everywhere else on the ice. I like to battle as hard as I can. I can also be an offensive threat. I focus on my defensive-zone details. There are a lot of things I try to work on through my communication and making sure I’m always talking.
BCHL: If you were to hear your name called and get selected by an NHL team, what would it mean to you and your family?
Hopkins: Growing up, watching hockey, it’s always been a dream for me. It would mean everything to me and my family. They’ve sacrificed so much for me to be able to play. It’s not easy on a family. It takes a lot of time and dedication from everyone, especially my sisters, my mom and dad. Everyone surrounding me has supported me. I thank them a lot for what they’ve done for me.
BCHL: You’re set to return to the Vees next year and it sounds like there will be a lot of other players returning from last year. What kind of advantage does that give you, having so many guys coming back?
Hopkins: We’re definitely going to have a lot of experience. As a team, we’re going to know our system and our plays. I think that’s going to help. When we bring in those new guys, it will be really easy to get them integrated to the system and for us to gel with them. I think we have something like 14 guys coming back, so it’s going to be another good group. I think we’re going to have a really good shot at winning it again.