If opponents want to get to the net, they’ll have to go through guys like Josh Bryan. So it’s his job this season to make that task as difficult as possible.
The Nanaimo Clippers alternate captain is settling into a slightly new role in 2012-13 as the veteran leader of the team’s defence corps.
Coach Mike Vandekamp doesn’t anoint No. 1 defencemen, but Bryan is the guy with the letter on his sweater, the one who will play as many minutes as anyone, the guy who will be looked to in all situations.
“It’s a little bit different, being probably the leader on the back end, but I was prepared for it, that’s kind of what I was expecting,” Bryan said.
Last year the defence corps was anchored by 20-year-olds Graeme McCormack and Josh Phillips, and Bryan learned from both those players.
“Stepping into that kind of role is a really good opportunity for me and I’m really excited about it,” he said.
Vandekamp said some of the reasons Bryan was given an A on his sweater this season were his work ethic and his leadership in the room.
“He’s not afraid to face things head on; he’s mature that way,” said the coach.
Moving forward, he wants the 19-year-old from Sidney, B.C., to try to be a consistent player.
“He’s not a flashy player. I think he needs to focus on his defensive game first and keep it simple that way,” Vandekamp said. “He’s a guy that we expect some offence from, but at the same time, that’s not really what the focus is. The focus is for him to be hard to play against and as good defensively as he can be.”
Bryan scored his first goal of the season last weekend. In 2011-12 he lit the lamp nine times and was among the league leaders in defencemen goal scoring at one point. He’d like to be able to equal that contribution this season, but if he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter.
“If I get one goal this year, just that one, and we win 50 games or whatever, I’m happy with that; I don’t really care how many goals I get,” he said. “I’m more of a team-oriented, defence-first guy. I just kind of lucked out a bit last year, I think.”
He knows he’ll be surrounded on the defence pairings by other players who can be similarly effective at both ends of the ice.
“We’ve got a really good defensive corps,” said Bryan. “Everyone’s kind of figuring each other out now, because we’re all similar types of players. There’s no guys that are completely defensive or completely offence.”
Still, as a team leader, there’s a little extra weight on Bryan’s shoulders, and he’s happy to take it on.
“I know I have to be solid night in and night out,” he said. “If I’m not, then that’s going to affect the team.”
GAME ON … The Clippers’ next game is Friday (Oct. 12) when the Alberni Valley Bulldogs visit Frank Crane Arena for a 7 p.m. faceoff.