As Kingston Frontenacs look to build on a 2013-2014 regular season in which their 84 points were second most in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario Hockey League, 1995 birth-year centre Ryan Kujawinski is eagerly awaiting the 2014-2015 campaign.
For one, Kujawinski — a 6-foot-2, 200 pounder who grew up in the northeastern Ontario town of Iroquois Falls and moved to Sudbury as a 15-year old to play minor-midget hockey — is about to enter his fourth OHL season.
For another, the big centre will be out to further impress officials of the New Jersey Devils, who took Kujawinski in the third round of the 2013 National Hockey League.
Then there’s the fact that Kingston as a team will be out to rebound from a disappointing playoff that followed its 84-point regular season — the Frontenacs blew a three-games-to-none lead in the first round and lost Game 7 in overtime at home to the Peterborough Petes.
To be sure, there is motivation aplenty for Kujawinski to end his OHL career in style with Kingston under 28-year old rookie head coach Paul McFarland, who was hired to replace former NHL defenceman Todd Gill, who was fired shortly after the Frontenacs playoff plummet against Peterborough.
Close to a point-per-game player since entering the OHL in 2011 as a first-round (fourth overall pick) of the Sarnia Sting — he was traded to Kingston at the trade deadline that season for veteran forward Ryan Spooner, who has since made it to the NHL with the Boston Bruins — Kujawinski is coming off a 2013-2014 campaign in which he had 23 goals, 18 assists, 41 points despite missing 23 games with hand and knee injuries.
By his own admission, Kujawinski has areas of his game that need improvement.
“I think I have got to be more consistent,” he told Sun Media.
“I need to work hard on my defensive game and my offensive game. Right now, my offensive game is better than my defensive game.
“The big thing is just getting bigger, faster, stronger. I want to improve my cardio and maybe lose a few pounds, not that I am big, but just to get lighter and faster,” he added.
From a team perspective, Kujawinski hopes the Frontenacs can put last year’s playoff loss to Peterborough in the past.
“As a team, you always want to win,” he said.
“Last year was a hard loss in the playoffs and I think we are going to be eager to get at it this year.”
Kingston — despite icing some good teams — has not won a playoff series since 1998.
PHOTO: Ryan Kujawinski of the Kingston Frontenacs. (Photo by Aaron Bell.)