RYAN PUNKARI
Jessie Hamilton Public School
(February 2006)

Local minor hockey fans always enjoy the challenge of trying to identify the future stars of tomorrow at a very young age, albeit seldom with any degree of success. But one name that continued to pop up as we canvassed Novice and Minor Atom coaches in the past year or so is that of Walden forward Ryan Punkari.

The grade four student at Jessie Hamilton Public school has been an absolute scoring machine for the Red Devils for much of the past two years. But he knows its time to start adjusting his game. “Everyone is improved so I really have to keep working on my passing…and we can body check this year”, says the smooth-skating nine year old.

The middle of three boys in the family, Punkari was surprisingly quite hesitant about getting his start in hockey. “I was really worried just stepping on the ice, scared of wiping out” says Punkari, as father Marty notes that he waited one extra year before enrolling the youngster in Canada’s winter sport.

Like most young hockey players his age, Punkari loves to score, a skill set he works on continuously. “I’m working on my wrist shot, trying to go top corner…and my slapshot needs to be better.” Bad news indeed for opposing netminders who have witnessed far too many pucks deposited behind them courtesy of the talkative Lively native.

“I remember scoring one on my knees after getting knocked down last year – I kind of swooped at the puck” recalls Punkari of one of his favourite goal-scoring memories. It should come as little shock that the youngster lists puck-handling wizard Alexander Ovechkin as his favourite NHLer.

Spring and summer brings the onset of lacrosse to Punkari’s schedule, and he understands that there are cross-benefits to the sport. “The running is good…but I like hockey better – you can work in a few more breaks when you’re skating.”

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