In our next Pistons Alumni Update, we recently had the chance to catch up with former defenceman Ryan Carlson.
Carlson signed with the Pistons in the 2014 offseason after playing two years of high school hockey with his hometown Hermantown High School Hawks, where he was teammates with current Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk.
Head Coach/General Manager Paul Dyck described Carlson as a tenacious, competitive defenceman that played with intensity every time he stepped out on the ice. He was also a workhorse during his three seasons in Steinbach, playing no less than 57 games in a season all three of his years.
The Minnesota native jumped right into the lineup during his rookie season in 2014-15 and contributed one goal and 14 points in 57 games played, while finishing second on the team with 101 penalty minutes as the Pistons went to the MJHL Finals. He was honoured at the end of the season with the team’s Most Improved Player award as a result of his play.
In his second season, Carlson nearly doubled his point production to 4 goals and 26 points in 59 games played during the 2015-16 season. He helped lead Steinbach to a second consecutive appearance at the MJHL Finals, but once again came up short to the Portage Terriers.
Carlson was named an assistant captain in his final season with the Pistons in 2016-17, and was second amongst Steinbach defencemen with 9 goals. He finished inside the top 10 in team scoring for the first time in his Pistons days, notching 28 points in 58 games. Steinbach boasted a strong lineup during that season and ran away with the MJHL regular season title by posting a then-franchise record 99-point campaign (later broken the next season).
After the Pistons, he has continued to stay involved in the game by playing college hockey both here in Manitoba and in the United States. He took to the ice at the TG Smith Centre in 2019 and donned a Pistons jersey for the on-ice Pistons Alumni Classic.
Carlson sits in ninth in Pistons history with 174 career games donning the white and blue, and fourth all-time with 315 penalty minutes. In 41 postseason games with Steinbach, he notched a goal and 11 assists while providing stability and consistency to the Pistons for three productive seasons.
The following is a Q and A with Ryan:
Steinbachpistons.ca: What are you up to in life these days?
Ryan Carlson: I am a student athlete at the University of Manitoba, currently studying Kinesiology/Physical Education, which is just a long term for gym teacher.
SP: Have you been able to keep following the team after your junior days?
RC: Yes of course! I always keep an eye on how the Pistons are doing! Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone on the team anymore. Everyone I’ve played with is now done or too old, which may mean I’m getting old too.
SP: Do you still keep in touch with your former teammates? Putting you on the spot, who would be some of your favorites if you had to pick?
RC: I try my best to keep in touch with the guys I was close with. I play with Velo (Colton Veloso) on the Bisons, last year I played with Wazzy (Jonah Wasylak). But I still try to text old teammates like (Tyler) Penner, (Nick) Deery, Gummy (Mathieu Gomercic), and Marty (Connor Martin). I think Deery and Penner were guys I was closest too, especially in the first year in Steinbach.
SP: What was your favorite game/goal/play during your time with the Pistons?
RC: Obviously I loved the series with Winkler when we came back and won after being down 3-1 (in 2016). But there was one play where I assisted Denis Bosc in Game #5 at home, and that memory will stick with me. Lots of excitement and a thrilling feeling.
SP: Where was the toughest place to play during your career?
RC: Toughest place to play in the MJ for me was Swan Valley! Normally we would play there on a 3 in 3 (three games in three days), and that would be our Sunday night game. Normally the guys were pretty fatigued, and they always played us hard. And they always had a good goalie.
SP: So describe your experience playing in the MJHL. How did playing in the league help you in your development as a player?
RC: Playing in the MJHL was a great experience for me. The league was a hard nosed league where you had to show up and play every night. I got the opportunity to play with some amazing players and teammates, and the opportunity to play against some great players such as the Bowles brothers (Portage alumni), Tristan Keck (2016 MJHL MVP, Winkler alumni), Brady Keeper (current member of Florida Panthers, OCN alumni), and Zach Whitecloud (current member of Vegas Golden Knights, Virden alumni). Playing against these types of players always pushed me to work harder.
SP: How did your time with the Pistons get you to where you are today?
RC: Playing with the Pistons allowed me to find a great network of people that care. My billets were and still are second parents to me, and have always been there for me even when I’m living in Winnipeg away from my family. Coach Paul was and still is there for me today, and same with coach Rob (former assistant Rob Smith). Unfortunately I haven’t seen or talked to coach Joey (former assistant Joey Moggach) in a while. But my time with the Pistons helped me realize what I want to do in my life, and now I’m striving to become a coach! Perhaps one day with or against the Pistons organization.