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Ryan Giving It His Best Shot

Times Staff Writer

The player that may be the happiest about the Ducks’ blockbuster trade for defenseman Chris Pronger has yet to play a minute in the NHL and the odds of him making the team out of training camp in September are long.

In Bobby Ryan’s mind, the trade puts him a step closer, even if it’s a big step. The opening, created when forward Joffrey Lupul was sent to Edmonton to get Pronger, is there for the taking.

“I knew about the Lupul trade pretty quickly,” Ryan said. “Hopefully there’s a spot that’s up for grabs. I’ve been paying attention to everything.”

Ryan was among 24 players who took part in a week-long conditioning camp that ended Wednesday at Anaheim Ice, the club’s practice facility. But it is clear who has the most expectations.

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It was his name that was called right after Sidney Crosby to open the 2005 NHL entry draft. And while many of the other first-round selections are working their way through their respective organizations, Ryan knows that most of the attention is on him as he continues to develop.

“A lot more is expected of you,” he said. “I carry the tag of being No. 2 overall so there’s always pressure.... I’ll take all this home with me and come back in September to try and earn my spot.”

In his third season of junior hockey, Ryan led the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League with 31 goals and 64 assists. He had another 12 points in 11 playoff games before signing a three-year contract with the Ducks and being sent to their minor-league team in Portland, Maine, to join the Pirates for the American Hockey League playoffs.

Ducks General Manager Brian Burke is preaching patience.

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“He had a good year,” Burke said. “But I’m cautious and I want our fans to be cautious. There’s an expectation that because we traded Joffrey Lupul, that’s created an opportunity for Bobby Ryan.

“He didn’t tear up the American League so he’s going to have a hard time sticking here.”

The 19-year-old right wing will have a ton of motivation entering camp. He took heat for a subpar performance at the World Junior Championships in January, where a talented and favored U.S. team underachieved.

“Certainly it wasn’t my best tournament,” he said.

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And there is the prospect of returning to Owen Sound for a fourth season because he does not meet the 20-year-old age limit for the AHL. It’s a scenario Ryan hopes to avoid.

“It’s a nice town and I’ve got tons of friends there,” Ryan said. “Going back to Owen Sound in my mind will be a wasted year. I think I’m ready from a maturity standpoint and a skills standpoint to make the jump.”

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The Ducks signed center Ryan Carter, one of their camp invitees, to a two-year entry-level contract. Carter had 19 goals and 16 assists in 39 games for Minnesota State as a sophomore last season.

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