Ryan Stewart was a very promising junior player who due to health problems never got a chance to fulfill his destiny.
Stewart was a 1st round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 1985. Playing for the Kamloops Blazers (formerly Jr. Oilers), He put back to back 30 goal campaigns on a strong club. He was a good skater and showed some good strength at the junior level.
Ryan's 1985-86 season was a season he'll never forget. It started out on a less than great note when the Blazers traded the right handed center to the Prince Albert Raiders after just 10 games in the season. But Stewart turned in a fine season, exploding for 52 goals and 44 assists for 96 points.
What made the season even more memorable for Ryan was the fact that he was recalled from junior hockey early in November 1985 on an emergency basis. Winnipeg's Dave Silk suffered a badly broken finger and the Jets opted to use the emergency recall clause to give Stewart a taste of NHL action. Stewart had a good NHL training camp but was eventually cut for lack of experience. This would enable him to gain the experience he needed to take his game to the next level.
Ryan debuted against Minnesota on November 3 (3-1 win), his second game was against St.Louis November 4 (a 3-4 OT loss). Ryan's first and only goal came in his third and last NHL game against Buffalo on November 6. Winnipeg was trailing Buffalo 3-0 in the 2nd period when Ryan beat rookie goalie Darren Puppa at 12:34 of the 2nd period. The goal was assisted by Tim Watters and Ansi Melametsa, but Winnipeg lost the game 7-3.
If that season was a season to never forget, then the following year was definitely a season to forget. Ryan came down with a serious liver ailment that limited him to only 22 games in junior. Doctor's originally thought it was colon cancer but later changed their diagnosis. Illness was certainly not new to Ryan as he also had mononucleosis. The ailment took a lot of energy and strength away from Ryan, who was never again quite the same player.
Ryan finally had a chance to turn pro in 1987-88 but struggled immensely. He scored only 5 times and had 23 points in 48 games. It was clear that the liver ailment had cost him some fine development time over the past year or more, and Ryan would quickly fall from prospect to suspect. Severe wrist and shoulder injuries also hurt his development that season.
The following season Ryan quit hockey and returned home to British Columbia and asked for a trade.
"I just left because I was not playing very much," said Stewart " I had to get time away to see if hockey was something I wanted to continue with and if I want to continue with the Winnipeg Jets."
According to all the statistical records that I can find, Ryan played in only 9 games over the next 3 seasons. The entire 1989-90 season stats are listed as "unavailable."
Ryan resurfaced in Britain starting in 1991-92. He played for the Swindon Wildcats for 2 seasons, tearing up the league with 150 goals and 272 points in 65 games over 2 years! He added 28 goals and 46 points in 12 playoff games.
That was the last we heard from Ryan Stewart. He was a good kid with a good chance to make an impact in the NHL. Sometimes things don't always go as planned.