Flying out of Sid's shadow

 

Every so often, there are two NHL drafts. The one for the phenoms, and the one for the mere mortals.

 
 
 
 
 

Every so often, there are two NHL drafts. The one for the phenoms, and the one for the mere mortals.

In 1984, there was Mario Lemieux and everybody else. The Penguins got Super Mario. The New Jersey Devils got Kirk Muller at No. 2.

In 2005, there was Sidney Crosby and the rest of the kids in the pool. The Penguins got Sid the Kid at No. 1. The Anaheim Ducks called out Bobby Ryan.

The lottery to see which of the 30 teams got first pick in Crosby's coronation was such a big deal it was televised. Then Penguins GM Craig Patrick and former Ducks GM Brian Burke stood anxiously on a stage in Ottawa with two bingo balls left in the drum. Pittsburgh got the right ball.

We know what Crosby's done. He's still a big headline.

Bobby Ryan? It may have seemed like he fell into the "in other news" category that day, but he's certainly no wall-flower.

"You get a Crosby who doesn't come along very often ... he deserved all the accolades, but I didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Hopefully, they'll remember me, at some point, for something other than being drafted after him," said Ryan.

There have been some forgettable consolation prizes in the draft. Doug Smith at No. 2 after Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk went first in 1980. Or Pat Falloon who went second in 1991 after Eric Lindros. But Ryan looks like he's going to be a fine player, just as the hard-working, skilled Muller turned out to be after Lemieux cast his huge shadow. Muller played 19 years and 1,349 games, won a Stanley Cup in Montreal and had 959 points. He's in the top 80 in career points.

Playing his first full season, Ryan has 26 goals in 58 games, moving over from his usual right wing to play leftside with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He has 50 points, just breaking Dustin Penner's Ducks' rookie record. He's got four points in his last two games, including a pair of assists in that wild Oilers' win over the Ducks in Anaheim last Friday. In any other year he might be the NHL's best rookie with a shot at 30 goals. But when Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason has 10 shutouts, again, Ryan's not going to get his just reward.

"I've always liked flying under the radar," Ryan said.

Guy Lafleur never won the rookie of the year. "Neither did Sidney Crosby, so that's OK with me," reminded Ryan.

It took Ryan another two years of junior in Owen Sound (OHL) after the 2005 draft and parts of two seasons in the AHL, the first month and a half of this season when he was caught in a salary cap squeeze, to make it to the NHL to stay.

Now Ryan looks like the real deal. He's still a big body, but not as big as before. He made a conscious decision, with some arm-twisting from coach Randy Carlyle, and maybe Burke, to drop some calories last summer. He had to get quicker, not stronger.

"I think I lost 18 or 19 pounds. It was like night and day," said Ryan.

He's had little trouble fitting in with Getzlaf and Perry, even changing sides, and he's got 26 goals in only 153 shots. He's your classic, one-shot scorer.

"I always thought of myself more as a passer, but when you play with Getz, I think they're relying on me to be a shooter. The room Getz creates and the passes he makes, you get lots of opportunities," said Ryan, who was bummed that the Ducks couldn't beat the Oilers last week.

"We couldn't capitalize on our power play (they had 24 shots in nine tries) and Roloson stood on his head (51 saves)," said Ryan. "It was a four-point swing we let get away ... and it was a chippy game, probably the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere I've been in. I know we're all looking forward to (today)."

Ryan, who started the year wearing No. 54, is now wearing Paul Kariya's old No. 9 in Anaheim. There were a few grumbles with fans that Kariya's No. 9 should be retired because he put the Ducks on the map, but Ryan, who had worn No. 9 all through minor hockey, didn't get that vibe from Kariya.

"I've skated with him for a couple of summers and told him it was the number I'd worn all my life. We didn't touch on whether I'd wear it here, maybe once, but I don't think it was a big deal to him," said Ryan.

 
 
 
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