February 15, 2018
8:50 AM EST
By Steven Ellis
If you watch Peter Muzyka on the ice, it’s not often that you see him smile. He’s serious, focused and ready to punish victims with and without the puck.
But hidden behind his professional mentality and his desire to achieve success in the sport is his ear-to-ear grin when the North York Rangers are victorious, a common occurrence this season.
The last thing you want to do is play against Muzyka, the physical blueliner with a strong hockey resume. A graduate of the Toronto Titans minor midget program, Muzyka wasted no time making the jump up to the OJHL. Muzyka skated in two games with the Aurora Tigers as an Affiliated Player in 2015-2016 before getting a full-time position with the Rangers last season, where he posted five goals and 17 points for a young North York squad.
Scouts have followed his game ever since his days in the GTHL. A fourth-round pick of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, Muzyka found his name on the NHL Central Scouting Watch List to kick off the 2017-2018 campaign. He has backed that up with appearances with OJHL Hawerchuck at the Eastern Canada Cup and Team East at the recent CJHL Top Prospects Game, playing in front of hundreds of esteemed scouts across North America.
Muzyka is not only tough to battle against him on the ice, but very few opponents ever get the chance to beat him in a verbal sparring match. Over half of his teammate’s list Muzyka as the best chirper on the Rangers, something that agitates the opposition on a nightly basis.
But when you get on the ice against him, that’s where he has truly stood out. The two-way defender plays with a physical edge that compliments his abilities with the puck, earning him valuable 5-on-5 ice time often.
There’s a reason the Rangers have had such good goal support this season. Muzyka’s ability to throw a big hit and not take himself out of position is an important trait of his play. He isn’t afraid to get dirty along the boards, but he gets back in front to clear the opposition from standing in front of the crease.
One man has stood by his side for most of his career, and that’s Ryan Radisa. The 18-year-old has brought a defensive style that compliments Muzyka’s play well, creating one of the best shutdown pairings in the South Division. As a veteran, he has seen and played against many quality players in the OJHL.
Muzyka is one of them, in his eyes.
“Pete isn’t the type of person to be shy, he’s really outgoing,” Radisa said. “He likes to joke around a lot with the guys in the room, but knows when to get serious before games.”
Radisa says Muzyka’s vocal on-ice play makes playing with him a breeze, as communication is an important step for both of their successes. He says that Muzyka never shies away from a challenge, something that makes the 6’2 defenceman play bigger than he actually is.
Muzyka has seen his own game grow ever since his days as a well-rounded defender in minor midget.
“I think my game as a whole has improved significantly,” said Muzyka. “I feel more comfortable in all three zones, especially in key situations.
“I’ve really been trying to work on managing the puck better,” he added. “Just making the right play all the time. It doesn’t always have to be the glamorous pass, it could be a simple chip out of the zone if that’s the right play.”
Earlier in the season, Muzyka’s name appeared on the NHL Watch List for the upcoming draft in Dallas, with Jett Alexander joining the list later on. Muzyka has made his presence known, and scouts haven’t turned a blind eye.
While he’s been focused on bettering his game in junior, the NHL is still a major goal for his career, and a dream he hopes becomes a reality.
“It’s something I’ve been working my whole life toward,” If it happened it would be a dream come true”.
Whether or not he is called on at the NHL Draft, Muzyka will return to the Rangers in 2018-19 to get one more run at an OJHL championship before going to the NCAA’s Cornell University, something he hopes North York can achieve later this year. With a franchise-record 35 wins already to the team’s credit this season, Muzyka believes the team has what it takes to go all the way.
“We need to make sure we just stick to our systems and what’s made us successful all year,” Muzyka said. “We’ve proven we can beat the best teams in our league, so we just have to stick to NYR hockey.”
And if the Rangers have proven anything this year, it’s that NYR hockey is winning hockey.
Photo by Kevin Raposo / OJHL Images