Ryan mature beyond his years

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- Brian Burke and the NHL salary cap weren't Bobby Ryan's biggest obstacles.

Becoming the first of the forgotten in 2005 when drafted second overall behind Sid the Kid wasn't the worst label placed on the Anaheim Ducks rookie, either.

Ryan's toughest task came well before his dominant days in the Ontario Hockey League with the Owen Sound Attack.

Dealing with life while your father spends four years behind bars has a way of strengthening character.

It's no wonder every roadblock since has been handled by the 21-year-old winger with such maturity.

"I think anybody that overcomes adversity at a young age, it makes you who you are," said Ryan, whose dad spend four years in a New Jersey prison for assaulting his wife. "There were really a couple ways it could have gone for me at that age. I was fortunate enough to have good people around me with good morals that helped coach me along the way."

The story took some twists, and involved the family taking on new names in the process.

Ryan was born Bobby Stevenson, same as his dad. But his father fled to southern California a year after the domestic rampage and became Shane Ryan. His forgiving wife and son joined him, but U.S. Marshalls separated them in early 2000 and charged him with attempted murder as a result of the incident almost three years earlier.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated assault and missed four years of his son's progress on the ice, getting out in time to catch a few OHL games, and then the Sidney Crosby lottery draft.

Ryan and his father came through the tough times as great friends, and the adversity made the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder as strong mentally as he is physically.

"I think it's made me stronger," said Ryan, who has no problem talking about his past.

He needed that mental toughness to deal with his start to this season in Anaheim. Essentially earning a spot on the Ducks roster in training camp, Ryan was sent down before the regular-season as then-GM Burke tried to work his way under the salary cap.

There were rumours Ryan would be a throw-in to any team willing to eat defenceman Mathieu Schneider's $5.625-million salary-cap hit.

"That was tough for me because I felt like I'd never been given a legitimate shot here, and that's all I wanted. That's all you can ask for," said Ryan. "I heard some of the rumours floating around with the Mathieu Schneider thing going on. It's tough, but you try and put it on the backburner as much as you can.

"All I wanted was that opportunity to come up, and I got it under (new Ducks GM) Bob Murray and it's been great ever since."

It took injuries for Murray to call Ryan up from the AHL in mid-November, but there's no doubt the freshman has earned his place here. The league's rookie of the month after scoring 11 times in 14 games in January, Ryan was recently told to find something a little more permanent than the hotel he's been living in for months.

His route to the NHL was nowhere near as direct as Crosby's, but Ryan says his time in the minors was good for him to get the junior hockey habits out of his game and make him a better player.

"Sidney's an exception. He's lived up to every billing they've given him," Ryan said of the stigma attached to him as the No. 2 pick.

"It was a slower process for me but I think it's coming together now nicely."


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