Speech impediment does not slow down Penguins RW Bryan Rust
January 20, 2016 12:28 AM
Matt Kincaid/Getty Images
Penguins right winger Bryan Rust has played in 10 games this season and has one goal.
By Seth Rorabaugh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Confidence isn’t something Penguins right winger Bryan Rust lacks.
Mid-round draft picks trying to prove they belong in the NHL generally don’t skate down the slot and coolly score breakaway goals in front of the hockey-mad fans of Montreal.
Yet, that’s how Rust produced the winning goal in the second period of a 3-1 victory Jan. 9 against the Canadiens. Taking a pass from center Nick Bonino, Rust attacked the net and flicked a wrister by the blocker of Montreal goaltender Mike Condon.
“I played the same way down in the [American Hockey League],” said Rust, a third-round pick in 2010. ”I just tried to make simpler plays, but I also just try and play hard offensively. Not make all these little finesse plays but take the puck to net. I like to get pucks on net. It was something I learned when I was younger from my coaches. There’s nothing bad if you get a puck on net. If anything, you might get a bounce here or there.”
His willingness to take chances on the ice might help him stand out, but his confidence off the ice might be his most impressive trait. Rust, 23, was born with a speech impediment that causes him to stutter.
“I’ve kind of embraced it. My older brother has the same thing,” he said, referring to former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton center Matt Rust. “It’s kind of something we’ve grown up with together and just dealt with. I’ve had a lot of people around me that have been really supportive with it. Sometimes, it’s not so bad. Sometimes, it’s really bad. … It’s just one of those things I’ve just kind of learned to deal with.”
Routinely willing to talk with media, Rust’s speech occasionally will get tripped up when answering questions. “It more so happens when I’ve got too much on my mind and I’m trying to talk too fast. I’ve been trying to work on that. Try to talk a little bit slower in interviews when I have so many thoughts running in my head.”
While it has no bearing on Rust’s on-ice skills, his ability to deal with it isn’t lost with management.
“I think it’s an incredible sign of character,” Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin said. “Just mental toughness. Being able to fight through things. That’s a life situation. Things like that, those are tough on a kid’s confidence and self-esteem. To be able to battle through that and to get where you are, it’s a good sign of character.”
Guerin also admires Rust’s in-game aggressiveness.
“You can play safe, and that will be fine,” Guerin said. “That’s good right off the hop. But, eventually, what do you do? What do you bring to the table? I think Bryan knows he’s capable of making plays. He’s capable of putting up a goal here or there or making a nice pass. He’s capable of that. I think he knows that. And he does it at the right times.”
Rust, a native of Pontiac, Mich., has found a temporary role on the third line alongside center Eric Fehr and left winger Tom Kuhnhackl. Rust made his NHL debut last season, tallying two points in 14 games with the Penguins. He was most recently called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Jan. 7.
“It’s a lot harder to stay here than it is to just get a shot,” Rust said. “A lot of guys who come up here and get their cup of coffee, play a minimum of games. It’s another thing to stick. It’s another thing to make your mark and be able to make a good enough impression on management to make them keep you up. That’s something I’ve learned to continue to work toward. I’ve just got to keep trying to work.
“The hardest thing to do in life is doing anything well consistently, and that’s something over the course of how ever many times I’ve been up and down here, I’ve kind of learned I have to try to bring it every day.”
Seth Rorabaugh firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @emptynetters.
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