Ryan Martel was only 18 when he was drafted 11th overall in the 2017 Entry Draft to the Calgary Roughnecks. Not knowing what to expect coming into the league, he found himself under Curt Malawsky’s, tutelage for the first three years of his career.
The 25-year-old Martel is in his sixth season in the league, spending his first three seasons with Calgary and the last three with Vancouver.
Martel admits he’s matured as a person and a player since he was first coached by Malawsky and he’s thankful to have his old bench boss back this season. Already familiar with Malawsky’s coaching style and more experience under his belt, Martel receives feedback differently than he did as a young player in the league.
“Having Curt come over from Calgary, I knew what he was about from my time there, what he preaches, and what’s important to him,” Martel said. “The mindset that he implements has been good for me this year.”
“There’s no reading between the lines, he says it as it is and if you’re not clear on something you ask. Asking questions if you don’t know is better than going out and making a mistake. Just knowing you can approach him and ask what’s going on is a big help.”
Last season, Martel finished with 25 points (17-8-25) through 13 games and collected 50 loose balls. This season he’s already at 17 points (6-11-17) through four games and is four for four in the faceoff circle.
He’s learned to let the game come to him and not worry about making mistakes, noting that Warriors’ Head Coach Curt Malawsky encourages him to stick to his inside game, getting to the middle of the floor which is where he shines.
“I think sometimes when I get away from that, running the hockey lanes he just gives me a look or something and I remind myself what I’ve got to do to be successful,” Martel said.
Malawsky has seen an improvement in Martel’s on-floor performance since their time together in Calgary and it’s translating to the numbers he’s putting up. Martel had his best performance so far this season against the Georgia Swarm leading the team with four goals and five assists, also collecting six loose balls.
“I think he’s a lot calmer on the floor and sees the game a little better than he did when he was younger,” Malawsky mused. “He’s put a lot of work in, is in great shape, healthier now, and had a good season of summer ball (in the WLA with New Westminster). He’s put the work in away from the game which is really translating into his on-floor performance. As any athlete gets older, they get wiser. I think he had a solid season last year in Vancouver and he’s started off well for us this year.”
“He’s a good off-ball guy, he’s got a good shot on the run, and I think he can be a complimentary guy on that left side with [Adam] Charalambides.”
Malawsky says the toughest thing to achieve night in, night out is consistency, but that’s the next challenge he’s put to Martel is to be on the attack the same way each game.
“That’s the biggest thing for Ryan is consistency right now, he needs to remember what made him successful and that’s my job as a coach to remind him, encourage him and support him,” Malawsky said.
Martel and Malawsky are one in the same with their competitive nature and as they gear up for a home tilt against the Roughnecks, looking forward to seeing familiar faces and rising to the occasion in the box.
“It’s always fun playing against Calgary, my old team, still know a few of the guys, but it makes it that much better when you put a goal in against them,” Martel said with a laugh.
The Aldergrove native says the team has been plugging away the last couple of weeks, working on their fitness and getting in the gym.
“We have all been keeping each other accountable, sharing our workouts with each other and our trainer Matt Holtzmann. Last Saturday we were treating it like a game day with workouts and getting our sticks in hand,” he said.
Martel’s confidence approaching the game is rooted in the team’s preparation, watching film, and buying into Malawsky’s game plan.
“I think it’s just all five guys chipping away owning our roles, banging in the middle, and getting open, that’s when we are successful. We are at our best when we stick to our offensive sets, running motion, and if it is not there, we freeball,” he said.
Becoming a tight-knit group quickly has been important for the Warriors and Martel says their group has bonded and is getting closer every day. He attributes some of that to the veteran leadership who knows what it takes to win championships.
“Dilksy actually does one of the best jobs of keeping boys together on the group chat and making us laugh so having that leadership come in is definitely playing a role,” Martel added.
Martel’s progressions from an 18-year-old draft pick to a seasoned player highlights not just his personal growth, but also his dedication to his craft in the box and team success. With a focus on preparation and consistency Martel is on pace for his best NLL season to date.