Coming in 15th overall on our list of the Top 25 Under 25 Minnesota Wild players, Ryan O'Rourke is a fun player to watch. The 2020 second-round pick was a staple of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds' blue line last season, showing maturity in his scoring and physical play. There's plenty for Minnesota fans to be excited about when it comes to the Pickering, Ontario native.
After three seasons in the OHL, he will be on the AHL roster for 2022-23 with the Iowa Wild, and it will be a good test for him against the better and more physically imposing competition.
O'Rourke is lauded as a solid two-way defenseman with strong physical capabilities. Below is some data from Mitchell Brown that he tweeted after general manager Bill Guerin and his drafting team selected him.
Ryan O’Rourke (39th, MIN): All-around defender with big-time stopping power. Ignites the rush with tape-to-space passing. Point activation ability combined with curl-and-drag shot just waiting to be unleashed.— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 7, 2020
Great pick. pic.twitter.com/4tY2nxJxAw
After taking a year off from the Greyhounds to play with the Iowa Wild in the AHL due to the the OHL season being cancelled because of the pandemic, where he scored only seven points in 33 games, he lit the scoresheet up, registering the seventh-most points on the team and second among defensemen.
O'Rourke scored 10 goals and 36 assists for a total of 46 points in 51 games, which is impressive for a defenseman in any league. Especially considering he scored over a point per game in the playoffs with one goal and 11 assists for 12 points in 10 games, ending with a second-round exit in the OHL playoffs. He also played seven games at the 2021-22 World Junior Championship for Team Canada but only registered a point.
The biggest negative the box score would indicate about O'Rourke is the penalties. He led the Greyhounds in PIMs by a wide margin, registering 87 total, 28 more than the next player, defenseman Robert Calisti. And while there are plenty of positives surrounding his puck movement, ability to find lanes, and move the puck up the ice, none of that matters if he's in the box.
Roll the Tape
There is plenty to like about the young Ontarian's game. His ability to ward off players when he's in possession of the puck is an excellent skill, and he showed flashes of strong skating ability on rushes. His shot is solid and is seen in the below clip.
Ryan O'Rourke sends one to the back of the net!— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) September 18, 2021
And that's it! Wild win! pic.twitter.com/i0SkOtRVo6
Here's another excellent little display of skill during some small-area games. O'Rourke finishes an intense rush with a nice backhand by the goaltender.
Good LORD what a backhand finish from Ryan O'Rourke pic.twitter.com/ppvDD2XBpe— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) July 15, 2022
There are positives and negatives to the penalty side of O'Rourke's toolbox. If he's going to make the NHL, he needs to be on the ice. He also can't be a liability in crunch time. However, he is not afraid to mix it up. Penalties are something that can be coached out of players, so that issue is not something I would be particularly worried about.
In the 2020 Elite Prospects Draft Guide, this is what they had to say about O'Rourke's game:
"On the puck, O'Rourke is mean, nasty, violent — everything one wants from a durable, robust stay-at-home defender. His battle level is unbelievably high. He never takes a moment off, never mind a shift, and much less an entire game. O'Rourke is a capable puck-mover, too. He consistently makes good decisions with the puck and boasts an absolutely lethal slap shot."
This description is pretty accurate, and if he lives up to what many think he could end up being, there's a depth spot in the Wild defense core for him. He can play an above-average offensive game without straying away from the physical side, which is a great trait to possess when the NHL is only one step away. We will see what he's made of in the AHL, but this young defenseman has plenty to look forward to.
Hockey Wilderness 2022 Top 25 Under 25
25. Mason Shaw, C/LW
24. Sam Hentges, C/LW
23. Simon Johansson, D
22. Hunter Haight, C
21. Nikita Nesternenko, C
20. Marshall Warren, D
19. Filip Gustavsson, G
18. Mikey Milne, LW
17. Mitchell Chaffee, RW
16. Pavel Novak, RW
15. Ryan O'Rourke, D