Next step for Hlusiak
Rylee Hlusiak has always been able to see the big picture.
The 18-year-old Barrie native was selected by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the ninth round (167th overall) of the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft, but the big winger had already set his sights on the NCAA.
Hlusiak attended camp with the Bulldogs but quickly shifted gears and enrolled at Ridley College which he deduced would give himself the best opportunity to develop while keeping his options open.
The move proved fruitful for Hlusiak who played two seasons for the Tigers before accepting a spot with the Hawkesbury Hawks of the Canada Central Hockey League for the 2020/21 season.
“I’ve always been interested in the NCAA. I got drafted in the OHL and that was exciting but in the back of my head I always wanted to go to the States to play hockey,” Hlusiak said. “I went to the camps just for the experience. Had I been offered a spot (in Hamilton) I probably would have gone but after being at Ridley my goal has been the NCAA.”
The Hawks expressed interest in Hlusiak early, which he said made the process less stressful.
“The head coach (Rick Dorval) came down and watched me a number of times, probably more than any other coach, and we had communication. Towards the end of the year, they offered me a spot,” Hlusiak said.
Hlusiak felt that helped him in his second and final season at Ridley.
“It was relaxing because I was just able to focus on what was going on at Ridley and that helped out my season,” he said. “I was just able to focus on that one thing and not worry about where I was going to end up next season.
“With the Coronavirus, players still don’t know what they are doing because there are no tryouts. It’s been good for my training because I know where I’m headed and I just have to get ready for that date.”
Ridley coach Mike McCourt is confident Hlusiak will succeed at the next level.
“Rylee was an offensive threat every time he touched the puck. He has an ability to use his body and protect the puck to create space,” McCourt said. “Rylee shoots the puck like a pro and always had a knack for scoring big goals.
“I was most proud of how he learned to play a more complete game, learned how to create offence without sacrificing defence. His play away from the puck improved. He has the ability to be impactful as he moves forward.”
Hlusiak also played a handful of games for the Thorold Blackhawks last season, which he feels will help him with the transition.
“I think it was good for the physical aspect because high school was more rendered around skill versus junior B which is more physical,” he said. “There was a lot more energy which I liked and I had a ton of fun playing with Thorold. It was a great opportunity to get a taste for what’s upcoming next year.”
He also feels his time at Ridley has equipped him for the CCHL.
“It will take a few games, but just being there and practising, I don’t think it will be too bad. Ridley really prepared me well for that and I’m looking forward to it. It will just take some time, an adjusting period.”
Hlusiak, who is slated to head to Hawkesbury Aug. 21, plans to take some high school courses to upgrade his marks.
“I’ve been in talks with some schools and waiting to write my SAT and go from there,” he said. “I think this extra time at home has helped me get ready for that.
“Obviously, I’m a little bit nervous because it’s a new level and I’m playing with older guys but I’m ready to head up there. I’d love for it to be tomorrow.”
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