Capitals prospect Henry Rybinski on his funny NHL draft story and his name ‘Henrik’

Henry Rybinski’s pro hockey journey began with the Florida Panthers, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2019.

Now, he’s an interesting prospect in the Capitals organization after signing as a free agent in March.

So, how did Rybinski, a center/right wing, end up after Florida drafted him? Where does he fit into the organization’s plans for next season? And what is it real the story behind his hilarious experience three years ago in Vancouver?

We asked Rybinski about all of this and more during the recently concluded Caps development camp. Here is a transcript of my one-on-one interview with the 21-year-old.

(The questions and answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)


Let’s start with your first name. Some databases have Henrik (Elite Prospects), while others have Henry (like HockeyDB). Explain.

My name is Henrik because my mother is Danish. So he gave it a little Scandinavian touch. But my parents call me Henry.

So which one is it?

Officially it’s Henrik, but you can call me either Henry or Henrik.

I know you had a slight injury and did not participate in all the sessions on the ice. But I’m still curious about your first impression of the Caps, installation, etc.

Skating (with local power skating guru Wendy Marco) was categorical an eye opener because I did some one leg jumps and stuff that I’ve never done before.

Is awesome. The facilities are unreal. Also, the coaches and staff are awesome.

What are your first impressions of DC? I know the team has arranged for prospects to take a few visits.

Actually, I had never been to Washington. It’s super beautiful here.

It’s also hot. It is really Hot.

Just wait; it gets hotter.

Yes? Yes.

Earlier this year, you were a free agent being pursued by a number of NHL teams; you could have gone anywhere. What was it about the Capitals that made you want to sign with them?

I felt like I was just the most interested team. They talked to me early in the process and were persistent and really tried to make me feel like I was already a Capital, part of the organization. So yes, their high level of interest led me to sign here.

Let’s back up for a second. I read a funny story about your 2019 draft day experience with the Panthers, which was in your hometown of Vancouver. But I need to hear from you. What happened?

The story got a little twisted (laughing). Here’s what happened: I was actually taking a driving course.

To get your driver’s license?

Yes, to get your license. Then you also get cheaper insurance.

I was in a classroom. And I got a call in the middle of class because the draft was going on at the same time and (my agent) just said, ‘Hey, you got drafted,’ and told me to come down to the rink. So I said to my teacher, “Hey, I have to go. I’ll probably be gone for an hour and a half.” So I went there, met all the (Florida) staff. Then I turned around and the teacher said, “Congratulations” (laughing).

The scene part had already happened when you got there, right?

Yeah, I didn’t get to go on stage or anything. I just got my hat and t-shirt, shook hands with all the staff and took pictures.

What happened to the Panthers? Why didn’t you sign with them?

I had a year off right after I was drafted. That hurt me. I guess I’ll never know for sure, but I feel like maybe it was. They saw me take a step back. And then, my 19th year, I thought I had a really good year. And so I thought maybe I have a chance. But at the same time, I hadn’t really talked to them not at all. They didn’t really seem interested. So I kind of had a feeling they weren’t going to do anything.

The last three seasons of Henry Rybinski

Season Team Games Goals Assistance puncture PIM Plus minus

2019-20

WHL Seattle

53

11

20

31

61

-14

2020-21

WHL Seattle

2. 3

7

21

28

24

-1

2021-22

WHL Seattle

47

21

44

65

52

30

2021-22 p

WHL Seattle

19

4

14

18

20

11

Well, you ended up getting an NHL contract anyway. Looking back, do you see your experience with the Panthers as a blessing in disguise?

I think it was a good thing. I feel like it pushes me to work on my game a lot more and it just made me work harder, I feel like it.

After I was drafted, maybe I stepped off the gas. It was a good lesson. I’m very glad it worked out for me.

I heard you can play wing and center. Where do you see yourself lining up in the pros?

I can play anything, obviously, except D and goalkeeper (laughing).

As a right shot, I assume you prefer the right wing when you are not playing center, correct?

Yes, right wing.

Given the choice, do you have a preference between center and right wing?

Center probably just because of the way I play. I play a hard game. I feel like I’m struggling. I get into the mix. So I feel like as a center I can use that skill a lot more.

But I’m also good on the wing because I can get in on the forecheck early and get in front of the D-men.

So, do you consider skating to be one of your strong points?

I feel like I’m fast, but I need to work on the first three steps.

I kind of use the readings, and by using those readings, I can maybe look faster than I actually am, just because I feel like I already have a feel for where it’s going to be, and I can relate to the guy right away.

After you leave here, what does the rest of your summer look like?

I’m going to train in Arizona at EXOS (elite training facility). I’ll do that for five weeks and then I’ll go home for the last two weeks and train there and skate. Just a lot of practice stuff after this camp to get you ready for training camp in Washington.

Is that your main goal, to get stronger?

Stronger and faster.

Upper body, lower body, stronger and faster.

In juniors, you can get away with it because you’re playing with younger guys and they’re not as developed. But I feel like for me, going pro, I’m going to work on that size and I’m going to be stronger because you’re playing against men. And not just men, some are really seasoned veterans who have been playing professionally for over 10 years. So yes, speed and size will be huge for me.

Has management told you what the plan is for next season? I guess it’s either Hershey or Washington, right?

I guess it will be Hershey or wherever they put me.

I’m just going to focus on trying to get better every day. I don’t worry about anything else. I am improving my game, improving my overall strength and speed every day.

You were the MVP of your junior varsity team last year. It had to feel good, right?

It was an honor. I went to the final. Yes, it was a good feeling. But at the same time, I couldn’t have achieved this without my colleagues in Seattle. They helped me in many ways. Also, the coaches. It was nice to be recognized, but at the same time, the coaches could have given it to other guys.

What do you need to show the coaches at training camp in September to prove you’re ready to take the next step, whether it’s in Hershey or Washington?

I just have to play with confidence. I feel like the last two camps I’ve done — one with Florida and one with Edmonton last year — I feel like I’ve just been shy, letting guys go forward just because they’ve been there. In this training camp, I just have to go into the fight and compete and say, ‘You know what? This is a chance for me to show what I’ve got.” And I go out there and I do everything I can and I know I left everything on ice. And if I’m wrong, that’s okay. Just move on. I feel like that’s the mindset I’ll be embracing going into camp.

One last thing: I noticed you have Muhammad Ali on your shirt. What’s up with that?

I don’t know (laughing). Muhammad Ali had a job. I thought it was a great shirt so I got it.

(Photo courtesy of Capitals)

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