January 15, 2022

The Pipeline: A conversation with Ryan Chesley

Ryan Chesley is one of the top defensemen available in the 2022 NHL Draft.

It hasn’t necessarily been the biggest challenge asked of him, but being the best blueliner he can be has.

“Coaches have challenged me to become the best defender in the world,” Chelsey told The Pipeline Show host Guy Flaming. “So I’ve kinda focused mainly on defense and kinda letting the other stuff happen.”

Chesley, who hails from Mahtomedi, Minnesota which is a small suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, has been doing just that with the famed U.S. National Team Development Program. 

The 6-foot-1, 194-pound rearguard is a hard hitting, stay-at-home defenseman who prides himself on his defensive style of play.

That play has enamored him to scouts this season. Chesley is currently slotted in at No. 16 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft.

“I think it just suits the way I play really well,” Chesley said. “I like to play fast, I like a lot of physicality in my game, so I think just being a defenseman I have the ability to hit guys a lot and just make plays, and having eyes all over the ice. I love that.”

Last season Chesley played for the U.S. National Under-17 Team and posted some impressive offensive numbers putting up 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 37 games, with the highest PPG average among defenders.  He has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 31 games, but has blossomed in his role with the NTDP this season.

Guy Flaming: Tell me about the season so far for you and the team. With all your division 1 opponents and the international competition you’ve been playing, how have you felt about the way you and your teammates have played this year?

Ryan Chesley: I think our team has started the season really well. We’ve done really well against college opponents. We haven’t played too many USHL games, but we’ve done good when we’ve played them. And then we had our one international tournament in Switzerland and we did good there. We ended up winning the tournament. So, it’s been a really good start for the team.

Guy Flaming: Ryan, tell me about the way you’ve felt personally, the way you’ve played as an individual this year. Last year 34 points in 37 games on the U17 team. That ratio of offense hasn’t carried over to this year. You got 7 points in 31 games. I don’t know if your role has changed or anything. Why is the offense not as proficient for you this year?

Ryan Chesley: I think that I’m still playing at a really high level. I just think that my role has changed a little bit. Coaches have challenged me to become the best defender in the world. So I’ve kinda focused mainly on defense and kinda letting the other stuff happen. And also, I feel like I’m still generating offensively, I just haven’t put up a ton of points, but I’m still creating chances, creating opportunities and I think I’ve been playing good.

Guy Flaming: Where are you from? Where did you grow up? 

Ryan Chesley: I’m from Mahtomedi, Minnesota. A really small town, but it’s a really nice place.

Guy Flaming: Who got you into hockey and how old were you when you started playing?

Ryan Chesley: My dad got me into it and I was seven years old when I started playing.

Guy Flaming: Have you always been a defenseman, Ryan?

Ryan Chesley: I’ve always been a defenseman ever since I started. My dad thought that would be best for me and yeah, it’s worked out.

Guy Flaming: How have you evolved as a player? Think back to when you first arrived and compare yourself to where you are now. What’s changed in our game?

Ryan Chesley: I think everything has really evolved a lot. I think my skating has gotten a lot better. Offensively I’ve grown. And mostly I’d say it’s my defensive game. I really learned how to be kind of a shutdown defender and just play really big, physical and use my size to my advantage.

Guy Flaming: Is there almost a mental flip of the switch you have to make when you’re a guy that’s used to playing that offensive game and yet now you want to focus more on your defensive side? Is that a challenge for you?

Ryan Chesley: It wasn’t really a challenge I would say. I think you just have to accept it and kind of look at what would be best for you and your development and I think that was the right choice. 

Guy Flaming: Who’s your defensive partner been this year for the most part or does that change often?

Ryan Chelsey: For the most part it has been Lane Hutson. It hasn’t changed much. We occasionally switched around, but most of the time it’s been Lane Hutson.

Guy Flaming: And obviously a pairing that’s working. Why do you think you have chemistry with Lane? Statistically he seems to be the offensive guy and you’re more of the stay at home guy this year. So is that the key to success?

Ryan Chesley: Yeah I think that we paired really well together. Like you said, he’s really good offensively and I pride myself as being the shutdown guy, so I think we compliment each other really well. We just have so much chemistry from playing together. 

Guy Flaming: You talked about when you were describing yourself as a player, that physical edge to your game. The guy who likes to play the body or when you’re talking about physical, is it battling in front of the net or do you like to put guys through the boards if you can?

Ryan Chesley: Yeah, I do like to put guys through the boards, but only if the opportunity is there. I don’t really go out of my way to look for it.

Guy Flaming: Is the NHL draft something that is on your mind much? Or are you one of those guys who tries not to think about it because it could be a distraction? What about for you?

Ryan Chesley: Honestly I just kind of try to tune it out. I don’t really pay much attention to rankings or anything. I just try to focus on the season right now. And then after the season I’ll focus on the draft.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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