Anaheim Ducks left wing Bobby Ryan plays defense against the New York Islanders… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
It might not necessarily become a career year, considering the shortened NHL schedule, but of all the Ducks, 25-year-old winger Bobby Ryan is the most likely to dominate.
"If I had to pick one guy who looks the best out here, it's him," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday as the team prepared for Saturday night's season opener in Vancouver.
"He's faster, stronger, leaner than everyone else."
Ryan is pretty content too.
After being dogged by trade rumors the last few years — who wouldn't want a player who's scored 31 or more goals in each of the past four seasons? — Ryan has received a vote of confidence from Ducks General Manager Bob Murray that the team is not looking to deal him this year.
"Non-issue," Murray said in a text message when camp opened Sunday.
"It's nice that it's all been resolved and that I can come into camp and worry about other things, and once the games get going I'll have taken my mind completely off of it," Ryan said.
In the off-season, Ryan expressed some frustration about dealing with the cloud of career uncertainty. He strengthened his game playing in Sweden during the lockout, learning some of the language and improving his penalty-killing skills.
The Ducks, after ranking 19th in goals-against average last season, conceivably could have netted two good defensemen in a swap for Ryan, the second overall pick of the 2005 NHL draft, who produced a 71-point season in 2010-11.
Instead, the team spent $21 million in the summer to bring aboard big, veteran defenders Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray.
Now Ryan is positioned comfortably on the second line with veteran Teemu Selanne and 24-year-old Nick Bonino, whom Ryan anticipates will have a breakout performance after scoring five goals with 13 assists in 50 games last season.
Ryan expressed confidence his "chemistry" with Selanne will make their line productive.
"We play different styles and our styles mesh well," Ryan said. "I like to be on the puck in the corner and he likes to be on the open ice, or handling it in different situations.
"And 'Bones' is going to have a very dominant year. He's come into his own. The game's just slowed down for him. You watch him out here … he's going to be a great second-line center."
The importance of that production could be the difference between a playoff spot and sitting home again.
"We've got to take some pressure off" first-liners Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Ryan said. "They're going to see the best defense and best shut-down line.
"We've got to take advantage of that and find a way to score even-strength goals. The difference between the top teams in the league and those that hang around in the middle is that they're able to score consistently across lines."
When: 7. Where: Rogers Arena.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 830.
Record vs. Canucks (2011-12): 1-1-1.
Etc. Vancouver remains a favorite in the Western Conference a year after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Kings.