Is there anyone who enjoys playing in an Ottawa Senators uniform more than Ryan Dzingel? Whether it’s the logo, the city, or the proximity to shawarmas, playing in the nation’s capital seems to bring out the best version of the Illinois born speedster.
After being drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 NHL entry draft (204th overall, a mere 7 spots away from earning the dubious title of “Mr. Irrelevant”), few could have predicted Ryan would even get a sniff at an NHL roster spot, let alone carve out a 6 year (and counting) career. Following the draft Dzingel accepted a scholarship to Ohio State where he would go on to have a productive 3 year collegiate career before turning pro prior to his senior year.
With the Buckeyes, Dzingel recorded the first hat trick in Big 10 history and was named to the All Big-Ten first team. This production led to him inking his entry level contract and reporting to Binghamton, effectively ending his time at the collegiate level.
In Bingo, Dzingel put up decent numbers (77pts in 119 games over the course of 2+ seasons), but again nothing that would indicate he was a sure fire NHL level player. Evidently he did enough to warrant call up consideration from Dave Cameron and company earning his promotion on December 22nd, 2015 for an injured Bobby Ryan. And this my friends, is where it gets interesting.
Normally even highly touted prospects regress a bit at the NHL level. Chalk it up to stiffer competition, bigger bodies, and a faster pace of play. This is to say nothing of fringe 7th rounders who aren’t expected to ever make the highest level of the sport in the first place.
Yet in Dzingel’s case, moving from one Senators jersey to another had almost no effect whatsoever (despite being relegated to mostly 3rd/4th line roles). In 119 AHL games he scored at a 0.26 goal per game clip. Over the course of his 247 game Ottawa career, he tickled the twine at a 0.25 goal per game pace, doing so with less average time on ice than he did in Binghamton. He also managed to eclipse the 20 goal mark twice (the second of which was done in only 50 games), something he hadn’t done since college. While no one will be confusing him for Ovechkin anytime soon, it’s worth noting that since 2015 there have only been 10 other Senators players to eclipse the 20 goal plateau over the course of a season, meaning it’s not an insignificant feat for a team starved for offense in recent years.
Ultimately it was this success at the pro level which led to Dzingel being dealt to Columbus at the 2019 trade deadline for Anthony Duclair & 2 second round picks. Ironically, it would be Duclair and not Dzingel who would wind up improving his stock the next season scoring a career high 23 goals.
Dzingel sputtered through a short lived stint with the Blue Jackets, scoring at a 0.17 goals per game clip (which would be good for a 13 goal campaign over a full season) and was let loose to test the waters of free agency following the season. Enter Carolina, who swooped in and signed him to a 2 year $6.75M contract, hoping that the forward could recapture the magic he had with the Senators. A gamble that wouldn’t pay off.
Despite seeing top 6 minutes, and power play time, Dzingel was never able to get his feet under him in Raleigh. Potting goals at a career low 0.13 goals per game rate (a 10 goal pace over a full season), Dzingel once more became expendable leading to a reunion with the team that drafted him. After flipping Cedric Paquette & Alex Galchenyuk to the Hurricanes, Dzingel was back in Ottawa for his second tour of duty.
Given the state of the rebuild, fans initially had mixed reactions to the Dzingel trade. While some were happy to see two veterans shipped out of town to free up roster space, others wondered whether Ryan’s presence would be yet another roadblock for a young prospect. It also remained to be seen whether Dzingel (at this point largely viewed as a depreciating asset) would have any impact on the team, or whether this would be another example of the Senators bringing in a veteran player past their prime.
Out of the gate, Dzingel was eased into a bottom 6 role and the results were immediate. Scoring in his first two games with the Sens, Dzingel has picked up right where he left off the last time he donned the centurion logo.
The encouraging part for Sens fans is that he’s scoring primarily with bottom six players as linemates as well. When he was last in Ottawa, he had the benefit of playing primarily with Stone and Brassard on Ottawa’s top line, and then rotating crew of Tkachuk, Ryan, and others in his final year. This time round, it’s the likes of Tierney and Watson he’s seeing most of his time with.
Now up to 4 goals in 8 games (0.5 goals per game), the question becomes whether Dzingel is now part of the Senators future, or whether he should keep his bags packed ahead of the trade deadline. Does Ottawa flip him for another asset and hope to either resign him in the offseason or move on from the RD experiment once and for all?
Whatever Dorion and the rest of the Senators brass decide to do, two things are certain at this point:
1) Speed is always going to be a valuable asset in the modern NHL. Dzingel is a versatile piece who can play anything from top 6 minutes to penalty kill/4th line roles. I would tend to view his longterm role as more of the latter than the former if the Sens are truly going to become Stanley Cup contenders in the near future, but Ryan could change that if he keeps scoring at his current rate. Getting 20 goals from a 3rd or 4th line player would be a huge boon to the Senators playoff outlook.
2) At this point, there isn’t much debate: No one benefits more from playing at the CTC than Ryan Dzingel.
The only question remaining is how much longer will that be for.
Kyle Skinner | Sens Nation Hockey