Chops moving from Iowa to the Pond and beyond

by Will Michaelson || AHL On The Beat Archive

Bobby Ryan has starred for Anaheim after beginning the season with Iowa.

In the American Hockey League, it’s not uncommon to see players come and go in a matter of weeks, sometimes days.

The Iowa Chops have seen more than a few of their players move back and forth in the four months they’ve been a team, including high-scoring winger Bobby Ryan, defensemen Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson, and forwards Andrew Ebbett and Drew Miller.

Goaltender David LeNeveu has been recalled twice and former Iowa Chops forward Joakim Lindstrom was traded by Anaheim to Phoenix and is now a staple along the Coyotes’ front line and power play.

Brett Festerling’s path to the NHL was anything but easy. The Western Hockey League defenseman went unselected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and had to try out for a number of teams. He was offered a tryout contract in Anaheim to show the Ducks what he had to offer.

His tryout was a success, and he landed an entry-level NHL contract. Festerling’s impressive play with the Chops early in the 2008-09 season got the attention of the Ducks’ front office, who brought him up after just 15 games. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 16, 2008, and has three assists in 21 games with Anaheim.

Bobby Ryan’s story has been told before. After lighting it up in Iowa, Ryan was called up to the Ducks and he was immediately placed on the top lines, playing against the Los Angeles Kings. He didn’t record a point that game, but the next game, vs. Washington on Nov. 19, was a different story.

Ryan lit the lamp twice and provided an assist to Ryan Getzlaf’s goal. The Capitals took the game, 6-4, but Ryan showed the Ducks that he was capable of putting up points like a seasoned vet. Since being called up, Ryan has made himself a legit candidate for NHL rookie of the year. He has played in 22 games for the Ducks, and has 21 points in that span (seven goals, 14 assists).

Brendan Mikkelson has taken more than his share of bumps and bruises on the way to the American Hockey League. The Regina, Sask., native spent his first two years in the WHL with the Portland Winter Hawks, but was dealt to the Vancouver Giants in the 2005-06 season. After an injury-plagued first year in Vancouver, Mikkelson came back strong than ever in 2006-07 and put up 29 points in 69 games to help the Giants win the Memorial Cup.

Andrew Ebbett had 29 points in 28 games for the Chops before netting his first NHL goal on Jan. 2.

Mikkelson was a part of the 2005 NHL Draft held in Ottawa. He had decided to stay home and watch it on TV, despite his chances of being picked up first or second round. Mikkelson was pleasantly surprised when he was the 31st pick, interrupting an interview with the first-overall pick.

“Sidney Crosby was being interviewed when I got drafted,” Mikkelson said. “They cut out of Crosby’s interview to say I had been picked up. It was kind of like my 15 seconds of fame.”

Mikkelson was called up by the Ducks on New Year’s Day and played in his first career NHL game on Jan. 2 vs. Philadelphia.

Andrew Ebbett has been scoring points in the AHL like there was no tomorrow, notching 29 points in 28 games. It seemed no surprise that Ebbett was destined to get back in the NHL spotlight, and on Dec. 20, he returned to the Pond in Anaheim. Ebbett got the call from the Ducks when star winger Teemu Selanne suffered a leg injury that would put him out for up to six weeks.

Ebbett was given an opportunity to shine in the NHL, and so far, he has been performing well under the circumstances. He scored his first career NHL goal in a 5-4 shootout loss against Philadelphia on Jan. 2, but the goal will surely not be his last.

Drew Miller was the latest Iowa Chop to be called up to Anaheim, but it isn’t his first stint with the club. Miller actually has his name etched on the Stanley Cup, as he played Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Ottawa in 2007.

Miller was leading the Chops in goals this season (16) at the time of his recall. Could Miller be in the line-up still for Anaheim on Feb. 2 when the Ducks take on his brother Ryan Miller’s Buffalo Sabres? You can bet Miller will work hard so he can stay in Anaheim to see that day.