Tesink hoping trail leads to St. Louis

SAINT JOHN – Ryan Tesink has already accomplished a lot in his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career.

The feisty forward helped his hometown Saint John Sea Dogs win the President’s Cup and Memorial Cup to cap a remarkable rookie season in 2010-11. He followed that by playing a key role for Saint John in its second straight league title last year.

All that championship experience makes him a valuable veteran as the Sea Dogs work through a transition year. So far, so good.

The Port City squad won eight of its first 15 games, thanks in large part to Tesink’s point-per-game average during that span. But the 19-year-old gets noticed for more than his numbers.

Whether it’s standing up for teammates or taking physical punishment to make a play, Tesink is clearly one of the league’s heart-and-soul players. He’s hoping his efforts lead to signing an NHL contract in the near future with the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him in 2011.

“Every shift is important,’’ Tesink said. “Just going out there and working, no matter who you’re playing with, you have to compete every shift. That’s what scouts and teams want to see in their players.

“I think I’ve had a great year so far putting up points and creating opportunities when we need them and playing every sort of role I need to. I think I’ve been pretty successful so far.’’

Tesink is part of a St. Louis draft class that also includes Moncton Wildcats forwards Dmitri Jaskin (19 points in his first 16 games) and Yannick Veilleux (12 points in his first 15 games), whose efforts helped Shawinigan win the 2012 Memorial Cup.

“St. Louis is really good at keeping in touch,’’ Tesink said. “Tim Taylor (player development director) always stays in touch and calls once a week to see how things are going.

“I think it helps me having (Saint John-based Blues scout) Blair Nicholson here as well. I think he’s at every home game and I talk to him.

“It’s definitely a good feeling knowing there are people in the building every night there to watch you. It makes you work a lot harder.’’

Tesink’s trademark intensity doesn’t just benefit his own cause. His aggressive approach has rubbed off on rookie forwards Marcus Cuomo and Noah Zilbert, two of Saint John’s most intense forecheckers.

“I think me working hard every shift shows the younger guys that you can’t take a night off in this league,’’ Tesink said. “You can’t take shifts off because it’ll cost you. I think the kids are learning pretty quick and doing a great job.’’

Looking back, Tesink feels breaking into the QMJHL with such a talented team helped him realize what it would take to be successful. Teammates in his rookie season included big-time point producers Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Michael Kirkpatrick and Stanislav Galiev. Three of those four players are bona fide NHL prospects and Kirkpatrick is a key player for St. Francis Xavier University.

“Especially with these kids, they have a lot more opportunity on this team than (young) guys in the past,’’ Tesink said. “I think they’re taking advantage of it and some of them are getting chances on the power play and moving up in the lineup.

“The kids have really been working hard and I think the vets have done a great job. We’re not as good as past years, but I think we’ve proven that teams can’t take nights off against us. I think we’ve had a good start.’’

With his talent and tenacity, Tesink has been a major factor in that solid beginning.

“He’s an ultra-competitive guy and he’s got skill to go along with it,’’ Saint John head coach and general manager Mike Kelly said. “That’s what he brings to us.’’

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