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NHL on NBC: Bobby Ryan succeeding for Red Wings in ‘prove it’ year

Anson Carter, Patrick Sharp and Kathryn Tappen explore Bobby Ryan's hot start to the season with Detroit and how the 2020 Masterton winner was able to overcome alcoholism and triumph for a powerful NHL comeback.

NBC’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Bobby Ryan entered the 2020-21 NHL season with one goal in mind.

The 2005 No. 2 overall pick had an up-and-down final few years in Ottawa, culminating in last season where he took a leave of absence from the Senators to deal with an alcohol problem. He returned and recorded a hat trick in his first game back home. His comeback saw him be named the winner of the 2019-20 Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

While the comeback was memorable, it also signaled the end of his time with the Senators. With the team transitioning towards youth, they bought out the final two years of his contract. In October, he signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings.

Ryan is long-past the early days of his NHL career where he was a four-time 30-goal scorer. But now healthy, in body and mind, he went to Detroit for the chance to turn things around.

“For me, this was a ‘prove it’ year,” he said, “an opportunity for me to take the step that I should have taken years ago but hadn’t been able to because of outside stuff.”

His arrival in a Red Wings uniform got off to a brief delay. An injury forced him to miss the team’s opener against Carolina, a 3-0 win. Since he joined the lineup, Ryan has produced in all three games, scoring four goals to lead Detroit entering Sunday’s meeting (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with the Blackhawks.


Ryan’s scoring streak was historic as well as he became the first player in franchise history to score four goals in his first three games with the team.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin. “He’s come to play for our team, and that’s huge. He’s a smart hockey player and I think he’s been our best player the past two games. When he has the puck, he’s dangerous, when he doesn’t, he makes the right things happen and makes the right plays. It’s a lesson for guys like myself and our line to learn from.”

One of the consistent compliments about Ryan’s game is his hands, which aren’t just for dangling opponents.

Bobby Ryan is the fourth-oldest player on the Red Wings with 837 NHL games to his credit. That experience is something that head coach Jeff Blashill will rely upon this season as youth begins taking over in Detroit.

“When he’s skating well, he can use his skillset,” said Blashill. “He’s got really good hands; he’s got a really good offensive mind. I’ve been really impressed with his leadership. He’s been great to have around.

“He’s a guy that was a really, really high pick for a reason. He’s got lots of talent, and I think he’s done a really good job here, both in his approach, his leadership and also his play.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.