For a Michigan native who spent the past 10 seasons playing with the Vancouver Canucks, Ryan Kesler is making the move to Southern California look easy.
Acquired by the Anaheim Ducks on June 27 in a trade for forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and two draft picks, Kesler looked right at home throwing out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game at Angel Stadium on Wednesday. After meeting several Angels players, including star outfielder Mike Trout, Kesler could barely contain his smile when he conducted his first interview wearing a Ducks jersey.
Center - ANA
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 43
SOG: 239 | +/-: -15
"It's a little different but it feels amazing. A new chapter in my life and I'm excited," Kesler told Fox Sports. "It's been amazing. Better than I expected. The weather is great, the place is just amazing. I can't say enough good things about it. I'm glad to get the season going."
It clearly didn't take long for Kesler to take to the California weather and lifestyle, but the veteran center has every reason to be excited about the upcoming season. He's joining a Ducks team that had a Western Conference-best 116 points last season, one point behind the Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
Anaheim defeated the Dallas Stars in six games in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs before bowing out in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the second round. Joining a skilled team boasting a healthy mix of veterans and young talent, Kesler would like to contribute to a deep playoff run for a franchise that hasn't advanced to the Western Conference Final since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.
"I like the makeup of their team. I think they have a chance to win. They're young and upcoming too," Kesler said. "A great place to live and the list goes on. Most importantly, they have a chance to win here and do great things. Now it's up to us to do it."
Now that he's adjusted to his new surroundings, the real transition will come on the ice and in the locker room, where Kesler must integrate into a brand-new group after spending more than a decade in Vancouver. He didn't waste much time becoming familiar with his new teammates, including forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
"I talked to Cam Fowler too. They're all very welcoming, they're happy," Kesler said. "I think we're all happy that we're on the same team now and not battling in the same division. It's going to be a fun ride."