Bobby Ryan might not want the New Year to ever come, considering how well the 2005 calendar year has treated him. After being drafted second overall in the NHL Entry Draft, Ryan returned to his Owen Sound Attack team, where he was named team captain. Currently, Ryan sits at second in the OHL in scoring with 23 goals and 73 points in just 33 games. However, there are bigger things on the 18-year-old’s mind as he prepares to represent his country at the 2006 Under-20 World Junior Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This is the first time Ryan will suit up for Team USA at the World Juniors, although a case could have been made for his inclusion last year. In 62 games last season, Ryan tallied a total of 37 goals and 89 points, placing him sixth in the league in scoring. In fact, he was challenging for the OHL scoring title before a shoulder injury that he suffered in the CHL Top Prospects Game dimmed his chances.
The 6’2, 217-pound right winger will join a Team USA that is loaded with talent. Ranging from the player selected immediately after him in the draft (defensemen Jack Johnson (CAR)) to the only OHL player who has scored more points this season then Ryan (forward Robbie Schremp (EDM)) to the top-ranked prospect for the 2006 NHL Draft (forward Phil Kessel), Team USA is the widely judged favorite going into the Championships. Ryan is hesitant to admit it and said there isn’t much talk about being favorites amongst the American players.
“Everybody realizes that the media is able to say what they want, but I think in the room there is a quiet confidence and that’s about it,” he said when Hockey’s Future caught up with him during the short American training camp that was held the week before the start of the tournament.
He is a bit more forthcoming when asked what game he personally is looking forward to the most, saying “I think Canada. Without a doubt.”
He has played against a number of Team Canada’s players in the OHL, so that will undoubtedly up the emotion level for him in what is always a spirited bout. Said Ryan, “The games some time at home get a little heated, but I don’t think they’ll be anything close to what this is going to be, it’ll be incredible.”
When speaking about roles, Ryan expects that he’ll be relied upon to contribute offensively. However, he points to Kessel as his pick for top scorer, although he figures that Schremp will be up there, and hopes he also will be challenging. Ryan will also be asked to hold his own defensively. He freely admits that his defensive play is not at the level he wants it to be at, but is willing to do whatever is asked of him. He also expects that his size will be a benefit up front, mentioning that he models his game after Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi.
“He’s a bit more physical than I am. But I think that I’m a big guy and use my size well in the corners.” said Ryan.
As an American playing in the CHL, Ryan is unusual and he admits it made him a little nervous about his chances on making Team USA. It’s long been thought that the World Junior team in the United States has been reluctant to select players from the CHL, the same way there have been whispers that Team Canada has sometimes hung back on selecting players from the NCAA. According to Ryan, “When I talked to some of these guys and they already knew and I didn’t, it was a little bit nerve-racking, but I felt that I had a strong enough summer camp and fortunately I got the call.”
However, he certainly doesn’t regret choosing the CHL over the NCAA, stating that, “I just felt that with the schedule and things like that, the preparation for the game was much more on the NHL basis than college hockey.”
Being team captain of Owen Sound is a new responsibility for the forward, but he welcomes the challenge.
“We have such a young team, it’s good to be part of bringing along some guys who are going to be good players in the league in a few years and having a chance to carry a team offensively so to speak.”
Ryan feels some regret about leaving his team while they are right in the middle of the OHL schedule, but obviously could not pass up the opportunity to play for his country and the Attack understood that. He describes the World Juniors as “the chance of a lifetime.”
Ryan was in Anaheim for their training camp this fall, but due to a shoulder injury, he was unable to participate. Nevertheless, he is quick to describe the whole experience as “incredible,” saying that “being there and taking things from guys like Sergei Fedorov and Niedermayer is something I’ll never forget.”
He mentions that bruiser Todd Fedoruk was one of the more helpful veteran players at camp, mainly due to their shared background out of Philadelphia. He also points to Kip Brennan as being another player who helped him out. While it was disheartening that he was unable to hit the ice and play in his first NHL training camp, Ryan admits that making the NHL right after the draft probably wasn’t in the cards anyway.
“We realized that another year in the OHL and having the chance to wear the “C” on my team would be good,” he said.
Team USA’s first game is on December 26th against Norway. Ryan will have to wait until December 31st to face off against Canada. It’s fitting that this whirlwind year of Bobby Ryan’s will end with the game he’s looking forward to the most.
Matt MacInnis contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.