skip navigation

Chomping at the Bit: Warsofsky Named NHL's Youngest Head Coach

By Jamie MacDonald, 06/26/24, 1:15PM EDT


Marshfield's Ryan Warsofsky brings winning pedigree to San Jose

From Bay State to San Jose, Ryan Warsofsky is a Shark through and through

Ryan Warsofsky and family were introduced as San Jose's new head coach on June 17, 2024. Credit: San Jose Sharks

As much as anything, the San Jose Sharks have found a young and competitive newly named head coach in Ryan Warsofsky. 

Like, battling in the backyard with his brothers competitive.

Like, battling in the backyard with his brothers – as an adult, just last summer, as part of a family vacation, with wives left to shake their heads, again – competitive.

Warsofsky’s aim is to help push the Sharks, who will have the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer after a 19-54-9 record in 2023-24, in that direction. 

“Our fans need to see a team that cares deeply,” says Warsofsky, who served as assistant coach the past two seasons and can safely count among his confidantes Ray Bourque and Mike Sullivan. “When they leave the building, win or lose, [we want] fans saying, ‘Wow, did that team work hard. That was a fun team to watch.’ I was a fan once, a huge Boston Bruins fan growing up as a young kid. I watched the games and I listened to the press conferences, and I want there to be a connection with our fans.”

A Shark Through and Through

Warsofsky, now 36 and currently the youngest coach in the National Hockey League, comes by his own connection to the game honestly.

“I have three brothers, and we all played hockey, and my mum and dad would be driving us to rinks pretty much every single day,” Warsofsky says. “And if it wasn’t going to a rink, it was a street hockey game in our driveway – and it usually turned into a fight some point throughout the evening.”

His connection to “the Sharks” dates back about as long.

“I had a really good experience in youth hockey, going playing for the Bay State Sharks, who are now the Bay State Breakers, and it kind of comes full-circle now,” says Warsofsky. “I played for the Bay State Sharks, and now I’m coaching for the San Jose Sharks. [Through hockey] I met so many people, so many life-long friends, and my parents met some of their best friends. It’s a special game and you made a lot of special people and you make a lot of memories.”

Unlike so many young and talented Massachusetts hockey players, though, Warsofsky chose to spend four years playing high school hockey. For Warsofsky, it was the right path while even in his own family they diverged. 

“When I was probably in eighth grade and starting to make decisions, my younger brother [former Providence and Boston Bruins David Warsofsky, who played college hockey at BU] was obviously a great player, and had schools after him,” he says. “With me, I was just really comfortable going to public school and playing for the team there. I knew it was going to be challenged. I wasn’t in a rush to go to prep school; I knew that was going to be there. I wasn’t in a rush to go to juniors; I knew that was going to be there. I knew I had a chance to make the team as a freshman and play four years of varsity. I don’t want to say this and have people not push themselves or try something different, but it was all about me being comfortable where I was. It was where I became a leader.”

Warsofsky led the AHL's Chicago Wolves to the 2022 Calder Cup. Credit: Chicago Wolves

Planting the Coaching Seeds

In some ways, Marshfield High School may also have become where the seeds of becoming a coach were planted.

“Dan Connolly, who has had that program for now over 20 years, has done an incredible job, and he has an incredible hockey mind,” says Warsofsky. “I thought he was a great coach and I think he really helped me be a leader my own way. He wasn’t trying to mold me. We’re all different and they are all different types of leaders. He let me grow and make mistakes. I’m very fortunate for him and I still talk to him today.” 

After Marshfield High, Warsofsky played at Cushing Academy, where Ray Bourque was coaching at the time, and then on to Curry College.

“I had a decent hockey sense, I could see the ice, and I was an offensive guy, probably a little bit too much risk in my game at times,” Warsofsky says. “I think the one thing I wish looking back I worked on was my skating. I was just talking to my coach from Curry and he could be really hard on me and push me – and I loved it – but I wish I grasped it more. What he was asking me to do was a player, I would push back on and break that down. I should put more trust in it and him.”

With Bourque, an unforgettable couple of minutes on the sofa had a lasting effect, too. 

“We’re at his house for cookout, and he wanted me to become a better leader and to challenge our group a little bit, to speak up a little bit,” says Warsofsky. “I was trying to focus on myself and my own game, but you have to impact the game. I’ll never forget the conversation that Ray and I had. It’s been a really important piece of my career. I talked to him just the other day, through text and he’s told me stories of the coaches he has had through the years.”

The connection to Sullivan goes back even further. But the Penguins head coach, himself a veteran not only of coaching success, but also the less-than-enjoyable parts of that life.

“When I started to get into coaching, my first conversation with him, he wasn’t very happy,” Warsofsky says. “He did not want me to get into coaching. He was going through some things [then], and through the years, he’d be like, ‘What are you doing?’”

How times have changed.

“When I got to the American Hockey League, we started connecting and talking about next steps,” says Warsofsky. “I still pick his brain on his Stanley Cup runs and dealing with superstar players like [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin, and those are things that I’ve gone through as an assistant and I learned a lot from Mike and Ray.”

Warsofsky served as an assistant coach at San Jose for the last two seasons. Credit: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Raising the Bar

Warsofsky’s first coaching job was with his alma mater at Curry, and he spent two seasons in the ECHL before moving on to the AHL, where he won the 2022 Calder Cup with the Chicago Wolves. 

“I’m a demanding coach, but it comes from a good place,” he says. “My biggest goal here [in San Jose] is to make us more competitive. In everything we do. If we are down in Florida and we have an off-day and we’re playing beach volleyball, I want to see how competitive our players are. If we’re in the locker room and there’s a ping-pong game, I want to see how competitive our players are. If we go on the ice for practice and it’s a three-on-three cross-ice game, I want to see how competitive we are. That’s how I am. That’s how I was always coached. I’m not going sit here and pound my chest to say that I’ve won some championships. That doesn’t matter. It’s about our players and trying to change their mindset a little bit. We have to start being a lot more competitive.”

Warsofsky continues a recent run of Massachusetts connections in San Jose, where Boston College star Will Smith signed his entry-level contract in May with the team whose General Manager is former Boston University standout Mike Grier, and where the No. 1 pick is likely to land BU Hobey Baker winner Macklin Celebrini. Southborough’s Henry Thrun also wrapped up what is technically his rookie season in San Jose. Lincoln's Collin Graf, a Boston Jr. Bruins product, also signed with San Jose after starring for Quinnipiac.

“This is going to be a process,” says Warsofsky. “It won’t happen overnight. It will be a journey we’re going to start in September. Then we start building the foundation to winning hockey games and getting into the playoffs. We’re a little bit of a ways away. We know there’s a process to that. We’re going to continue to improve individually and collectively every day we come to this hockey rink. And it’s up to me to make sure that we have a plan in place, and then we execute.”