|Ryan was taken No. 2 overall by the Ducks in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
By Matt Vevoda
From the moment his name was called as the second overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, right wing Bobby Ryan has had immense expectations to live up to.
Along with being the highest draft pick in Ducks history, Ryan was Brian Burke’s first selection as Anaheim’s Executive Vice President and General Manager. One pick prior to Ryan’s selection, Pittsburgh drafted Sidney Crosby, who was already being dubbed “The Next One” and has since won the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP during the 2006-07 season.
“Oh yeah, there are expectations,” Ryan said. “I’m sure there always will be. You hear what people say and what people think.”
The first chance for Ryan to make his mark in the NHL came and went quickly to start this season, as the 20 year-old lasted only four games with the Ducks before getting sent down to the team’s minor league affiliate in Portland.
|Ryan's first career goal came in the season-opener against the Kings in London. |
In his brief debut Ryan showed glimpses of his scoring prowess and what his future may hold (netting a goal in his first career game, a 4-1 season-opening loss to the Kings in London). But for the most part the Cherry Hill, N.J.-native looked overwhelmed by the pace of the NHL game.
“You’re not really in a comfortable situation,” Ryan said in looking back. “You’re trying to learn something new every day. You’re really just trying to find a comfort level, but it’s tough to do.”
While with Portland, Ryan reeled off 24 points in 25 contests, but the most important thing for the rookie was the development of his composure. That would lead to his next call-up to the Ducks on Dec. 15, and a noticeable improvement in his game that has kept him in Anaheim for the time being.
“Spending time down there in the American Hockey League, I was able to get into a routine and really find my game,” Ryan said. “It’s translated well this time around.”
|Ryan's chemistry with Weight (right) on the second line has been a key for the Ducks. |
Most importantly, the progress has been noticed by the guy who fills out the lineup each night, head coach Randy Carlyle.
“I just think there’s more of a comfort zone with the pace of the game,” Carlyle said. “When he was first here, he was struggling to keep up. I don’t know if that’s completely been eliminated, but he seems more comfortable with it.”
Added fellow winger Chris Kuntz: “The minors helped him out. He came back and has played with more of an edge. It’s something that’s helping us win.”
Ryan first game back with the Ducks happened to be the same game (Dec. 16 vs. San Jose) Scott Niedermayer also returned and Doug Weight made his debut. Since the trio has been in the Ducks’ lineup, the team has gone 6-2-1.
Tinkering with the lineups all season in trying to establish a second scoring line to go along with the established Getlzaf-Kunitz-Perry combination, Carlyle tried Ryan and the 36-year-old Weight together in hopes of a solution. The decision paid off immediately, as Weight assisted on Ryan’s second goal of the season, which would be the Ducks’ only tally in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Sharks on Dec. 16.
In a total of eight games together on the Ducks’ second line, chemistry between Ryan and Weight has been apparent. The tandem has combined for seven points (Ryan four points, Weight three) in that time.
| “Oh yeah, there are expectations,” Ryan says. “I’m sure there always will be." |
“I feel like he compliments me very well,” Weight said. He’s got great ability to carry the puck, get the puck back and he’s finding open spots.”
Says Ryan: “Dougie loves to pass out in front and I don’t mind standing there all night. For me to find holes and for him to have someone to look for, it’s something that’s been good for both of us.”
Yet Ryan knows his game must continue to grow to fulfill those enormous expectations. “I’m in a survival state,” Ryan said. “For me, every single day is my chance to earn my spot to stick. So far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job. There are a couple of things that I have to continue to work on, but I will do so accordingly. That’s for sure.”