After being delayed for a year due to the lockout, the dream of playing in the NHL has finally become a reality for highly-touted Mighty Ducks prospects Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. On Monday night, the 2003 first round draft picks earned the right to skate before a sellout home crowd at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
“When you’re a young kid, you want to play on TV in front of your family and I finally get an opportunity to do that. It’s a dream come true and that’s all I wanted to do and I got this opportunity and I’m just trying to take it and run with it,” said Perry.
“It’s a dream. It’s been a long term goal for a long time and it’s finally here and I hope I take advantage of it now,” echoed Getzlaf.
Taking advantage of the opportunity and staying in the line-up may be even more difficult than making it. This may come as a surprise given that both Getzlaf and Perry have torn up the competition at every level in which they’ve played. Perry has notched 140 goals and 380 points in just 253 games in the Ontario Hockey League while Getzlaf has posted 215 points in 233 career Western Hockey League games. At just 20 years of age, both players have played internationally for Team Canada and have added a gold medal to their growing list of accomplishments. More recently, Getzlaf and Perry impressed their teammates and coaches in the preseason by scoring seven points each in exhibition play.
“They’re both really skilled players. Getzlaf is a great passer. Perry’s a great finisher. They help out on our power play and can definitely score big goals,” said Ducks forward Joffrey Lupul, 22, who made his NHL debut not so long ago himself.
But according to first-year Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whether or not these talented players remain in the line-up will depend largely on their ability to adjust to the pace of the NHL.
“When you go into the training camp mode and then into the regular season, there’s another gear that the veteran player has and the younger players are trying to find that.”
“Everything’s a bit quicker. Everybody’s stronger,” noted Perry. “Obviously the pace of the game is quicker but you get adjusted to it and the exhibition games help a lot especially with the speed of the game.”
Getting an opportunity to adjust to the pace of the NHL game will be a challenge for both players as they have seen limited ice time in each game. Getzlaf has seen an average of 10:11 minutes per game while Perry has fared slightly better with 13:05 minutes of ice time. Through three regular season games, Perry appears to be making the best argument to keep his spot. At Monday’s game, he scored a goal off veteran defenseman Jason Marshall’s one timer. The goal was not only the first of Perry’s NHL career, it also made Perry the first player in Mighty Ducks history to start his NHL career with a three-game point streak.
“You always got to go out there and play your game. That’s my style of game and sure it takes a little pressure off and boosts your confidence, but I’ve got to drop this and prepare for the next game on Friday,” said Perry.
Getzlaf has been held off on the scoreboard but has also played solidly leading many to believe that this may be the start of something far more impressive from both players. According to Chuck Fletcher, the Ducks Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development, Getzlaf and Perry won’t “reach their full potential or be able to produce offensively at their peak for a few more seasons. It usually takes two to three seasons of experience, playing in the NHL to adjust fully to the pace of the league and to learn how to produce offensively at this level.”
Added Fletcher, “four or five years from now, I’d be very surprised if they weren’t two of our top scorers on the team along with Joffrey Lupul.”
Lupul, now in his second NHL season, battled his way through his first NHL season earning 13 goals and 34 points. He spent three days with the Ducks minor league affiliate in Cincinnati where he scored five points in three games. He’s familiar with the struggles that Getzlaf and Perry are facing in their rookie season.
“There’s going to be nights where you don’t feel you belong here and you’re not getting the ice time you feel you deserve. [You’ve got to] keep working hard and stay confident. You don’t get those types of privileges your first year. I’m getting a lot better opportunities here in my second year and that’ll probably be the same for them.”
Until that time comes, both Getzlaf and Perry have committed to earning their spot on the roster every day.
“I’ve got to keep moving my feet in practice especially,” said Perry. “I’ve got to keep working as hard as I can cause if you work hard in practice you’re going to work that hard in a game and that’s all I’m trying to do.”
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.