The surname “Ryan” has frequently been associated with American excellence, whether it’s the legendary baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan or Tom Clancy’s fictional hero Jack Ryan. The USA’s Bobby Ryan is hoping to join those illustrious ranks with a strong performance at the 2006 IIHF World Championship. Coming into this tournament, the 6-2, 217-pound forward from Cherry Hill, New Jersey had racked up 23 goals and 50 assists with the Owen Sound Platers, putting him in contention for the OHL scoring lead. Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM Brian Burke placed great confidence in his scouting staff when he chose Ryan second overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. USA Head Coach Walt Kyle, accordingly, has high expectations for the big, savvy 18-year-old. HockeyCanada.ca’s Lucas Aykroyd caught up with Ryan after the USA’s 3-2 exhibition win over Sweden in Victoria on December 22.
HockeyCanada.ca: How did you feel out there versus Sweden?
Bobby Ryan: Obviously we did a few things right, but it was our first game together as well. We want to get better throughout the tournament, and we’ll have to be better than we were tonight. But we played well defensively and took away some of their opportunities, and that’s a credit to our defence and goalies.
HockeyCanada.ca: How did the city of Victoria treat you during the pre-tournament phase?
Ryan: Very well. Obviously we’re on a pretty tight schedule, so we haven’t gotten into as much sightseeing as we’d like. But things have got to get done, and we’re working through them.
HockeyCanada.ca: How would you describe the chemistry that Team USA is developing heading into this tournament?
Ryan: Tremendous. Most of these guys have played together at the U-17 and U-18 programs, and the guys who play in the OHL, like [Rob Schremp] and I, are coming in well. And the guys didn’t play in the program previously are playing well too. So it’s been great. These guys are going to be friends for life.
HockeyCanada.ca: What's impressed you the most about Coach Kyle's approach?
Ryan: Just his professionalism. Obviously, playing in the OHL and so on, there are some good coaches, but he brings a special intensity, and he’s very fair. It’s been a great step for me to play for him so far, and hopefully for the next seven or eight games in Vancouver it’ll continue to be the same way.
HockeyCanada.ca: As one of the largest forwards on the team, how important is it for you to bring a physical game?
Ryan: That’s one of my roles on this team, getting in the corners and feeding my linemates. I’ll try to do everything the coach asks me to do. There’s definitely a learning curve here. It’s a different kind of game than I’ve played before. But I’m excited about it, I’m up for the challenge, and hopefully my physical side comes out a little more than it usually does.
HockeyCanada.ca: Last year, the American team lost to Russia in the semi-finals and had to watch Canada win the gold. How much of a motivation is revenge this year, especially for the returning players?
Ryan: It’s been mild, actually. Obviously it’s in the back of everyone’s mind, and we’ve got a pretty humble confidence about things we can accomplish here. But Canada’s the favourite. They won last year and it’s on their home turf. We’re eager, but we know we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
HockeyCanada.ca: This season with Owen Sound, you're going to easily surpass your previous career-best of 89 points. What's been the key to your success?
Ryan: I think my role has increased. I’m seeing a lot more ice. Obviously we were hit hard by the graduation bug and lost a few guys to the NHL. I’m seeing more power play time too. That’s something I like to think I excel in. Things are going my way.
HockeyCanada.ca: How much communication have you had with the Mighty Ducks since Anaheim’s training camp?
Ryan: Not as much as I’d like. Obviously, they told me they were going to leave me alone for a while and let me get to things that I had to take care of. I’m sure they’ll be watching me here, like they have in Owen Sound, and we’ll be talking afterwards.
HockeyCanada.ca: Who are some NHLers that you’ve modeled yourself on?
Ryan: Todd Bertuzzi and Rick Nash are two guys that I like to watch a lot. They’re big guys that use their size well. I like to think I try to do the same. Obviously, it’s exciting when your name is mentioned in the same breath as guys like that.
HockeyCanada.ca: What would you like to say to the fans of Bobby Ryan out there?
Ryan: Thanks for your support, and keep coming out to the rinks! Even the ones in Canada, I hope you’re rooting for the red, white and blue.