Is Ryan Getzlaf the best center in the West? He'll be trying to prove it in 2009-10

September, 10, 2009

Ryan Getzlaf is pretty confident he'll be ready for Anaheim's Oct. 3 regular-season opener with San Jose. His recovery from offseason sports hernia surgery is right on schedule.

"I definitely plan on being ready for the season opener," Getzlaf told

He'll likely take it easy at the start of training camp next week and aim to play in one or two preseason games.

The bottom line is, Anaheim's star center is a safe pick, it would seem, for all those fantasy fans out there.

I can't tell you how many NHL people tell me how the 6-foot-4, 221-pound center is just scratching the surface of his enormous talent. The comment I often hear is "He doesn't know how good he is yet."

Getzlaf, 24, posted a career-high 91 points (25-66) in 81 regular-season games last season and was also the team's best player in the playoffs with 18 points (4-14) in 13 games, giving Detroit fits in a seven-game second-round series that nearly went Anaheim's way.

I covered part of that Anaheim-Detroit series and came away wondering if Getzlaf was indeed the best center in the Western Conference, a strong statement considering his company (Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Henrik Sedin and Jonathan Toews, among others).

His 91 points tied him for sixth in scoring in the NHL. Getzlaf wants to remain a member of that elite club.

"I hope so, that's anybody's goal," he said. "Once you've been there, you definitely want to be back. I think the team and the players I play with enable me to do that. That's about accepting your role, as well. If I'm not up there, then I don't think I'm doing my job properly. That's definitely one thing I have to do every year and be consistent with it."

Ducks GM Bob Murray did Getzlaf a huge favor in the offseason by bolstering the top-six forward group, adding Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul to the lineup. Now the Ducks have a second line, and that will help ease the checking on Getzlaf's first line with Corey Perry.

As Detroit finally proved this past spring -- albeit by the skin of its teeth -- once you wore down Getzlaf's top line, there was no one else that posed a threat to the Red Wings. That will change this season with a second line likely featuring Koivu and longtime Finnish buddy Teemu Selanne with Lupul and Bobby Ryan filling out the top-six group on either line.

"We've got high hopes for this team," Getzlaf said.

He also has Olympic hopes. It just killed him that he couldn't partake in Canada's Olympic orientation camp two weeks ago in Calgary. He watched from the stands every day as Canada's hopefuls tried to impress 2010 coach Mike Babcock. Don't sweat it, Ryan; you're a lock for the Olympic team, even if you hate hearing that. Hockey players are superstitious, didn't you know?

"It's a thing where it seems almost unrealistic right now," Getzlaf said. "Everybody thinks that everybody is a lock on the team. I watched the camp, I was there; you try to pick that team and it's not easy. Come December, if my name is picked, it's really going to hit home. You start preparing for that stage and it would be pretty incredible."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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