Rylan Masterson was destined to be a hockey player.
Born into perhaps the most famous junior hockey family in Niagara Falls, the 17-year-old defenceman for the Fort Erie Meteors fondly remembers growing up at the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena where grandpa Terry Masterson owned and coached the Niagara Falls Canucks for decades.
“I grew up in a rink,” Rylan Masterson said. “Watching or on the ice, I was in a rink everyday. Just going to the old Memorial Arena skating around with my grandpa and doing stuff.”
When the arena was closed in 2010, the Masterson family had a fitting picture taken at centre ice as the ice was melting with the Canucks logo beginning to fade away.
Rylan Masterson was only four years old at the time, but remembers the day vividly.
“It was a nice picture,” he said. “I was the last one to skate on that ice before they took it out. It was pretty cool.”
Rylan Masterson joined the Meteors last season as a rookie where he picked up three assists and a whopping 110 minutes in penalties.
He continued his aggressive play this season but came to the realization he wasn’t doing anyone any good sitting the penalty box or in the stands suspended.
“I guess I went off the rails during the first half of the season and I realized I had to calm down and just play hockey,” he said. “I had to get my points up because that’s what teams want so I’m doing my best to play that way.”
Rylan Masterson feels he can play more offensive and still be a physical presence, which is his bread and butter.
“The physicalness is part of my game,” he said. “During the summer, it was a goal to play more offensive so when I was skating on the ice with (Erie Otters coach) Wes Wolfe I’d jump in the rush more and practice my hands more.”
That work has paid off as Masterson has four goals and nine points in 25 games this season.
Fort Erie coach Nik Passero has high praise for his sophomore rearguard.
“First off, just an unbelievable kid. He’s been around the game a long time and not just playing it. He’s deep into the game. He knows the ins and outs.
“Ya, he gets caught up in emotion sometimes but for the last 15-20 games he’s been a class A citizen. He’s been awesome. When he’s staying out of trouble and just intimidating guys with his play, he’s one of the top D in the league and there’s no one that can say any different. He’s been really good.”
Passero said the credit belongs to Rylan Masterson for his transformation.
“I think we let him be and he kind of balances it out himself now,” Passero said. “It’s too late for us to tell him good and bad. He knows good and bad. He’s taken in upon himself to really toe the line and I think he’s done a great job.”
Rylan Masterson played a pair of pre-season games with the Windsor Spitfires and has aspirations of making the jump to the Ontario Hockey League.
“It was great,” he said. “It was really quick. My first shift I got blown by but I adjusted.
“Hopefully get a chance to play at a higher level, that would be cool, but the O would be the ideal place to be next season.”
Passero feels Rylan Masterson has what it takes to make the jump.
“He went in there and did well for himself,” Passero said. “I’ve had other OHL teams call about him as well. His play with the puck his very underrated but that’s because everyone knows how tough he is.
“He’s a hockey player.”
Rylan Masterson’s father, Derrek Masterson, played for the Canucks as did uncle, Matt Masterson.
But it’s grandpa Terry who he points to as the most influential in his career.
“It’s awesome. He made me the hockey player I am, pretty much,” Rylan Masterson said. “He’s the reason I can play this level because of him pushing me to get on the ice and get better.”
Passero loves having the elder Masterson around watching the games and has no doubt his late father, Tony Passero, would approve.
“I think he would love it,” Nik Passero said. “It’s a lot better having a Masterson playing for the Meteors than a Passero playing for the Canucks!”
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