Ladd geared up for playoff run

By Aaron Vickers

From the moment that General Manager Jim Rutherford of the Carolina Hurricanes selected Calgary Hitmen product Andrew Ladd as the fourth overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, questions arose as to whether or not the Maple Ridge, British Columbia native could fulfill the expectations of being selected so high.

Entering the draft, Ladd had already had several accolades bestowed upon him. Not only was he Central Scouting’s top North American skater, he was also runner up in the WHL’s Rookie of the Year, voted second only to budding Vancouver Giants star Gilbert Brule. It seemed natural for Ladd to be selected high in the 2004 Entry Draft.

Ladd did not take his ranking for granted, nor the weekend’s festivities held in what could eventually be his new home of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s definitely an experience,” said Ladd of the Entry Draft weekend. “You can never take away that weekend and what I did there. It was an exciting time of my life, and something I’ll never forget.”

Projected as a high first round selection, the bruising 6’3 winger knew he’d be selected early, though, he hadn’t figured on Carolina selecting him.

“I was surprised to see Columbus trade down,” admitted Ladd, who was heavily scouted by the Blue Jackets organization all season. “I don’t think anyone knew what to expect that day.”

But with the announcement that Columbus had swapped selections in the first round, Ladd began to feel secure in where he was going to be selected. Interviewed by Carolina on several occasions, it didn’t come to a surprise to the youngster that he was to be the fourth overall pick in the draft.

“I thought the trade gave me a pretty good shot of being selected next. (My agent) knew that Carolina was interested in me.”

Nine months later, Ladd still smiles at the fact that he belongs to the Carolina Hurricanes organization.

“It’s exciting because they aren’t too deep in terms of prospects,” Ladd suggested. “Looking from that perspective it gives me a pretty good chance to make my way up through the organization.”

It is also a little more special for Ladd to be joining the Hurricanes organization after fellow Calgary Hitmen teammate Brett Carson was selected in the fourth round of the same draft. Carson, a defenseman, was ranked 32nd among North American skaters heading into the draft weekend.

“Anytime you play with a guy for the whole year, you have someone to move on with and try to make that next level with is pretty exciting,” said Ladd of having Carson by his side. “Me and him are pretty good friends, which makes it a lot better too.”

Ladd isn’t finding it hard to make friends within the organization, either. With such a young organization with several quality prospects coming up the ranks, Ladd’s finding it easy to bond with his future teammates. Even more so, Ladd is enjoying the thought of his team’s future in Carolina.

“They’ve got a lot of great players coming up,” offered Ladd. “That’s the most exciting part. Guys like (Cam) Ward, (Eric) Staal and (Danny) Richmond. It’ll be fun to see how us guys progress.”

While many feel that Ladd specifically hasn’t progressed as expected, Ladd doesn’t seem to be too worried about his lack of production in the Western League this year. With four games remaining in the Hitmen’s regular season, Ladd has just 19 goals and 41 points, while skating in 61 games. There was reportedly a possibility of a separated shoulder suffered at the Canadian Junior Development Camp held in August.

“I’m not going to start making excuses. That’s just not me,” Ladd began, regarding the reason for his low offensive output. “Let’s just say I didn’t have the start I wanted to, and right now I’m starting to get back to where I want to play and bring what I want to bring.”

Perhaps the turning point in Ladd’s sophomore season in the WHL came with the 2005 World Junior Championships. Ladd, along with Hitmen teammate Ryan Getzlaf, helped earn Canada’s first gold medal in nearly a decade of competition.

“You can take so many things from that experience,” paused Ladd. “Like when you win a championship and you learn how to go through the adversity it takes to win. From there, it’s about how guys take on different roles throughout the team.”

It was certainly something that Ladd was able to do, filling a checking/defensive role on a line with Getzlaf and Sault St Marie Greyhound and Philadelphia Flyer prospect Jeff Carter. The line, as successful as any in the tournament, went through the round robin, playoffs, and final without allowing a goal against them.

“I don’t know how much you can say,” smiled Ladd in reference to playing with Getzlaf and Carter. “Obviously they are two amazing players and they both bring so much to the line. It wasn’t hard to play with them.”

Nor was it difficult for them to play with Ladd, who quietly went about his business on the ice and ended up fourth on Team Canada in scoring, with three goals and seven points in six games.

Ladd, an associate captain in Calgary, has used the tournament in order to prepare himself for the rest of the regular season, which wraps up next week, and launch himself and his Hitmen team in a deep playoff run, after what some would call a disappointing regular season after being ranked the WHL’s top team heading into the year.

“It’s exciting that the playoffs can be our second chance,” admitted Ladd. “So we’ll see what we can do. I don’t think (the season) has been too disappointing, but we haven’t put out our best effort consistently.”

It will be a challenge for not only Ladd, who has struggled with consistency, but the entire organization, from players to management. With the playoffs approaching, there is no opportunity to learn from mistakes made several times over, especially in an extremely tough West Division. With no favored opponent heading into the postseason, Ladd figures it’s irrelevant who they draw first.

“To get where we want to go, we have to beat every team anyways,” Ladd said. “We’ve played all those teams at tough times through the year and we’ve played them very well.”

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.