Pals Prospering In Albany


ALBANY, NY — The careers of Ryan Kujawinski and Ben Thomson crossed paths many times, but they were never together until a reunion in Albany this season.

Both were born in Ontario and grew up rooting for the famed Toronto Maple Leafs. Both are lefty shooters. Both briefly played for the North Bay Battalion in the OHL. Now, both are living under the same roof in the Capitol District and playing for one of the league’s top teams.

“I thought it would be a good fit and it’s been a great fit so far,” Thomson said of living with Kujawinski. “It’s one of those things where we just kind of click together.”

For both Devils, hockey has been a way of life since their youth days in Canada. Like many Canadians, the connection to the sport runs deep.

Ben Thomson

Now in his second year, Ben Thomson already tied his point total form his rookie campaign

“Before I could even walk, my dad had a little baby backpack and I was on his back while he was playing with my brother,” Thomson said. “Even before I could walk and talk, I was on the ice in some way.”

Eventually, the skills displayed on the ice led the pair to Canada’s top junior league. Thomson played five seasons in the OHL, mostly with the Kitchener Rangers before half a season with North Bay in 2013-14. Kujawinski’s path was similar, playing with the Sarnia Sting before joining the Kingston Frontenacs for four season before half a year with North Bay in 2014-15.

While in North Bay, the duo coincidentally shared the same billet family, with Kujawinski coming in the season after Thomson.

“We had the same billet family. It was a pretty unique situation,” Kujawinski said. “I texted [Thomson] and he told me they were great people, so it was great to have that in common.”

Thompson began his AHL career a year before Kujawinski, playing 67 games for Albany last year while recording 16 points and 97 penalty minutes. In fewer games this season, Thomson is poised to pass both of those totals from his rookie year. He is currently tied for the team lead with six fights, and he knows that role is vital for the team.

“I don’t know how much anyone likes to punch another person in the head,” Thomson said. “But it feels good to go out there and be one of those guys that the team can look to to step up for each other and one of those guys that is doing what it takes to help the team.”

Ryan Kujawinski has 15 points in 47 games during his rookie season

Ryan Kujawinski has 15 points in 47 games during his rookie season

For Kujawinski, joining the Devils didn’t require much initial travel. Picked 73rd by the Devils in 2013, he was already in his home arena as the draft was held in New Jersey.

“The draft was in New Jersey so that was pretty cool,” Kujawinski said. “Just to be there and see the facility right away was kind of cool.”

Although a playoff push awaits the young Devils in Albany, both have NHL aspirations, and they both know what it should take to make it there.

“Just keep working hard, that’s the main thing,” Kujawinski said. “You’ve got to work very hard in the summer and put a lot of time into improving your game.”

“I think the biggest thing for me is I just have to be consistent and move my feet and playing the game that I’m best at, which is being big, strong, and physical,” Thomson said. “Hopefully I can get a shot.”

The Devils continue their push to the playoffs with a critical three in three stretch this weekend that begins with a road matchup with the Binghamton Senators on Friday night.