Captain Fantastic

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Ryan Getzlaf is playing in a league of his own.

The right winger, riding a nine-game points streak, has done everything that has been asked of him: Lead the charge offensively, dish out punishing hits, kill penalties.

In short, put the team on his broad shoulders and carry it through the post-season.

The Calgary Hitmen captain has evolved into the ultimate leader.

But it wasn't always that way.

The coaching staff took the 'C' off Getzlaf's jersey earlier in the season after the loquacious teen drew one too many misconduct penalties.

But assistant coach Blaine Forsythe said the club's top player has accepted the challenge of leading his team in every aspect of the game.

"We talked to him all year and now, in his mind, he knows physically, offensively and defensively, he's the one who has to lead this team," Forsythe said.

"We had a meeting with him right before the playoffs to tell him that. He embraced it."

Getzlaf's commitment has been evident.

Controlling the flow of the game every time he's on the ice, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect is playing like he did over the Christmas break when he helped lead Team Canada to world junior gold.

If he turns in another spectacular performance tonight against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings (7 p.m., The Fan 960, Shaw TV), he could take the Hitmen into the third round for the first time since 2000.

"He's back to that playoff level and where he was at the world juniors where he dominated every time he touched the puck," Forythe said.

"He's going to have to do that Monday night. Whether it's a goal or a big hit, he needs to get everyone going right off the bat during those first few shifts."

While no one on the team can match Getzlaf's skill level, his teammates can try to emulate his work ethic.

Ryan White said the team looks to its top gun for inspiration.

"He's been a huge leader," White said. "He's really vocal in the room, calms the guys down, gets them going."

Getzlaf, with 16 points, sits one point back of Brandon's Eric Fehr for the playoff lead.

He's been the team's undisputed gamebreaker for three seasons.

But, with the maturity and poise he's displayed in the post-season, the Regina product has become a complete player.

And he knows it.

"I think I've done a fairly good job of being one of the leaders on this team and I have to continue that," Getzlaf said.

While no one would describe Getzlaf as quiet, the 6-ft. 4-in. 210-pounder prefers to let his play do most of the talking.

"I'm a pretty vocal guy but I lead with my play too," he said. "I have to be the guy everyone looks at to start the game. I talk about it in the dressing room and I have to do it too.

"You have to go out there and practise what you preach, so to speak."


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