For those who attended the Fort Frances Lakers’ summer camp in International Falls a couple of weeks ago, it was easy to see why newest signee Payton Ruter was quick to identify Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic as the player that he looks up to the most.
Over the course of four scrimmages during the camp, Ruter was effective in his role up front, as he was involved in a number of goals and also used the body quite frequently, which is similar to what Lucic provides to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“Lucic is the guy that I idolize the most,” Ruter explained.
“I just love the way that he gets involved down in front of the net and uses his body, and that he can also be an offensive player when he needs to be,” Ruter added.
That comparison to Lucic wasn’t lost to those involved in the Lakers staff, including head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“I can definitely see that in him,” Strachan said.
“You could see during the camp that he is a big strong physical guy for someone who is 18 years of age, and he’s built like a man already.
“He’s an in-shape guy who is focussed out there, and he likes to be physical and play deep in the corners like a typical power forward, and he also likes to stand in front of the net, which is something that we have lacked in the past,” Strachan stressed.
Strachan saw Ruter in person for the first time back in late May at the Junior Exposure Showcase in Minneapolis, where that physical style Ruter plays wasn’t visible at first.
“In the camp we watched him play a little bit on both defence and at forward, and we didn’t really get to see his physical side of his game, but the camp itself wasn’t all that physical,” Strachan explained.
“But in doing our research and talking to guys that know him, along with his coaches from the past, we were able to find out about that edge that he brings,” Strachan added.
Over the past two seasons, Ruter, who lives in the small town of New London, Minnesota, says that he hasn’t been able to properly showcase his style of play during his tenure with the Granite City Lumberjacks of St. Cloud, who play in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
“It wasn’t a very hard nosed league so I didn’t like it very much,” Ruter explained.
“There were lots of pretty plays and things like that, and that’s not the style of play that I like, because I like to get involved in the dirty goals and plays.
“That’s just what I have been taught to do since I started playing the game, and I have always had a big body since I was a kid so I have always tried to use that to my advantage,” Ruter, who stands at 6’2” and weighs 225 pounds, added.
During his two year tenure with the Lumberjacks, Ruter played both on defence and at forward, and was also a member of last year’s side that clinched a berth to the 2011 USA Hockey Tier III Junior A National Tournament.
It was during his time with the Lumberjacks that Ruter also gained confidence in another important aspect of the game, the mental side.
“The biggest thing that I got from my time with the Lumberjacks was about confidence really,” Ruter, who has six points in 23 games last season, explained.
“I had always kind of had a little bit of doubt in myself, but with some good coaching that was able to help me out I was able to get myself into a positive frame of mind out there,” Ruter reasoned.
During the off-season, Ruter received a call from the Lakers organization saying that they were interested in having him play for their team for the upcoming season, and the two sides were able to agree to a deal at the end of June.
“Right after I got the call from them saying they wanted to sign me, I told them that I was interested of course and quickly went to check the team out and see what they are all about,” Ruter recalled.
“After doing my research and finding out more about the team, I really like what they are doing here and I’m already feeling really comfortable here,” Ruter added.
While Ruter himself says that he isn’t one to set personal goals for his upcoming campaign, he was quick to set his sights high for what he wants the Lakers to accomplish in the new season.
“I would like to help the team to win the league title, and also try and get to the nationals (Royal Bank Cup),” Ruter stressed.
In the long term though, Ruter would like to use his time in Fort Frances to help build towards his long-term goal in staying involved with the sport.
“It’s a little bit early to say where I want to end up at this point, but I would like to play in either major junior hockey or in college hockey in the future, and let things go from there,” Ruter said.