January 16, 2009
While the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has won an Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and captained his team to a Stanley Cup finals appearance in his three full seasons NHL seasons, the player drafted right after Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is finally getting his chance to prove his worth.
Tonight, Bobby Ryan and the Anaheim Ducks visit Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh to face the Penguins, which could be the first time the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the 2005 Draft meet on the ice. Crosby is listed as day-to-day and his status is questionable for tonight's game since injuring his leg on Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals. He did participate in the morning skate. (UPDATE: No Sid tonight, per the Pens.)
After spending the season after the '05 Draft in juniors with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League, and then last season going back and forth between Anaheim's American Hockey League affiliate in Portland and the NHL, Ryan is making the most of his extended opportunity with the big club.
Ryan's offensive ability is now on display nightly; you probably remember his memorable goal just last week to cap off his hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings, which he achieved in just 2 minutes and 12 seconds (sure, over the span of two periods, but still...).
Despite being just a few months removed from his inclusion in possible trade talks by his own general manager, Ryan survived being a salary cap casualty and took the advice that Brian Burke gave him before sending him down to the Iowa Chops after training camp. The Ducks rookie wasn't told when he would make it back up to the NHL, but understood he needed to be prepared at any point for a return:
"He was very adamant about not giving me a timeline on that," Ryan said. "I understand that to a degree. He's got his hands full there and his first priority is to take care of the team ... I understand it's a business. I'm kind of taking the brunt of it a little bit right now, but at the same time, he made it pretty clear what he needs me to do down here to take care of my end of the bargain."
Ryan has listened, taken care of his end of the bargain and now is reaping the benefits of an extended stay in Anaheim. Through 27 games this season, Ryan has potted 12 goals and 26 points, good for fourth in rookie scoring -- which is quite impressive when comparing the games played by Patrik Berglund (37), Blake Wheeler (43), and Kris Versteeg (40), the three men ahead of him.
Being selected after one of top players in the League forced undue pressure onto the Cherry Hill, Jersey native. While being taken No. 2 overall has a high level of expectations to begin with, Ryan has recently been dubbed as "the player picked after Sidney Crosby."
Many fans are eager to call a high draft pick a bust when their production isn't as rampant or consistent as their fellow drafts mates. Some Pittsburgh Penguins fans are calling Jordan Staal a bust already, despite the fact he's a mere 20 years old.
Ryan, who turned 21 in March, is just hitting his stride; and now that he's been given a chance to play at the NHL level on a regular basis, his scoring ability will make shedding the "bust" label quite easy.