Ryan O’Byrne on his time in Toronto, decision to go to the KHL, and more


Ryan O’Byrne wasn’t on the Leafs for very long. He was meant to be a late season addition to beef up the Leafs’ blueline. Even though his role was minimal, in a way, he got a more complete Toronto Maple Leafs experience than most players have been through in the past decade. He played in the blue and white during the playoffs, after all.

A few months later and minus an NHL job, O’Byrne is now playing for Lev Prague of the KHL. Even though he’s thousands of kilometers away, we managed to get an interview with the now former Leaf.

Tomas Kmec, a young hockey reporter from Slovakia, was recently at a few Lev Prague KHL games in the Czech Republic. Tomas approached me last week, offering to interview some KHL players for us. We’ve already posted his interview with Leo Komarov here at TLN. All he asked for was that we give him credit. Please give Tomas a follow. He’s the reason we have these interviews.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Here’s Tomas’ interview with "Ryan O’Beauty" on his time with the Leafs, Toronto during the playoffs, heading to the KHL, Randy Carlyle, and more.

What made you choose the KHL this season?

It was just a situation, where with the salary cap going down cause of the new CBA it seemed that a lot of middle-class players like myself kinda got squeezed out. And you know, I’ve waited all summer to get a contract from a NHL team and it didn’t come about. An offer came from here, from Prague, and it was a good offer. I was happy to come over and play here. Work on my skills on the big ice and so far I’ve really enjoyed it.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What, if anything have you brought with you?

Woah, it’s a good question actually. I brought a few pictures. My girlfriend’s here with me. We’ve been trying to kinda get some magazines for our apartment. Yeah, I think I need a few more things (laugh).

Do you like it in Prague?

We really like it here. Prague is a great city. When I played in the NHL I got to know Roman Hamrlik pretty well and he’s spent a lot of time in Prague and always told me how good of a city it was. So when the opportunity came I was really excited. Everyone’s been really nice (to us). The organization’s been great, the coaches, the team… I have a great group of teammates.

There are a lot of English-speaking guys.

Which is nice and that kinda helped my transition. It’s really been easy for me so far and I’ve enjoyed it very much so far.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What about the on-ice adjustments? There a bigger rink, a different style of play…

Yeah, it’s different hockey. But you know what? For the most part it’s not that much of a difference. Obviously there’s the bigger ice and more skating and more skill. The North American game is a more grinding type game, more physical type game. Just dump the puck and chase the puck, make quicker decisions. Like here you kind of have more time with the puck and you just gotta skate a whole bunch more. But I’ve enjoyed it though.

Were other teams in the KHL interested too or was this pretty much a clear cut decision to come over here for Prague.

The latter. They were the team that came with an offer and I was happy about that.

Who is your roommate on road trips?

My roommate is Spencer Humphries, so I got to know him pretty well. My defensive partner is Nathan Oystrick. He’s a really good friend of mine as well. We grew up playing against each other in junior and in college, and in pro hockey we kind of played against each other for years and years. I got to know him really well too. It’s been nice to have some Canadian guys on the team, that kinda helped me along but that being said, the team as a whole is a great group of guys.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Do you see this as a short stint, a temporary solution? Is playing in the NHL still your ultimate goal?

We’ll see what happens. I think at this point I’m really enjoying the KHL and I’m gonna play hard and try to get better and better. You know, I’ve lost about 20 pounds from last year when I played with Toronto. I’m starting to get better at skating, get quicker and faster. Hopefully over the summer I can work on it over here. With the big ice, it really makes you skate. We’ll see what happens when my contract’s up. If I just keep playing the way I’m playing and the salary cap goes back up, I think some team will offer me a contract in the NHL. But that being said, I’m happy to be in the KHL right now.

You have played at different levels, and for many coaches. Who has had the biggest impact on you?

In the NHL, the coach that had the biggest impact on my development was the coach in Colorado, Joe Sacco. You know, I was in Montreal, just starting my career and I was struggling a little bit and couldn’t quite become a regular NHL player. And then I went to Colorado and he gave me the confidence to be that. Him and Sylvian Lefebvre were probably the most influential NHL coaches.

What was it like to play in Toronto last year?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Toronto was great. I really really enjoyed it. You know, to go from a situation in Colorado where we were kinda struggling and not in the playoffs to go to Toronto, which is the biggest hockey market in the world, and the team was on the upswing. It was our first year in the playoffs after nine years. It was so much fun playing in that playoff series. Obviously it didn`t end the way we wanted, but that being said, I really enjoyed my time in Toronto. Fans in Toronto are pretty cool.  

What was it like to play for Randy Carlyle? 

It was good. I really respect coach Carlyle. He gets a lot out of his players. You know, he’s a demanding coach but he’s a good coach and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s a great coach for that team. He’s a big reason why they’re back in the playoffs and why they’re on the upswing.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Thanks for reading! We will be posting the Tim Brent interview tomorrow.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • BayStParade

    Why would anyone read the Tor Star and their “reporters” when you have intelligent people on this site actually reporting Leafs news. I had the displeasure the other day of reading the paper Star and I was thinking why do those guys get paid for the drivel they write.