By Jamie Neugebauer
A mere 30 second conversation about hockey with Taylor Pryce will betray one thing.
The forward from Newmarket possesses a rare level of character, one that his teammates cannot help but notice.
One such teammate did not need much prompting to betray what the North York locker-room thinks of the 20 year-old assistant captain.
“He competes like an animal,” said Corey Kalk.
“He’s an essential part of our team who leads by example and since he competes at 110 percent every shift of every game, it really shows the other guys how badly he wants it.”
And Pryce desperately, agonizingly wants to win.
For two seasons before coming to the Rangers this off-season, he was one of the top forwards on a Pickering Panthers team that struggled, lacking the depth and infrastructure to compete.
Having experienced that, getting a chance to battle with a team that is expecting to go far in the playoffs is something that Pryce does not take for granted.
“I really love being here in North York,” he said.
“It’s a much different feeling in the room [on the Rangers than it was in Pickering]. It’s a really good atmosphere in the room and I love what we’re all about, I love winning.”
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Pryce has had little trouble accepting and thriving in a role that finds him on an energy line, instead of the line counted on to provide all the offence.
Early in the season, Rangers head coach John Dean placed him alongside North York veteran and fellow 20-year-old Chris Aitcheson, and fellow newcomer and 19-year-old Ryan Kinsella. It was a move with the logic of putting two physical speed-demons (Pryce and Kinsella) with a calm two-way presence.
Very clearly, it worked.
“We seem to dominate teams line on line,” Pryce said.
“We go against the other team’s top line a lot, which is a big honour. We kind of put our nose down [early in the season], and kind of accepted that we weren’t going to score the most goal, but we’re going to work hard. All lines are scoring now so we can’t complain.”
The attribute that seems to define Taylor’s game the most is intensity. He works as hard as anybody in the OJHL and it is that reality that prompted the Rangers coaching staff to give him one of the assistant captain’s jobs.
“He leads not by his words,” said Kalk, “but by his play and he is highly respected in the room because of it.”
After 38 games, Pryce has already doubled his career high in goals, and along with the aforementioned Kinsella belongs to the team’s top penalty killing tandem and second power play unit.
Yet he was not always such a physically imposing player.
Growing up he was always the smallest guy on the team, scratching and clawing his way on the ice, and training hard off of it, in order to be effective in the minor hockey ranks. Now that he has had a growth spurt, and the built-in work ethic to match, he is the one causing headaches for the opposition.
“He worked really hard in the off-season,” said Taylor’s father Tom, a former quarterback for York University.
“It’s good to see him being the one dishing out the punishment instead of receiving it.”
Pryce dreams of playing NCAA Division I hockey next year and he is armed with all the tools on the ice and in the locker room that he needs to succeed.
And while he may not get the recognition he deserves around the league, he is an absolutely essential piece to the success of the North York Rangers.