OHL right move for Ryan

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Political ramifications aside, Bobby Ryan's decision to play in the OHL has already impacted his career.

The Owen Sound Attack right-winger will be a top 10, maybe even a top five pick in the next NHL draft.

The scouts were out in droves yesterday at the John Labatt Centre to watch the 17-year-old from Collingswood, N.J., the third-leading scorer in the OHL with 59 points, including 23 goals, in his sophomore season.

A family friendship with Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke is the reason Ryan ended up in Owen Sound last season. Attack coach Mike Stothers is a former assistant coach in Philadelphia before taking the job in Owen Sound.

"I'd heard (Ryan) was going to go to the U.S. under-18 team and Bob Clarke thought it was better for him to get up here where he would play a lot of games," Flyers scout Dennis Patterson said.

"I heard there was some problems with USA Hockey with Bob sending him here, but Bob said 'Well, I played in the Western Hockey League,' so he thought it was the right decision for him."

Some people feel Ryan's decision was the reason he was left of the roster for this year's U.S. world junior team.

"There were three or four kids that were expected to go, but didn't," said Patterson, who lives in Peterborough. "I don't know how USA Hockey runs their program, but he definitely should have been on that team, in our mind.

"When you know the Canadians were the team to beat this year and he's playing against all the Canadian kids, you would just expect it, and he's doing pretty well against them, too."

Ryan is six-foot-two and 224 pounds. He scored 22 goals last season, fourth among league rookies.

"He's so big and strong on the puck and from the blue-line in he can finish. He's got it all, really," Patterson said. "The only thing he's got to do is pick his skating up, but that will come.

"I remember (former Knight) Jason Allison, it was his skating (that was going to keep him out of the NHL). The same for Corey Perry. I give (Perry) a lot of credit. He fought his way onto that Canadian team. People were pretty negative about him when he went to camp.

"When you look at Ryan's size and strength and have those kind of hands, he's built for the pro game. You get into an 80 to 100-game season, you need that size and strength."

Patterson said Ryan's decision to play major junior is no different than other Americans who have benefitted from playing against Canadians. He specifically mentioned Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars and Derian Hatcher of the Detroit Red Wings, who came from the Detroit Honeybaked minor program.

Ryan hasn't yet made it onto the radar screen of the general hockey fan, but Patterson said that's changing.

"I would have said so earlier, but now with Owen Sound and the run they're on, they're the second-best team in this league behind London. It looks like they could at least give London a game, so I don't think he'll be hidden this year."


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