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Top Ducks Rookie Could Take a Lesson From Former Anaheim Star

Top Ducks Rookie Could Take a Lesson From Former Anaheim Star

Leo Carlsson is selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the second overall pick during round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on June 28, 2023. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dan Wood
Dan Wood

9/14/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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Plenty of eyes will be on Swedish center Leo Carlsson this weekend when the Anaheim Ducks participate in a six-team rookie tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, that is a precursor to next week’s opening of NHL training camps.
Carlsson, of course, was Anaheim’s first-round pick in this year’s draft. The second overall selection, he is viewed by many as a consolation prize after the Ducks finished in last place in last season’s NHL overall standings but fell one spot in the draft lottery and missed out on an opportunity to land the league’s next projected generational player. Coveted center Connor Bedard wound up with the Chicago Blackhawks instead.
Leo Carlsson (21) of Team Sweden skates the puck to the net with Jimi Suomi (2) of Team Finland defending in the third period of a Quarterfinal game during the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Avenir Centre in Moncton, Canada, on Jan. 2, 2023. (Dale Preston/Getty Images)

Leo Carlsson (21) of Team Sweden skates the puck to the net with Jimi Suomi (2) of Team Finland defending in the third period of a Quarterfinal game during the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Avenir Centre in Moncton, Canada, on Jan. 2, 2023. (Dale Preston/Getty Images)

If there is anyone who can relate to the position Carlsson is in, it is former Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan, who lived a very similar scenario.
The Ducks chose the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native second overall in 2005, the year the Pittsburgh Penguins won a draft lottery that netted them superstar center Sidney Crosby.
While Mr. Ryan parlayed his tremendous offensive skills into 261 goals and 569 points in 866 games for the Ducks, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings during a fine NHL career that ended in 2021, he was no Crosby. Sid the Kid, arguably the best player of his generation and among the tops ever, captained the Penguins to three Stanley Cup championships and is still pursuing another.
“I think I’ll always be the answer to a trivia question,” Mr. Ryan told The Epoch Times from his home in Franklin, Tennessee. “It was just an odd circumstance that you happen to be drafted behind one of the best players of all time.”
All these years later, there is no denying that the situation had an effect.
“It significantly weighed on me,” Mr. Ryan said. “I played 15 seasons, and I was still getting asked questions about it. That’s something that’s going to be in front of [Carlsson] for his entire career. You just kind of have to get used to it, be content with it, and answer the questions as honestly and candidly as you can.”
Bobby Ryan (9) of the Ottawa Senators looks on against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 12, 2016. (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Bobby Ryan (9) of the Ottawa Senators looks on against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 12, 2016. (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

As much as fans, and even coaches and general managers, would like high draft picks to be finished products sooner rather than later, it’s worth noting that Carlsson is just 18 years old. The Karlstad, Sweden, product won’t turn 19 until the day after Christmas.
“It becomes increasingly important as you settle into an NHL role to block out the noise,” Mr. Ryan said. “At 18 and 19, I think I paid a lot more attention to it than I did when I was 25. You get to a place where you’re playing and contributing, and it does go away, to a degree.”
There is one huge difference between Mr. Ryan’s experience and what awaits Carlsson.
Mr. Ryan completed his junior career with the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack in 2007, the same year the Ducks won their only Stanley Cup championship, and then spent time in the minor leagues each of the next two seasons before eventually earning a spot in a stacked, veteran lineup.
Carlsson, by contrast, joins an Anaheim team that has missed the playoffs five consecutive seasons and is desperately in need of a talent infusion.
Leo Carlsson speaks to the media after being selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the second overall pick during round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on June 28, 2023. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Leo Carlsson speaks to the media after being selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the second overall pick during round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on June 28, 2023. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

“I don’t know what the expectations are for him from the brass, but he’s going to get every chance a second overall pick at 18 and 19 should get,” Mr. Ryan said. “I was always comparing myself to players making their teams earlier because they were going into teams where there was a need for them. I was drafted to a team that did not need another goal-scorer for four years, almost.”
Ducks General Manager Pat Verbeek has made it clear that Carlsson will not be rushed to the NHL. His performance, word is, will dictate whether he begins his North American career in Anaheim, with the minor-league San Diego Gulls or even returns to Sweden for another season.
In any event, a conversation between the two second-overall draft picks separated by 18 years would likely be fascinating.
Bobby Ryan (9) of the Ottawa Senators walks the red carpet prior to the start of a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 7, 2017. (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Bobby Ryan (9) of the Ottawa Senators walks the red carpet prior to the start of a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 7, 2017. (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

“If he ever needs to pick my brain, he’s certainly welcome to call,” said Mr. Ryan, whose message would be straightforward.
“Drop the comparisons,” he said. “Comparisons can be made by people who are paid to make them, either on TV or in writing, or fans that pay their money. You don’t need to compare yourself to Connor Bedard, or the third pick in the draft, for that matter. You need to compare yourself to where you were yesterday. Did you get better? All he can actually do is control what’s in front of him.”
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Dan Wood
Dan Wood
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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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