|Anaheim Ducks youngster Ryan Getzlaf was named to his first All-Star Game after representing the West in the YoungStars Game last season. Watch Getzlaf highlights
But don’t let that youthful exuberance fool you. When the 22-year-old Saskatchewan native laces on the skates and steps on the ice, he’s all business. As if leading his team in scoring during its Stanley Cup run last season wasn’t proof enough, now Getzlaf gets an opportunity to skate among the League’s elite after being named to the Western Conference roster yesterday for the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
"It’s a real exciting opportunity for me and I consider it an honor being selected," Getzlaf said. "I’ve looked up to a lot of the players that I’ll be playing with and against in the game. It’ll give me a chance to talk to them about the different experiences they have been through. I hadn’t made any plans for that day, so I’ll be there."
Last season, Getzlaf played in the NHL’s YoungStars Game, which was held the night before the All-Star Game in Dallas. Although the Western stars suffered a 9-8 setback, Getzlaf impressed in the 4-on-4 scrimmage with a pair of goals 1:24 apart in the third period to rally his troops.
"It was really cool to be playing in that game and get a feel of the All-Star Game from behind the scenes," Getzlaf said. "All the players in that game really enjoyed themselves and we all entered the game with the right attitude. We were there to have some fun and make it exciting."
Actually, Getzlaf was forced to play with brand-new equipment since his hockey bag was lost in transit between California and Texas. He also credited Teemu Selanne, who provided him with socks and gloves.
"It was Teemu’s gloves," Getzlaf quipped after the game. "They just had to heat up. Teemu didn't put the juice in them."
Getzlaf also will perform in Saturday’s SuperSkills competition and was asked if he had plans on dazzling the spectators.
"I don’t know, that’s something I’ll have to think about," he said. "I’ll have to start working on something – and quick.”
Getzlaf, drafted by the Ducks in the first round – No. 19 overall – in 2003, made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season, appearing in 57 games and registering 39 points on 14 goals and 25 assists. The Ducks advanced to the Western Conference Final that season before bowing to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. Still, Getzlaf revealed signs of future prominence in the postseason when he ranked among rookie leaders in goals (tied for second with three), power-play goals (tied for second with two) and power-play points (second with two).
Last season, he collected 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists) in 82 contests and was one of eight Ducks to play in every game. He finished tied for fourth on the team in goals and was tied for second with 11 power-play goals. Getzlaf was a pivotal offensive force for the Ducks during last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring a team-high 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 21 games to establish a team record for most points in a single playoff season.
In November, the Ducks locked up their All-Star center through the 2012-13 season when Getzlaf agreed on a five-year contract extension worth $26.625 million.
"We’re extremely pleased to be able to sign Ryan to a long-term deal," said Ducks General Manager Brian Burke at the time. "He's demonstrated great character and work ethic to complement his talent, a rare combination at such a young age."
Getzlaf, who leads the Ducks in scoring with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 44 games and has posted a team-best plus-20 rating, is the first to admit that his teammates, including close friend Perry (23 goals, 15 assists), certainly have made life easier for him on the ice.
"Corey is one heck of a player and I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to play with him the last couple of years," Getzlaf said. "It’s a shame he wasn’t named to the All-Star Game, but I tip my cap to the fans and the League for selecting the players competing. There’s always going to be a few players that some may feel should have been on the roster, but there’s no question the players in the game are going to make it real exciting."
Getzlaf met Perry in 2003 when the duo joined forces for Team Cherry at the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects game. At the time, Getzlaf was in his second year with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen while Perry was working his magic for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Five months later, they were selected by Anaheim in the first round of the 2003 Entry Draft, with Perry going 28th.
"Me and Corey never really discussed where we were drafted, but to be honest, he gives it to me a lot more than I give it to him," Getzlaf admitted. "I suppose it’s because I was projected to go a little higher and didn’t. But Corey is a great player and has been a key part of our success. Everyone has really had to step up after the loss of Teemu Selanne and Dustin Penner (Edmonton)."
Despite all his success at an early age, Getzlaf remains humble.
"I’ve only been in this League a few years, so I really feel blessed and fortunate to have this chance," he said. "You learn not to take anything for granted. There was some pressure entering the League as a first-round pick, but when you’re given the opportunity to play with such great players, it makes it a little easier. When I arrived, the players here welcomed me with open arms and that’s something that made my transition a lot easier."Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com