Ladd in the eye of the Hurricanes

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

The meteoric rise leaves even Andrew Ladd in disbelief. And he's lived through all the great moments.

"Yeah, I'm been really fortunate," said the Carolina Hurricanes forward after yesterday's practice.

"After we won the Stanley Cup, I was talking to Wardo (Cam Ward) and we sat back and realized how young we are and how fortunate we are to have that opportunity at such a young age when a guy like Glen Wesley waited 18 years for it."

It wasn't all that long ago Ladd -- whose defending Stanley Cup championship team will meet the Calgary Flames tonight at the Saddledome -- wasn't sure if he even had a career in hockey.

A little more than three years ago, Ladd arrived in Calgary hoping to stick with the WHL Hitmen.

Cut by the expansion Vancouver Giants a year before, he arrived in the Stampede City unsure if he'd remain here or be packing his bags for another year in the junior-A ranks.

Instead, he began the climb hockey players can only dream about.

A phenomenal WHL rookie season ended with him being chosen fourth overall by the Hurricanes, who were hosting the draft.

A few months later, he won a world junior title.

And last season ended with him sipping champagne from the Stanley Cup.

"It's all come so fast since my first year here," said Ladd, who'll celebrate his 21st birthday a week from today. "I don't know if I was close to packing it in (after being cut by the Giants) but I wasn't having much fun.

"I was able to play junior A with a bunch of good guys and had a lot of fun before coming here. Kiss (Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio) gave me a chance and the rest is history."

Peaking with his own personal Stanley Cup party in August.

Ladd spent his day with Lord Stanley's mug visiting the children's hospital in Vancouver before going to Canuck Place, a hospice for children. He was the guest of honour during a parade in his hometown of Maple Ridge, B.C., where he hosted an event for minor hockey players and then hit the town with the Cup.

"It was a busy day but a lot of fun," he said with a big smile.

The frivolity is in the past and he has an NHL career to worry about.

Like many sophomore players, Ladd has struggled in his second NHL season.

Going into tonight's game, he has three goals -- though two have come in the last four games -- and two assists while playing on a line with Calgary product Craig Adams and Kevyn Adams.

"The whole team started off a little slow and then I injured my shoulder and it set me back a bit," said the 6-ft. 2-in., 200-lb. winger.

He hopes to shine in his old stomping grounds, which he's visiting for the first time since his Hitmen days.

"It's gonna be a little weird ... I'm used to the building, so it'll be fun," he said.


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