Anthony Ruklic has only played 16 games with the St. Cloud Norsemen, but he’s been a huge impact player for his NAHL squad. Ruklic is an offensive generator as he already has 50 shots on goal and by comparison, only three Norsemen have 100 or more shots on goal this season. So in other words, in less than a third of the 54 games the Norsemen have played he’s got more than half the shots that all but three of his teammates do. He’s got a stat line of 5-6-11 and his goals have been timely and come in big moments; the Norsemen are 4-0-0-1 in games Ruklic’s scored a goal. And when Ruklic gets the offense going he tends to get on a roll as he already has four multi-point games for St. Cloud.
Ruklic came to the Norsemen from the Des Moines Buccaneers and the USHL but Anthony says the change, even during the season, has been as smooth as he could have asked for. “It’s been great. I have some guys I’m very close with on the team and also my billet family is amazing,” Ruklic compliments. “So the transition couldn’t have been easier and it’s been good ever since.” Ruklic played with Andrew Clarke, Charlie Wind and Carter Bradley with the U18 St. Louis AAA Blues where they won the Tier 1 Elite League Championship and finished second in the National Championship.
St. Cloud Head Coach Corey Millen has seen Ruklic slot into the lineup nicely. “He’s a very talented kid with a really good game about him. He was in Des Moines in the USHL for a while, wasn’t playing as much as he would have liked to,” explains Millen. (Ruklic dressed in 25 of the 34 Buccaneer games while he was in Des Moines) “He’s a kid that has benefitted from getting a little more ice time. There is a little bit of a learning curve no matter what though, coming from different leagues and coming to our team, but he’s starting to fit in well and obviously he’s got a lot of talent.” Ruklic may have helped provide a spark as St. Cloud is 9-4-1-3 since he’s arrived.
Ruklic put up just 2-2-4 in 25 games with Des Moines but did feel he learned a lot in the USHL and it was a positive experience. “Definitely being smart with the puck is one of the biggest things that stands out and also having strength,” Ruklic answers when asked what he picked up in the first half of the season. “You’re playing with some guys who are younger than you and also some guys that are two or three years older than you. There’s potentially a strength gap in there and being able to learn everyday with the guys on your team how to get bigger and stronger definitely helps.”
Ruklic may have been scratched for some games in Des Moines but has been a permanent fixture since arriving in St. Cloud, playing in 16 of the 17 Norsemen contests since his NAHL debut. He’s getting to get a lot of ice time, has played almost every night in a Top-6 forward role with some really skilled and talented linemates and is getting power play time as well. Ruklic appreciates the confidence the Norsemen have shown him right out of the gate. “It meant a lot; coming to a fresh team in the middle of the season, you don’t know necessarily where you’re gonna fit in or who you’re gonna play with,” reflects Ruklic. “Being given an opportunity to take and run with it, I’m definitely very thankful for that so I couldn’t be happier.”
Offense may be the easiest area that Ruklic excels at for a fan to spot, but Millen points out there’s more to his game than just scoring. “He skates well, he’s a big kid, he shoots it well; he’s got a good skill set,” commends Millen. “There’s some little details; you gotta remember he’s still pretty young and he played midget hockey last year. There’s some things I’d like to see him clean up but he does a lot of things really well.”
While Ruklic, who is just a 2004 birth year and has two more years of junior eligibility after this season, is trying to get better anyway he can, he has more focus on team success than his own. “I think everybody wants to get better at something . I think it doesn’t necessarily matter what I need to get better at, it’s what the team has to get better at,” Ruklic reasons. “The goal is to get to the Robbie (Robertson Cup) and win the Robbie so as long as I’m doing my part and helping my team, that’s all that necessarily matters.”
Ruklic and the Norsemen host the Austin Bruins this weekend in the first of a home-and-home weekend. With points in both games and some help from the Aberdeen Wings, St. Cloud could clinch a playoff berth as early as this Saturday night, so there’s a lot on the line. The home game for the Norsemen is on Thursday, March 30th, with tickets available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com. Saturday’s rematch will be in Austin, MN and can be watched online at hockeytv.com.