As they closed out the regular season, the LA Kings gave Drake Rymsha the opportunity to make his NHL debut. He reflected on the moment afterward.
From ending their season to the exit interviews to looking forward to the summer and next season, Drake Rymsha‘s NHL debut may have been a bit lost in the shuffle with the LA Kings. Nevertheless, said debut on Thursday night was noteworthy as the 22-year-old was able to cap the year off on a positive note.
Playing just one game in the AHL this season, Rymsha was in the unique position of being on the Kings’ taxi squad in 2021, learning from the NHLers throughout what has been an unusual campaign.
In the Kings’ season-finale on Thursday in Denver, Rymsha, at last, got his shot, making his NHL debut.
“It’s been a long journey this year being on the taxi squad for most of the season,” Rymsha told the media after Thursday’s game. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Work as hard as I can and have a great attitude, and hopefully my number gets called,’ and lucky enough, today it was. So, it’s, for sure, a dream come true.”
Unfortunately for the Kings, they lost their finale by a 5-1 count, but Rymsha, who finished the evening with 13:16 of ice time and a plus-one rating, reflected on the help he received in preparation for his debut.
“I can’t even pinpoint one guy,” Rymsha admitted when asked who to thank for his debut. “I mean, when we found out, everybody was super excited for me and everybody’s been so supportive of me and have my back, and I can’t thank everybody in that room enough for sticking with me, and everything else. A great group in there and I can’t think every single guy in there enough for what they’ve done for me this year.
“We got a couple inside jokes with the taxi squad guys and a couple of the veterans. So, they come out, hang out with us in our room quite a bit, so we’ve got a great relationship [with them]. Like I said before, I mean I can’t think of veterans on this team enough — you know, Kopi, Dewey, Quickie, Brownie, the core. Those core guys, they make everybody feel welcome, whether you’re on the team or on the taxi squad. So, it’s been a hell of a year and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
While it was three years before the franchise moved to the Mile High City, Drake’s father, Andy, suited up for the Quebec Nordiques for six games in early 1992.
The younger Rymsha was asked how it felt beginning his NHL career against the same franchise his father once played for.
“That’s a special moment, for sure,” said the former Sarnia Sting. “My dad still knows a couple of people here in the building, so– my parents were lucky enough to come down for the game. So, to play my first game against the same organization my dad played for, it’s kind of a crazy coincidence but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
For anyone making their NHL debut, there is a necessary balance between enjoying the moment and focusing on the task at hand that is encouraged to be met. For the 22-year-old, he was able to find a good balance of both.
“A lot of the guys told me you only make your debut once, so it was me enjoying the moment and realizing where I was and what was going on but also being ready for my next shift,” Rymsha noted.
#PlaytheKids has garnered a fair bit of traction this past season, and understandably so. After all, fans of the LA Kings have been reading and hearing so much about how their team’s prospect pool is among the best in the NHL, if not the best. But, Rymsha has joined Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield, and Austin Strand in the category of Kings making their NHL debuts this season.
For the native of Huntington Woods, MI, though, it has been quite the journey.
From being drafted 138th overall in 2017 to starting in the ECHL to finally getting a taste at the NHL level, Drake Rymsha has been thankful for the road he has taken but only hopes to see more of Los Angeles in 2021-22.
It may not have been the smoothest of seasons for the LA Kings, but there is certainly a good deal of consolation in knowing just how deep their prospect pool and, in turn, how exciting their future is. Drake Rymsha is an instrumental reason for this, serving as a stark reminder that a solid work ethic and a winning attitude can take you anywhere you want to go.