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Bright future helps Ryan in addressing the past

Saturday, 08.01.2009 / 12:29 PM / 30 in 30

By Eric Stephens - NHL.com Correspondent

Bobby Ryan knows they are coming. It's inevitable.
               
Any in-depth look into the young and talented Anaheim Ducks winger will likely include questions about living up to the status as a No. 2 draft pick and his once-troubled family life.

It's intertwined with him, like his DNA. It'll always be part of his history.

But things are different now. Much different.

No longer is Ryan just "The Guy Picked After Sidney Crosby" or "The Guy Who Really Isn't Bobby Ryan." A 31-goal, 57-point rookie season and being a Calder Trophy finalist helps move people past those signposts of his path of life.
               
Now when he sits down for an interview, Bobby Ryan can also talk about Bobby Ryan, the hockey player.

"Both things were always mentioned in stories," said Ryan, who recently sat down with NHL.com for a lengthy chat. "I kind of feel like they've gone from being the highlight of an article to a point where it has to be mentioned because every writer feels that they need to.

"I kind of feel like my name is, hopefully, starting to speak for itself (more) than both of those other things. It's been fun for me to watch it overall over these past six or eight months. To go from where it was to where it is now, it's a completely different thing."
               
Ryan still talks about the past.

About how he was born Bobby Stevenson and how the family moved to California so his father, Bob, could escape attempted murder charges in New Jersey for assaulting his wife, Melody, who ultimately forgave him. About how everyone took on other names so as not to be found. About how U.S. marshals stormed into the family's suburban L.A. home to arrest his father, who did four years in prison for pleading guilty to second-degree aggravated assault. About how the family is back together and happy, building from the wreckage of domestic violence.
               
Long ago, Ryan chose to be an open book. He just hopes that there's more to read about.
               
"Over time, I just wanted to step out of the shadow and make a name for myself," said Ryan, who's never thought of changing back to his birth name. "It's a great feeling to know that a lot of time now, I'm talking about the team and what's coming up. Not my family or something of that nature."

Ryan freely admits that he worried about being labeled a bust, especially after watching Crosby become a superstar and other 2005 first-round picks such Jack Johnson, Carey Price, Devin Setoguchi and Anze Kopitar take on regular NHL roles.    
 
Anaheim GM Bob Murray said he thought Ryan was ready when he led the Portland Pirates to the AHL Eastern Conference finals in 2008. Since then, Ryan has broken Anaheim's rookie scoring records and had one of the goals of the season -- his remarkable spin-o-rama move against the Los Angeles Kings that capped a natural hat trick.

"He's got what you can't teach," Murray said. "In a small space, he can create all sorts of stuff. Some people just have it."
               
In these dog days of summer, Ryan isn't relaxing on last year's breakthrough. He's learned to not let himself go again during the off-season as he works with Anaheim strength and conditioning coach Sean Skahan four days each week. Pre-packaged meals from a nutritionist are meant to keep him lean.
               
It's all part of the big plan.

Now that he has finally made it in the NHL, Ryan must do it again to convince any remaining doubters that he's the real deal -- especially when a lucrative contract extension is on the line, with his three-year rookie contract expiring next summer.

"I don't think the Ducks would be out of line in saying, 'He had one great year but is he going to do it again,' just to make sure it wasn't a fluke and they're not signing a guy for how many millions or whatever and it's not going to pan itself out," Ryan said. "I kind of feel I have to do it all over again."
               
Ryan will have every chance to put up bigger numbers. The 22-year-old is part of a top-six forward corps that includes Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, his linemates for much of the past season, along with Teemu Selanne and new acquisitions Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul.
               
The goal for Ryan this coming season is to ensure that he will be a cornerstone piece that leads Anaheim into the future. It's something he thought was in serious doubt after starting last season in the AHL because the Ducks were pushed up against the salary cap.

"In a couple of years, we could be a very, very dominant line," Ryan said, talking about himself, Getzlaf and Perry. "It's still going to take a bit of ways to go for us to say that about our line. But the potential is there. I hope the Ducks feel like it's the direction they want to go."

Murray said it is ultimately up to Ryan to become a franchise linchpin.

"Wishfully thinking, we'd like to keep him as part of that young core," he said. "We feel he's part of that already. But it's up to Bobby. Bobby has shown that he has the ability to fight through adversity. I think he says to himself, 'OK, I am here.'

"But it's going to be tougher on him next year. He's got a name for himself and people will key on him. Getzlaf and Corey had to go through it. It'll be up to him … that's the bottom line with everything."


Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas