Johnstown, Pa — The Florida Panthers selected Johnstown Tomahawks goaltender Ryan Bednard in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, making Bednard the first Tomahawks player ever selected by an NHL team.
Bednard was taken by the Panthers with the 25th pick in the seventh round (no. 206 overall) during Saturday’s draft, which was held at the BB&T Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the home of Bednard’s new organization.
The Tomahawks relied on Bednard early and often last season, as the 6-4, 185-pound native of Macomb, Mich., led all Johnstown goaltenders with 37 games played. As a rookie, he led Johnstown with 16 wins and posted a 2.66 goals against average with a .913 save percentage.
“He was a consistent stabilizing force for us all year long,” said Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia. “He gave us a chance to win and provided a big jolt to our team.
Letizia said Bednard’s best attributes go far beyond his stats.
“He has the pro look to him with his size, but it is also his composure and how he competes. He’s never satisfied and he is constantly working to improve his game. Sometimes you actually have to pull him off the ice after practice, or else he’ll just stay out there and keep working,” Letizia said.
As he was beginning his Tomahawks career in September, Bednard was also selected to play in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, earning the win for his team while playing alongside the top draft-eligible American players just months after completing his final year of midget hockey in Michigan.
“It is easy to forget that he came to us right out of U-16 midget hockey,” Letizia said. “To go from that level to a top junior league, and then to be drafted to the NHL in the span of two years, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
In September, Bednard also announced his commitment to play NCAA-DI hockey at Bowling Green State University, though he is not expected to join the Falcons until the 2017-18 season, when he will join his brother and fellow Tomahawks alumni Shane Bednard on the ice for Bowling Green.
Bednard is expected to play this upcoming season for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.
“I truly think the best is yet to come for him,” Letizia said. “This is something that is extremely special. It’s an honor as his coach to have had a small part in his career, but all the credit goes to him. There’s no question that he earned this opportunity, and can’t wait to see how he runs with it.”
Tomahawks general manager Rick Boyd said the selection is not only a testament to Bednard’s talent, but also his character and work ethic.
“He’s a very deserving player, but he is also a great person who comes from a great family,” Boyd said. “We’re so happy to see good things happen to good people, and hopefully he’s just the first of many players to be drafted and to find their place in hockey through the Tomahawks organization.”
Bednard, who entered the draft as the 22nd ranked North American goaltender, said he learned about the selection while watching draft coverage on television with his family in Michigan.
“I was prepared for it to go either way – I could be drafted, or I might not. Whatever happened, I was going to use it to motivate me,” he said. “When I saw it on TV, it was just surreal. I was so excited, and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet.”
Bednard credited the Tomahawks organization for playing a key role in aiding his development.
“I was definitely raw coming in, and I just needed to play. That’s always the most important thing for goalies, and playing in Johnstown was great for me because I got the right kind of exposure and support. They let me go through the process and gave me the playing time I needed to get better.”
Bednard also thanked the Tomahawks fans and Johnstown community for making his time in Johnstown a memorable experience.
“Thanks to the whole community,” he said. “Johnstown was a great place to play, and I’ll miss it and the people there.”