WEST VALLEY CITY Left wing Ryan Kinasewich was the Utah Grizzlies' leading scorer for both of his first two seasons with the club.
But this is the first time he's actually been with the Grizzlies for a training camp, the first time he's been with the team for the start of the season, which will begin Friday at Phoenix. The home opener is Oct. 26 against Idaho.
"It's a little unique having him here," said coach Jason Christie.
"It's good to finally be here and start the season on time," added Kinasewich, who was traded to Utah by Reading of the ECHL on Nov. 3, 2005, and had to negotiate visa problems before joining the team, then had season-reducing visa delays last season as well.
Kinasewich in 2005-06 tied for the ECHL goal championship with 39 and led Utah scoring with 85 points, fourth in the league. Last season, when he played just 44 games due to the visa troubles and a dislocated shoulder that ended his season with surgery in March, he still led Utah scoring with 59 points and 29 goals.
"I was having a good year until that happened," he said, adding, "I played hurt for a good month and a half." The shoulder is fine now.
The Grizzlies nearly didn't have Kinasewich a relative of the first coach/general manager of the old Salt Lake Golden Eagles, Ray Kinasewich for this season.
Kinasewich spent a month and a half with the Fishtown Penguins in Bremerhaven in northern Germany this summer/fall but decided the situation wasn't for him.
"Just didn't like the team, the way things were run over there. Wasn't a very good experience," he said.
He "just wanted to try something new, a change of scenery, but obviously it didn't work out as planned."
At times, Kinasewich has been indecisive about his next career move, but not this time.
"As soon as I decided to leave Germany, I had my mind made up before I stepped on the plane to come back home that I was coming here," he said.
"I like it here, I'm comfortable here. Third year with Smurf (Christie), good core of guys that I've known for two, three years now. Utah is kind of a second home for me."
Another reason Utah was tops on his list was the Grizzlies' new partnership with the NHL New York Islanders. Utah is the Islanders' ECHL affiliate, with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers being their AHL team.
"Yeah, a big part of the choice in coming back was the affiliation and stuff, and I hope I'll get a chance this year to prove myself at the next level," said Kinasewich.
He is not among the Islanders' 10 players on the Grizzlies' roster but could benefit by the ties to the big club because the Islanders will keep close tabs on Utah players.
Kinasewich's biggest goal is to get called up to Bridgeport or higher.
"Now he's focused on being that elite player and getting an opportunity at the next level," Christie said. "There's opportunities there, there's a chance there."
Christie sees a former ECHL all-star focused on improving.
"His attitude is great. Every year he's gotten stronger, not only physically but mentally, and he's been working hard for us," he said.
"I've just got to work on fine-tuning my game down here, and if I get the call, I'll hopefully be ready to step right into action up there," said Kinasewich.
As a rookie, Kinasewich made the all-star team with Reading and played 29 games with the AHL Manchester Monarchs.
In his third season with Utah, Kinasewich is someone a young club can lean on.
"I'm only 24, but it's my fourth year pro. We've got a pretty young team this year," he said. "Guys, it's their first time in town and first time playing pro, and they look up to you for advice. It's nice to give it to them. Yeah, it's nice to be a guy that guys look up to in the room."
Having played in Utah's two first-ever preseason games against fellow ECHL competition last weekend in his first-ever Grizz training camp, Kinasewich is optimistic about Utah moving up after a second-to-last finish in the 25-team league last season."Just with that last game we played on Saturday you can tell we're going to be a hard-working club, and we've got skill, and the back end is solid and we've got great goaltending this year, so things look positive," he said.
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