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Warsofsky continues Stingrays’ tradition of developing coaches

San Jose Sharks' assistant coach Ryan Warsofsky on the bench during a game

Just five years ago, Ryan Warsofsky was enjoying his time in the ECHL as head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays. Just 30-years-old at the time, he was in his second season as the team’s bench boss, where he was enjoying considerable success.

In his first season as head coach in 2016-17, South Carolina won 40 games in the regular season, and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals where they fell to Colorado in four games in a series where every game was decided by one goal.

The next season, Warsofsky coached in the 2018 ECHL All-Star Classic, and led the Stingrays to a 48-16-8 record, while the team set league records for fewest goals allowed in a season (153) and lowest goals-against average per game (2.13).

Ryan Warsofsky on the bench while coaching the South Carolina Stingrays

Ryan Warsofsky went 88-44-12 in two seasons as head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays from 2016-18.

Fast forward to 2022-23, and the now 35-year-old has reached the National Hockey League, in his first season as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks.

“I didn't think it would happen this quick, but, you know, I just kind of approached it year by year and tried to do the best possible job in whatever position I was in,” he said.

Warsofsky’s quick ascent continued for the 2018-19 season when he was hired as an assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers. Success followed him as well as the Checkers captured the Calder Cup as AHL champions.

“I learned a ton that season as an assistant coach,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of drama throughout the year, we didn’t fight through a ton of adversity and winning obviously helps development, and we developed several players who are making an impact for the Carolina Hurricanes this season.”

After one season as an assistant coach for Charlotte, Warsofsky moved back into a head-coaching role after Mike Vellucci joined the Pittsburgh Penguins’ coaching staff. Warsofsky added a second Calder Cup title to his resume last season with the Chicago Wolves, where the Hurricanes had moved their affiliation prior to the 2021-22 season.

“Looking back at last season, we revamped some guys’ careers, like Josh Leivo and Stefan Noesen and Jalen Chatfield up in Carolina. Pyotr Kochetkov is going to be a really good goaltender and Jack Drury’s now gotten a taste of it,” he said. “And, you know, again, that's what we wanted to do is to develop some players, but along the way you win some hockey games and I think that was a special team and all of the things aligned for us to win again.”

Ryan Warsofsky celebrates with the Calder Cup following the Chicago Wolves victory in the 2022 Calder Cup Finals.

Warsofsky does not have to look far for someone to talk to if he needs advice in his first season on an NHL staff. Over the last 20 years, the Stingrays have done a remarkable job of developing coaches to move up the coaching ladder.

Former Stingrays’ player and coach Jared Bedner is the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, while former players and coaches Cail MacLean and Spencer Carbery are assistant coaches with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. In addition, former player and coach Jason Fitzsimmons is serves as Pro Scout/Minor League Operations for the Washington Capitals.

“It's honestly remarkable how many coaches have advanced from South Carolina, and I think it should probably be a bigger story than it is,” Warsofsky said. “All of us are on a group text together and we all stay in touch to try to learn from one another. It all stems from Robbie Concannon and the culture he has created there. He’s as loyal as they come and he is probably the most important Stingray that keeps it all together. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think any of us would have this connection, this bond that we all do.”

Warsofsky’s five combined years in the ECHL as both an assistant coach and a head coach have gone a long way to helping him prepare for this first season behind an NHL bench.

“When you are in the ECHL, you have a hand in all aspects of how the team is run, whether that’s personal or the business side, you hear things about tickets and you help in everything from equipment to the medical stuff,” he said. “So you wear a lot of hats and you learn a lot of different aspects of how to run an organization.

“Then on top of that, you have the actual hockey part and you have a lot of different personalities to deal with, just like you have in the National Hockey League,” Warsofsky continued. “I learned so much coaching all those years in the ECHL.”

Being part of an entirely new coaching staff for the Sharks this season has been an enjoyable part of the experience for Warsofsky.

“It's been a great experience thus far,” he said. “We have a great staff, and obviously we wish we were winning a little bit more, but we kind of knew what to expect with all of us being new and it's been good. It does take me back a little bit to the ECHL and how it’s such a grind with the schedule and the travel being a west coast team. You’re home for a week and then you’re gone for 10 days, so the travel and that part of it can be a challenge, but it's good for me to learn from it and experience it.”