You would be hard pressed to find a top prospect who went through a more tumultuous year than Anaheim’s 2003 first round selection, Ryan Getzlaf. In the summer of 2004, he was expected to break into the NHL and earn a roster spot with the Mighty Ducks. However, despite signing a pro contract, the lockout forced him to return to his junior squad in Calgary. From there on, his season was a variety of highs and lows.
Getzlaf was named team captain of the Hitmen, but the team started slow and lost focus. His own frustration poured through in a number of misconduct penalties which eventually led to him being stripped of his captaincy in mid-November. Although he regained the “C” in December, there were still many questions about his dedication and level of effort when he left to join Canada’s Under-20 World Junior team.
His performance in the tournament put many of these worries to rest. Getzlaf was a dominant player for Team Canada. He finished second in the tournament in scoring as well as leading the tournament in plus/minus. More importantly, Getzlaf’s contributions were key in the gold medal game, scoring the first goal for Canada and he was named the player of the game. When Hockey’s Future talked to Getzlaf in March he talked about what it was like to win gold.
“I think you get that appreciation a little bit more, being on the other side of things last year. I’ve stood on both bluelines at the end of the (gold medal) game, this year was better.”
Upon returning to the WHL, it wasn’t long before Getzlaf experienced another low. On January 25th, Getzlaf was on the receiving end of a crushing hit delivered by his World Junior teammate, Dion Phaneuf of the Red Deer Rebels. Getzlaf suffered a concussion on the play and missed 11 games. Getzlaf ended the season with 29 goals and 54 points in 51 games. Getzlaf talked about his season.
“It’s been tough. I’m not exactly happy with (my season). The points have been okay but it’s been a battle with the fact that I’ve been out missing games with my concussion and the World Juniors. It’s been fairly inconsistent as well.”
The Hitmen made it to the playoffs and defeated the Lethbridge Hurricanes in five games before being eliminated by the Brandon Wheat Kings in seven games. In those 12 games, Getzlaf scored four goals and had 17 points, the first time he scored at more than a point per game pace in postseason play.
Getzlaf’s year took another twist after the Hitmen were eliminated. Anaheim’s farm team, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, signed him to an amateur tryout contract to help out in their playoff run. Getzlaf joined the team for Game 3 of the West Division semifinal against the Milwaukee Admirals. The Ducks won that series in seven games and then lost in the West Division final against the Chicago Wolves in five games. Through 10 games of AHL playoff action, Getzlaf scored his first professional goal and had five points in total.
Getzlaf plans to make it to the NHL this fall. Although many would have put him in the NHL now if the lockout had not happened, Getzlaf disputes that this year was lost in terms of his development. “When you’re down [in the WHL] you’re developing too. This is a really good league this year and we’ve been in a battle all year. You’ve just got to take it a day at a time and develop as you go along.”
An important part of Anaheim’s bright future, Getzlaf looks forward to playing with the Ducks’ other prospects.
“Those guys are all great. I’ve played with them a lot through the camps, and you learn to be buddies with them too.” However, like anything, he understands that adjustments need to be made before he will be able to break in and make an impact at the pro level.
“You’ve got to show up every night or you don’t play. There’s no ‘ands’ ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. It’s play or you sit down.”
Aaron Vickers contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.