Dylan Di Perna doesn’t have to look far to find someone he views as a mentor.
“Mike Van Ryn is a guy I definitely look up to,” said the 19-year-old, Woodbridge native. “Every time I’m on the ice – whether it be for practice or a game – I want to leave knowing I’ve learned something, and he’s somebody I know I can learn a lot from.
“He’s a defenceman too, and also a right handed shot, like me,” he said of the first-year Rangers bench boss. “When he was an assistant coach last season, he would go over a lot of video with me, and just help break the game down. He’s been someone I really look up to and try to soak up as much as I can from.”
In fact, the entire Rangers coaching staff has been beneficial not only to Di Perna, but to his teammates as well.
“It’s great being able to take advantage of their knowledge and experience, and what they bring to the table. They all bring something different; Chucker [Daniel Tkaczuk] with offensive systems, and [Jay] McKee with creating sound defensive habits and plays.”
Di Perna has enjoyed a season that to this point has already been filled with new career highs in goals, assists and points. But perhaps most importantly, his plus/minus mark of +32 leads the team, and is a key reflection of just how much his two-way game has evolved.
He was also credited as the second star of the game in the Rangers most recent tilt on Tuesday night at the Aud vs. the Storm. He credits a lot of the positive changes in his game to his teammates.
“As a group we’re all pretty close,” said Di Perna of his peers. “It’s hard to find 22 guys who are as close as we are, as a whole.
“Our comfort level with one another is good, and in the dressing room guys are happy. That leads to the ice and allows us to communicate that much easier and have great chemistry with one another out there.
“The chemistry with these guys is better than I’ve experienced on any other team I’ve played for.”
As close as the bond is between he and his teammates this season, he also appreciates what he has learned from former teammates as well.
“When I was in Kingston I played with Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown, and those were guys I learned a lot from. You see how hard they work and it inspires you to work hard, too.
“The longer you play in this league and the older you get, you realize the importance of not wasting a day,” he added. “When you’re younger, sometimes you get caught up the awe of making it to the OHL or maybe the pressure that comes with it.
“Instead of focusing on that, you eventually learn not to worry about the things you can’t control, and just work hard every day and better yourself.
“It’s all about making sure you’re always progressing, even when obstacles arise. You’ll always have to deal with either travel, or injuries, or sickness. There will always be a setback, but you can’t have excuses.
“You just have to keep pushing through it and let it make you stronger.”