Friday, February 13, 2009
If anyone knows how Kyle Turris feels, it's Anaheim's Bobby Ryan
Highly touted rookie Kyle Turris of the Phoenix Coyotes no doubt is feeling down about his AHL demotion, but take it from a fellow top-three overall draft pick who's been there, done that:
It could very beneficial.
"I've played against Kyle numerous times and I've seen him play, he's going to have a heck of a career," Anaheim Ducks rookie Bobby Ryan told ESPN.com. "Depending on how long he's down there, he's going to be able to learn to be a pro in a less stressful environment and that's certainly going to do nothing but good things for him."
Ryan, who has exploded with a huge rookie season since his mid-November call-up from the AHL, understands how Turris may be feeling right now, given the high expectations. Turris went third overall in the 2007 NHL draft, while Ryan went second overall in 2005. Be patient, Ryan's advice was to Turris.
"I think it's a very important step to take, to spend some time in the minor leagues," continued Ryan, who turns 22 next month. "You learn a little bit about yourself and you learn a little bit about yourself as a player. There's ups and downs with that. It's emotional. You want to play at the highest level, but there is a time frame that you spend down there [in the AHL] and you get to breathe a little easier and certainly progress."
It certainly has worked for Ryan, who is blossoming in front of our eyes after some seasoning in junior and minor pro. We made the comparison of Turris to Ryan in a conversation we had with Coyotes GM Don Maloney on Thursday and he saw the merit in it.
"Kyle is everything we want and hope for other than the physical maturity," said Maloney. "When I met with him [Thursday], I told him he's done everything possible. Like showing up the rink early, and being focused and his compete level ...
"There's nobody in this organization who is disappointed with Kyle whatsoever -- at all," added Maloney. "I think he's going to be a terrific player for us. Absolutely terrific."
Turris, 19, had 16 points (6-10) in 50 games this season, but hadn't dressed in a game since this past Wednesday (Feb. 4). He needs to play.
"With Kyle, it's just a maturation process," Maloney said. "There's nothing we dislike about him at all. It's just strictly strength and nothing else. In our minds, we figured let's send him down there in San Antonio where he can play more minutes, important minutes, power play and end of periods -- all the things that young players have to have.
"We know we have a terrific young talent there. We just can't accelerate Mother Nature."
Which brings us back to Ryan, who has matured both physically and emotionally, and is now living up to that high draft pick status. We were surprised to hear Ryan had not heard about Brian Burke's famous line to a group of us reporters moments after the former Ducks GM selected Ryan with the No. 2 overall pick in Ottawa that year.
"We couldn't believe he was still available," Burke said with a straight face.
The first pick, of course, had been Sidney Crosby.
"I like the fact that he said that. I've never heard that before," Ryan, laughing, said when we told him the Burke quote. "That sounds like something Burkie would say. I don't want to get him mad at me, but he's got premeditated lines for sure."
Burke left Ryan and the Ducks organization in November to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs GM job. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily the last time Ryan will play for him. There's a little tournament in Vancouver a year from now and it just so happens that Burke is also the GM of Team USA.
"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing for me. He kept sending me down when he was here," Ryan said with a chuckle.
If blushing makes a sound over the phone, then Ryan, a native of Cherry Hill, N.J., was doing just that when we told him we had put him on our mock ESPN.com Team USA roster for 2010.
"Whoa," Ryan said. "Any American kid has been dreaming of the Olympics since he's been five or six years old. It's certainly been a personal goal of mine and something that I've strived for. But as I've said recently, I figure to be pretty far off Team USA's radar right now. There's a lot of guys that have been in the league longer and producing. But I would love to wear that sweater for sure."
One step at a time, Ryan said. He's still motivated to prove he belongs, which is why it's out of the question yet to go out and buy a house in Anaheim. Too early for that.
"I'm renting an apartment," Ryan said. "They told me that was OK. All indications are I'll be sticking around as long as I continue to produce. But you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself. I'm taking it day by day because I know I could still be paying my rent here from [AHL] Iowa."
Given how the season started, we don't blame him. Mostly because of salary-cap problems, Ryan needed to be sent down to start the season until the Ducks could make cap space for him. After putting up 19 points (9-10) in 14 games at Iowa, he was recalled in mid-November and hasn't looked back, putting up 35 points (18-17) in 39 NHL games and in the process making a case for the Calder Trophy.
Needless to say, had anyone told him back in early October when he was going to Iowa that he'd end up battling the likes of Kris Versteeg, Steve Mason, Blake Wheeler and Drew Doughty for the NHL's rookie award, he would have not believed it for a second.
"No, I don't think so," Ryan said. "I didn't know my fate to any degree when I was going down to Iowa. Just to be in the same sentence for the Calder Trophy as the other guys that have been pushing for it all year long is a complete honor for me."
The kids are Ducky
We caught up with Ryan on Thursday a few hours after he attended the Ducks' ninth annual First Flight Field Trip. In a nutshell, they jam 15,000 screaming kids into the Honda Center and turn it into a fun learning day. Plus the kids get to see the Ducks players practice.
"My ear drums are still feeling it a little bit. It was a little more high-pitched than any other game or practice that I've been part of," said Ryan. "But it was nice. And it was nice to keep it educational for the kids and let them enjoy a little hockey while they were learning."
This year's educational focus for the event was children exploring "how water and liquids affect the Ducks as they compete on the ice."
For some real fun, we suggest the kids check out how certain "liquids" affect a group of hockey writers following two straight months on the road at playoff time. But we digress.