Here’s an interesting secondary storyline from the Teemu Selanne signing in Anaheim: Whither Bobby Ryan?
For years now, the Kid-Drafted-Behind-Sidney-Crosby in 2005 has been bouncing around, surfacing every once in a while in the NHL with the Ducks just long enough to tantalize, but not long enough to break through.
Ryan’s NHL career started out well enough, as he scored Anaheim’s only goal in a season-opening loss to the Kings in London, England last year. But from there it was stops and starts between Anaheim and Portland of the American League. Ryan would play two NHL games in one month, then eight the next. Sometimes he wouldn’t come up at all. He finished the season with 10 points in 23 games, meaning he remains Calder Trophy eligible this season.
And yes, Ryan is still quite young – 21, to be exact – but these days the kids are getting lots of opportunities early.
The five picks from the draft after Ryan all played regularly last season (Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel), while 2007 selections Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner and David Perron also have established themselves in short order. The less said about his peers taken after him in 2005 (Andrew Cogliano, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar), the better.
Not that it’s all Ryan’s fault. The youngster is a power forward and that sub-set tends to take longer to develop in the NHL. He was more than a point-per-game player for Portland last season in both the regular campaign and the playoffs, so it’s not as if he’s lost the touch he originally dazzled scouts with in Owen Sound of the Ontario League.
One of the problems for the right winger is, simply, he’s a right winger and Anaheim already has a couple of those. Corey Perry has the first spot locked down thanks to his chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf, while Selanne will once again patrol the second line, in all likelihood with Brendan Morrison this season.
Anaheim’s third line is its famous shutdown combo of Samuel Pahlsson with Travis Moen and, yep, right winger Rob Niedermayer. Fourth liners Brad May and George Parros averaged less than seven minutes of ice time a game each, while center Ryan Carter played 10:29, so bumping one of those players out doesn’t even bring much reward.
So where does Ryan fit in? Even a move to the left wing is fraught with problems, since Chris Kunitz and Todd Marchant are already there.
GM Brian Burke is known for making big moves regardless of talent, which is why Andy McDonald and Mathieu Schneider no longer need their beach houses. But those trades were made to get veterans Scott Niedermayer and Selanne back in the fold; will Burke do the same for a rookie, albeit one with a high pedigree?
Ryan does not have to clear waivers should he be sent down to the Ducks’ new AHL affiliate, the Iowa Chops, which means he is a likely candidate should a roster spot or salary cap space be needed. But here’s hoping Anaheim can find a consistent place for him in the O.C. for more than 23 games this season.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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