Exclusive interview with Darren Raddysh, from undrafted defenseman to the Rangers post-season roster

Darren Raddysh will be on the NYR roster for the playoffs (AHL Images)

Darren Raddysh is a not a familiar name to many Rangers fans, but he has been a part of the organization for over a year now. Growing up in Toronto, the defenseman played with Connor McDavid at age 14. Now, Darren is preparing for the NHL playoffs. It’s been quite a journey and one I had the opportunity to ask him about one one one.

Darren Raddysh and playing with Connor McDavid

Growing up, Darren and his brother played hockey at a very young age. Their dad got them rollerblades and they had a hard-wood floor in their basement. “We would shoot pucks, tennis balls etc. We went on from there,” he reminisced. “We started playing club hockey in our hometown of George, Ontario. I went to the Toronto Marlboros in the GTHL“. Darren was eventually drafted and left for the Erie Otters in 2013 after a short stint in the OJHL.

Darren Raddysh #24 of the Hartford Wolf Pack (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Playing with Connor McDavid is something Raddysh won’t forget. When asked about the Oilers captain, Raddysh is clear that he’s the best player he has ever played with.

He was one of my best friends growing up. We played 2-3 years before we got to Erie. He’s very humble, doesn’t put himself ahead of anyone else. He is just a stand up guy“, Raddysh said about the 2015 first overall pick in the NHL draft.

There’s not much media attention in Erie, but that year before he was drafted, all our games were sold out, and the rink was surrounded by reporters every game. It was madness“, he said about the effect McDavid had on the community.

Raddysh’s early career

After four and half years in Erie, Darren Raddysh signed an AHL-contract with the Rockford Icehogs. Going undrafted in the NHL draft, he followed a path similar to Brandon Crawley.

In his first season, he impressed enough to earn an NHL contact with the Blackhawks and while he never played for them, he does cherish the moments he spent with the team in pre-season. “I have gone through camps with their prospects, and their star players. I have had the chance to be on the ice with guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. That is something I won’t forget“.

The leap from junior to pro hockey is huge and for Raddysh, it was no different. “The biggest change between junior and pro hockey is the pace. I am not the fastest player on the ice, so the adjustment for me was bigger than I expected. You think you’re ready, and then you make it to the AHL and realize it’s not that easy.”

In 120 regular season games with the Icehogs, Raddysh registered 48 points over the course of 2 seasons before being traded to the Rangers organization in 2019.

Raddysh on being traded to the Rangers organization

Late in the 2018-19 season, Raddysh got a phone call that changed everything. “I was dropping my girlfriend off at the airport and on my way back to Rockford, the GM Mark Bernard called me. I thought I was getting called up so I was excited. Then he told me I got traded and I was surprised.”

Fans often take for granted what a confusing time being traded is for a player. “I asked what happens next? He thanked me for all the hard work and said Chris Drury would give me a call. He called me 5 minutes later and he wanted to get me on the flight the next morning, but I asked to leave the next night. I got to say goodbye to my teammates in Rockford.”

It’s often overshadowed how impactful a trade is for a player. Having to pack everything at a moment’s notice, leave your teammates and friends behind, all because 2 general managers signed off on a trade with your name on it. But the move was a good one for Raddysh.

Raddysh on the Wolf Pack and Rangers

When asked about the differences between Rockford and Hartford, Raddysh mentions the travel aspect. “There are a lot more bus rides with the Hartford Wolf Pack as most opponents are closer. You don’t fly as much as you would do when playing for Rockford. You get to see a bit more of the cities you visit when you fly in the night before, whereas with Hartford, you get off the bus, play the game, and then get back on the bus and drive home immediately after, arriving at 2 or 3 in the morning“.

It’s a different experience but playing in the east comes with the added benefit of playing against his brother Taylor, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning and plays for their affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

After playing together a lot as kids, being on opposite ends of the ice is a new experience for both Raddysh brothers. “Now we play against each other and it’s weird. You want to do well, and you want him to do well. It kinda sucks when he scores with me on the ice, but my parents who attended all 3 games enjoyed it a lot. We are 3 hours away, but with the busy schedule we have not had a lot of options to see each other play“.

Raddysh is just getting better

This season, Raddysh has grown into a solid defenseman for the Wolf Pack and part of the reason he’s more comfortable, is the new head coach. Kris Knoblauch and Raddysh worked together in Erie.

Both joined halfway through the 2012-13 season and both left at the end of the 2016-17 season. “I learned a lot from Knoblauch of course when I was younger, in Erie. Working with him in Hartford feels good. And Gord Murphy, with his experience taught me a lot on how to prepare for games, what is expected of me. They really focus on what you need to do to take it to the next level“.

Gord Murphy who has replaced Lindy Ruff after his departure, has a good 25 years of experience in the NHL as a player and assistant coach. The overhaul in terms of the coaching department has generated some positive results early on, and Raddysh has taken advantage of that as well.

His favorite game came in late October when the Wolf Pack played the Islanders affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Raddysh scored in overtime and despite a late slump, Raddysh and his teammates in Hartford were confident they could have made some noise in the play offs. Unfortunately the play offs were cancelled due to the pandemic, and Raddysh returned home.

Raddysh on being ready to join the Rangers for the playoffs

Back in Toronto, Darren and Taylor Raddysh spent time golfing and of course exercising to stay in shape. Both were told by their team to be ready for a potential call up. “They told us to be ready, be in shape in case we get the call. We kinda go from there. That’s what I have been doing. My brother Taylor and I have both been told to be prepared“, Raddysh explained.

When the Phase 3 rosters were announced, Taylor was missing from the Lightning roster, but Wolf Pack defenseman Darren made the cut. Raddysh isn’t the only one in this quarantine interview series as Steven Fogarty and Brandon Crawley also made the cut.

Hard work gets rewarded by the Rangers organization and considering where Darren Raddysh has come from, what he had to endure to get here, being part of the Phase 3 roster is the icing on the cake on a successful but shortened season.

I’ve reached out to Darren, Steven and Brandon about follow up interviews. We hope that we can bring you some insights from inside the bubble and this Rangers playoff run soon.

Author’s Note: As always, I want to thank the player, Darren Raddysh in this case, for sitting down with me and telling me his story, giving me the opportunity to share it with our readers.

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