After signing a two-year deal with the team earlier today, winger Ryan Lasch becomes the first-ever Orange County native in the Ducks organization.
The 25-year-old Lasch is a native of Lake Forest who attended Trabuco Hills High School. He played last season with the Lahti Pelicans of the Finnish Elite League, where he led the league in scoring while helping the Pelicans to the league finals (after a last-place finish a season ago).
Check out a Lasch hat trick with Lahti
Earlier this month, he represented Team USA at the World Championships alongside current Ducks Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler (his roommate during the tournament) and Kyle Palmieri, and had two assists in seven tournament games.
Lasch played four years at St. Cloud State, where he was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and a second team All-American in 2008. He went on to play one season in Sweden before moving on to Finland last season.
Back home in Lake Forest, Lasch spoke about signing with his hometown team and his career.
How do you feel about signing with the Ducks?
It's pretty awesome and I’m really excited. It still hasn't sunk in yet. It's definitely a team growing up that I always watched and always liked, and to be able to have a chance to play with them is pretty special to me. I’m excited for the opportunity.
Were you a Ducks fan growing up?
Definitely. It’s your local team, so I was always watching them. The only other team was LA, which is a little further away, so I grew up watching the Ducks a lot. I remember watching Paul Kariya with the Mighty Ducks. He was one of my favorite players growing up. I’m a little smaller and try to use my speed, so he was a player I looked up to. He was a skill player who always had a good work ethic and I just liked his overall game. That’s how I wanted to play growing up.
How was it being an Orange County kid playing hockey?
I started playing when I was 3. My dad took me to a rink in Costa Mesa that I don’t think is even there anymore. I was hooked right away. Growing up, it wasn’t as big around here as it is now. It’s gotten a lot bigger and more and more kids are coming out of California and playing some big-time hockey. When I was playing, it hadn’t exploded like it has. I played most of my hockey growing up with the California Wave in Westminster. Nobody I went to school with played hockey, and I don’t think they really knew much about hockey. It was always baseball and football. But I was friends with all the guys I played hockey with, so I hung out with those guys a lot.
|Lasch played four seasons at St. Cloud State, where he was a Hobey Baker finalist in 2008. |
When you were a teenager, you left home to play junior hockey in Pembroke (near Ottawa). Was that tough?
Yeah, it was tough at first. I was 16 going to a place I had never heard of. When we were on the way to the airport, I was telling my mom, “Hey, this is not me.” But she was like, “Get on the plane.” She knew what was best. I was there by myself for the first time, so it was a cultural shock. It was tough at first, but it was a good time and good hockey. I can’t say anything bad about my time up there. I’m definitely glad I stuck it out.
After four years at St. Cloud State, you ended up playing in Sweden. What went into that decision?
Right out of school, there was really nothing going on as far as an offer I liked. I did some research on smaller guys coming out of college and playing over in Europe and getting a chance to come back. There were a lot of big names that did that, like Tim Stapleton, Brian Rafalski, Tim Thomas. That’s kind of what I looked at doing, and it’s great hockey. I’m glad I did that.
You played one season in Sweden, and ended up in Finland last year.
Yeah, I had an alright season in Sweden and I thought I played well, but as a team we struggled and dropped down into a [second-tier] league. So I thought, Where is the next direction I want to go? I ended up in Finland and that was a blast. They took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to play top minutes. It was a successful season for me personally, and most importantly, as a team. We went to the league finals after the team finished in last place the season before. I think we’re the first-ever team to do that and we brought the first-ever silver medal to Lahti.
What was it like playing in that town? Did you learn much Finnish?
I know certain words here and there, but I couldn’t speak a full sentence, that’s for sure. I think I gave up after the first week of even trying to learn. But that town was awesome. There are like 100,000 people and it’s a great hockey town as far as supporters. They have 5,000 fans a night filling up the rink and they always had your back. You come to Finland for the first time, not really knowing anything, and to have those kind of people supporting you and helping you out was pretty awesome.
|On being picked to play for Team USA at the Worlds: "I got the email inviting me and … I was a little shocked, let’s be honest. I was excited and grateful for the opportunity at the same time." |
You played for Team USA previously in the Deutschland Cup, but were you surprised to get picked for the team that played in the World Championships?
When I played for USA in the Deutschland Cup, I had a pretty good tournament. Then this season, things kept getting better and better and I thought I might have an opportunity. But then I got the email inviting me and … I was a little shocked, let’s be honest. I was excited and grateful for the opportunity at the same time.
What was the experience like playing that tournament in Finland?
I didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been on the world level like that, but it was a great experience. I didn’t have any expectations, so I just went there and played.
What was it like rooming with Cam Fowler?
It was awesome. The first day I wasn’t sure how he was going to be, but literally after one day it was awesome. He’s a great guy and we got along great. We still chat all the time.
Another teammate of yours on Team USA was Bobby Ryan, who you played some youth hockey with in California.
Yeah, we played together on the LA Junior Kings for a season, I think in Bantams (ages 13-14). We kind of lost contact for a few years when I went off to college and he went to the OHL. But we were friends on that team, and it’s kind of funny how it all works out at the end where you end up meeting back up with each other.