Joakim Ryan's game dominates both poles of the ice. During parts of the early going in the season, it may have seemed that he was sacrificing offensive production and opportunities at the expensive of defensive soundness, but over the last few contests, Ryan is back to being one of Cornell's most responsible and reliable defensemen behind the blue line. How do national challengers stack up to Ryan?
Cornell's junior blueliner is the third-greatest producer of points among defensemen. Ryan averages 0.95 points per game. He stands 0.01 points per game out of second place. His goal production of 0.26 goals per game places him among the ten best in goal scoring for defensemen.
One must be mindful that shots on goal are not created equally, especially with defensemen. A defenseman who has a tendency to pinch and unleash a haphazard shot has a high probability of creating an odd-man rush back into his zone as a result. The key inquiry is does a defenseman make good on his jumping into the play by keeping it in the offensive zone and possibly converting. Ryan has shown improvement on his already impressive game in the former category. The latter? The rate of shots on goal finding their way to the back of the net is a suitable standard. Ryan ranks among the top third in the nation on goals scored per shot on goal. The junior defenseman converts nearly 11% of the time the puck leaves his stick; the seventh-highest conversion rate in ECAC Hockey.
The lone blemish on Joakim Ryan's resume this season? His +/- is at a mere +5. It is a respectable figure, but modest when considering his other statistical contributions. A +5 among defenseman places him as possessing only the 15th-best +/- among defenseman nationally. Expect this statistic to trend upward as Ryan's improved defensive play in his own zone will prevent opponents's chances. He may not be able to reach the Conference-leading +16 of Quinnipiac's Danny Federico, but he should be in contention by the time the post-season arrives.
There's another defenseman in ECAC Hockey that has drawn much, admittedly deserved, attention. However, it is astounding how Ryan's performance this season dwarfs even his statistics. Shayne Gostisbehere of Union converts a mere 6.6% of the shots that he takes on net. This stands among the 20 worst among defensemen in college hockey.
When considering the four stated objective metrics, Ryan averages outranking Gostisbehere by 13 places in the standings. Even considering just points per game and goals per game, Ryan averages outranking Gostisbehere by nearly four places. This is a somewhat expected result. Considering that Cornell has produced some of the best defensemen in college hockey history, how does Ryan's offensive production compare to theirs?
The first set of statistics included is that of Walt Stanowski who was the national tournament's most-valuable player in 1967 and who played with the Big Red from 1965 to 1968. The next set was that of Dan Lodboa, most-valuable player of the 1970 national tournament and referred to as "the Bobby Orr of college hockey." Lodboa played from 1967 to 1970. The 1975-78 era is typified by the offensive minded play of all-American defenseman Pete Shier whose statistics are representative of the highest-scoring era in Cornell hockey history. Mike Schafer's production during the time from 1982 to 1986 captured the play of offensive defenseman during the late Reycroft Era. Doug Murray, known for his blast of a shot on the power play during a Frozen-Four run, provides a good representative of offensive Cornell defensemen in the early 2000s. A return to more mobile and scoring-oriented Cornell defensemen in the 2010s is captured in the skills and career of Nick D'Agostino.
The graphs above show comparisons of point production and goal scoring per game for each player mentioned. If the key is unclear, from the foreground to the background in each season it progresses from Stanowski to Ryan in chronological order. The freshman seasons for Stanowski, Lodboa, and Shier are necessarily zeroed because during that era the Ivy League did not permit freshmen to play on varsity squads. The senior campaign for Ryan is necessarily zeroed as it has not happened.
What do these comparisons reveal? Of the three defensemen who played four seasons at the varsity level, Ryan's point production in his freshman season trailed behind only that of Nick D'Agostino. Joakim Ryan trailed no four-season defenseman in terms of goals per game in his freshman season.
The arc to Ryan's junior rate of production is not a smooth one. Ryan dipped below Schafer in terms of goal production his junior season. His sophomore season saw him outperform no stated defensemen in terms of goals per game. His point production that season did surpass the associated rates of Stanowski, Schafer, and D'Agostino during their sophomore seasons.
Ryan's current trajectory of point production for his junior campaign has him outproducing Schafer, Murray, and D'Agostino in their junior seasons. Stanowski, Lodboa, Shier, and Murray all outpaced Joakim Ryan's current rate of goal scoring. Ryan is off the pace of Stanowski's and Murray's goal scoring by factors less than 47%. However, the junior-season goal production of Lodboa and Shier, both at 0.55 goals per game, is over double Ryan's current goal production.
It is clear that Lodboa and Shier represent an unequaled and untarnished gold standard of great offensive defensemen at Cornell. It is interesting to note that Ryan is a mere 0.15 points per game off of tying Shier's 1.10 points per game production of his junior season. If Ryan can muster a marginal improvement of 15.7%, he will tie the legendary Red defenseman's total.
All but two of the cited defensemen increased their offensive production from their junior to senior seasons. For Joakim Ryan, the best is likely yet to come. What is striking about this analysis is how he measures up against Cornell greatness already. Ryan may not be an all-time great offensive defenseman in Cornell hockey history yet, but he has proven that he is one of the best playing college hockey today.