I’m having a blast. Outside of the success I’ve had this year, you still get to come to the rink every day and play hockey. You’re playing a game every day. That’s pretty incredible.
I’ve gotten a little bit of everything from the fans since I’ve been here. There have been phone numbers handed to me at events. I’ve had fans wait at the hotel for me after games, because they know all the rookies are staying there. One girl wrote me a poem that she made me read out loud back to her. It’s flattering and it’s nice to be noticed. It’s been fun spending time with our fans and they’re second to none.
I’m actually not surprised by the success I’ve had this season. It was just a matter of time before I got comfortable and was able to be instilled with a little trust. I’ve been fortunate to play with good players around me on all sides.
When they told me at the beginning of the season I was being sent down for salary cap reasons, it was emotional for me. It was really tough. I wondered if I was going to be able to stay motivated down there. I didn’t know if I was coming back here or if I was going to be traded somewhere. But at the end of the day you’ve just got to put it behind you and do the best you can with your time. I was confident that if I did the things I needed to do down there, I’d be back in no time.
When I was called up this year, I had no idea until the next day because they couldn’t get ahold of me for about 15 hours. We had the whole weekend off in Iowa
and I had turned my phone off. I had no reason to have it on. We were out at dinner and Brett Festerling got the call, so he had to leave dinner and go home and pack. We were excited for him, and I woke up the next morning and the call was there for me too. I didn’t know what the situation was going to be and I didn’t know how long to pack for. It’s been very nice to take the opportunity and run with it.
That goal that gave me the hat trick against the Kings is definitely my favorite, though I haven’t had enough to compare it with yet. Hopefully over the years, it will rank lower on the list. The text messages box was a little more full than normal after that game.
There’s always a lot of talk about the 2005 draft, where Sidney Crosby was taken first and I was taken second. It was an emotional time in the few days leading up to it, but Brian Burke was nice enough to tell me the night before that the Ducks were taking me second. The only thing I had to worry about was not tripping when I got on the stage.
Since I was the guy drafted right after Crosby
, every time I read an article about me, that’s one of the main focal points. Sidney Crosby is an exception. I think that whoever goes in the draft after him is really going to be magnified. But that’s something that’s always going to continue to happen, and it’s just another thing to put on the back burner.
People ask me all the time about pressure of being drafted No. 2. But with some of the things I’ve gone through in my life at a very young age, that kind of pressure is pretty minimal. Whatever adversity comes at you in life, you go through it and there’s a reason you go through it. I can personally say that it’s all made me a stronger person.
At the draft, everyone had heard rumors about what I went through with my parents, and I was pretty open about it. I thought it was something that needed to come out and for people to know that I’m not ashamed of what I have gone through. It’s just the way to say I’m an open book and I have no skeletons in my closet.
I was told in a meeting before my first NHL game last season that rookies are to be seen and not heard. Maybe I took it a little too much to heart, but it’s just my personality, I don’t want to step on guys’ toes. It’s important for me to be a sponge in this room and take in everything I can from these guys who have been around for so long. But Brian Burke thought I went overboard with it a little and was off on my own a little too much. He realized how nervous I was around these guys all the time and told me I needed to get better at mixing in. It was important for me to become a peer instead of a kid.
It will be fun years from now when I get to mess with the rookies a little bit.
Last summer I worked very hard at getting into better shape, lowering my body fat, becoming stronger and quicker. I started the offseason at home in New Jersey
and drove cross-country out to California
. I got to Anaheim
on the day of the NHL Draft and all the trade rumors were going around about me. I thought to myself, I hope I didn’t just drive 3,000 miles over the last couple of days for nothing. I worked with our strength coach, Sean Skahan all summer and I got down to nine percent body fat. It was a long, long summer, but it’s been worth it to feel this way.
The hardest food to give up? French fries.