Winning championships for a professional franchise in sports is often an athlete’s ultimate goal, but a select few get a chance to achieve even more.
Come February, former Buckeye Ryan Kesler will attempt to win a gold medal with the U.S. men’s ice hockey team.
Even though Kesler was only at Ohio State for one year, he left a mark on the program.
Ohio State men’s hockey coach John Markell knows exactly what men’s basketball coach Thad Matta has had to deal with over the years.
“We knew Ryan was going to be one year and done,” Markell said.
Kesler earned an honorable mention for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie team and was awarded OSU’s George Burke Most Valuable Freshman award.
Markell felt Kesler was a winner because of his passion for the game and the skills he had.
After his freshman year at OSU, Kesler entered the 2003 NHL Early Entry Draft, where he was drafted 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
In his first couple of seasons playing professionally, Kesler spent time moving between the Canucks and the Manitoba Moose, a lower-level AHL team associated with the Canucks.
Now, however, he has cemented himself on the Canucks roster, and is one of three players to be an alternate captain on the team.
The ‘08-‘09 season was by far his best. He was named the Canucks’ MVP and was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke award, given to the person who demonstrates the most skill on the defensive side of the game. Kesler lost to Pavel Datsyuk, who won the award for the second consecutive year.
The thing that separated Kesler from others was his ability to play two-way hockey, Markell said. Kesler is listed as a center, but has the ability to drop back and play offense as well.
On a regular basis, Kesler is assigned to shut down the opposing team’s top players.
Kesler is not a household name compared to those of Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, but Markell said teams in the league know about him.
When Kesler travels with Team USA to the Winter Olympics in a month, the team will be getting a leader, Markell said.
Although this is his first time being selected for the Olympic roster, this is not his first time representing the U.S. During his career, Kesler has participated on World Junior Championship teams and the Men’s World Under-18 Championship team.
Kesler and the U.S. men’s hockey team will begin play Feb. 16 against Switzerland.