Ryan gets quackin'

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

It didn't take long for the Calgary Hitmen's captain to join the pro ranks. Three days after being eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Ryan Getzlaf is expected to make his professional debut tonight, joining the American Hockey League's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks for their post-season run.

The Regina product hopped onto a plane yesterday after a season-ending meeting with Hitmen coaches and will play for Anaheim's farm team in Game 3 of their first-round series against the host Milwaukee Admirals.

"I got the call Thursday and they said they wanted me to come up and play today," said Getzlaf, 20, as he packed his hockey bag into his Hummer outside the Saddledome.

"So that's the plan right now and I'm going to skate with them on Saturday morning and go from there."

After being a man among boys in the WHL this season, Getzlaf isn't worried about being a boy competing against men.

"I'm not really nervous. Excited a little bit more than nervous," said the affable Getzlaf with a chuckle.

"It's an opportunity for me to prove myself in that organization again."

He has nothing left to prove in major junior.

Getzlaf was the Hitmen's third-round bantam pick in 2000 and, after four years, the 6-ft. 4-in., 210-pounder is fifth on the Hitmen's all-time scoring leader list.

In 233 games, Getzlaf potted 95 goals with 120 assists for 215 points.

His numbers certainly would have been that much better had he not suited up for Canada at the last two world junior championships. He helped the Red and White win gold in January and was the tournament's second-leading scorer.

Anaheim drafted the winger 19th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

At his first pro camp in 2003, Getzlaf showed well as an 18-year-old and was among the last prospects released from training camp.

After signing a contract with the Mighty Ducks last year, Getzlaf likely would have played in the NHL this year if the league wasn't locked out in labour turmoil.

With that in mind, he knows the road to the big league goes through Cincinnati -- for now, anyway.

"It's another step along the way. The ultimate goal is to play in the NHL but, at this time, this is the next best thing, so I'm really fortunate right now," said Getzlaf.

Getzlaf isn't the only Hitmen player set to jump to the pros.

Konstantin Pushkarev, who dazzled with his puck brilliance but frustrated coaches with his lack of shooting and passing, is set to join the AHL's Manchester Monarchs Monday.

The Monarchs are the farm team of the L.A. Kings, who drafted the Kazakhstan import in 2003. Unlike Getzlaf, Pushkarev said he'll likely watch the first-round playoff series against the Providence Bruins from the press box.


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