It was in the basement of his grandparents’ home on Staten Island where Ryan Carpenter debuted for hockey.
Often wearing Rangers gear, he strolls around hockey balls with his older cousins during one of their annual trips to New York.
Fast forward to today and Carpenter’s journey is complete. The 31-year-old striker signed a one-year, $750,000 deal last month to play for his favorite team, fulfilling his childhood dream while sparking excitement for the rest of his family.
“My dad was a big fan of the sport on all of the New York teams, so naturally I think, as his eldest son, I followed what he loves,” Carpenter said. “I remember at one point, I think I had all of my Ranger shirts—home and out, blue and white, and then the Statue of Liberty.”
Although Carpenter was born and raised in Orlando, his father and New York native, Mike, never let his three children forget their roots in the Big Apple. Ryan was too young to remember Rangers’ last Stanley Cup win in 1994, but he can remember watching VHS tapes with his father in the years since.
That made a lasting impression, with those memories flowing back in when the chance to sign with the Blueshirts came this summer.
“When I got an offer from Rangers, it was hard to miss,” he said. “Being a team that I loved growing up and seeing how great they have been this year and how they have surprised teams and done well, just how much skill they have.”
Another key factor in the decision was Carpenter’s acquaintance with Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. They have previously collaborated for two seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights, including an unforgettable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.
“I thought I had some good seasons playing under him,” he said. “You want a coach who keeps the players accountable, but across the board you expect the same effort from everyone. You respect that. It’s hard not to want to go to a coach like that.”
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Carpenter got his first extended opportunity in the National Hockey League under Gallant because he brought in many of the elements of hard work that a veteran coach appreciates.
Admittedly, he won’t score many points – his career high is 18 with the Musketeers in 2018-2019 – or make many flashy plays, but he prides himself on defending, shootout kills and a 51.5% win rate.
These traits were evident during his three seasons with Bowling Green University, the last two of which he spent as team captain.
“I always found he was real about what he had to bring to the table to stand out and ready to play the game that way,” said Chris Bergeron, who coached Carpenter at Bowling Green and is now behind the bench at the University of Miami. “I had a conversation with George McPhee, who is the general manager and president of Vegas, and ‘design’ was his word when he talked about Ryan.”
Carpenter knew he had to take pride in hard work if he was to continue his hockey career after college—and that determination led him to fully commit to making it happen.
“His daily routine was something to watch,” Bergeron said. “I can picture him in our weight room making fast-footed ramps because people would say, ‘Well, I don’t know if he’s fast enough. I don’t know if his skating is good enough. “…He was willing to make those decisions when he was young because he had a goal.”
Carpenter went without a draft from the USHL and posted mediocre numbers in Bowling Green, but he kept pushing. Eventually, he landed a free agent deal with San Jose Sharks and spent much of his early twenties at AHL.
He had a cup of coffee on the season with the Sharks, but it wasn’t until the age of 26 when he cracked boot camp for the NHL roster. It didn’t last long, as he was waived after 16 games in the 2017-18 season. That led to opportunity with Vegas, where he proved he could be a valuable fourth player.
Next came three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, who went into extensive rebuilding and got Carpenter to Calgary on the March trade deadline. Adversity happened there, with Flames only using it in eight matches and making a healthy scratcher throughout the playoffs.
This brings Carpenter back to the familiar stance of fighting for an NHL job.
Rangers view him as a viable option for their fourth line, with his ability to play in the center remarkably well. But those last few spots on the list are shaping up to become a crowded competition, which will include Ryan Reeves, Dryden Hunt and Julian Gauthier, prospects Will Coyle, Brennan Usman and Bobby Trivigno and newly signed Swedish center Gustav Rydal.
It’s nothing new for a kid who grew up with a closet full of Rangers swag. He has made a living by accepting every challenge and is ready to see if his perseverance can give him a role on Broadway.
“You’re trying to build trust and earn a place,” he said. “I still keep my confidence, but at the same time, just try to stay humble. There are a lot of good players who have played last year or are in the organization who will be competing for spots. The team is better and everyone is better. That has always been the mentality. It should be. like that “.
Vincent Z. Read more of his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.