To the Vancouver Giants, he was a throw-in to land forward Jamison Orr two seasons ago.
To General Manager Kelly Kisio and the Calgary Hitmen, he’s been the biggest Western Hockey League steal in recent memory.
Although he needs no introduction now, many were scrambling to find out who Ladd was, trying to learn more about the player ranked second among North American skaters by Central Scouting during their mid-term rankings.
He may have flown under many people’s radars, but success is nothing new for Andrew Ladd. He spent last season in the BCHL with Coquitlam, registered 40 assists and 55 points in 58 games, before deciding to make the jump to the Calgary Hitmen.
The left winger may have even surprised himself with his 2003-04 WHL campaign, registering 30 goals and 75 points. Surely, if his rookie scoring title wasn’t enough, the top plus/minus among any Western League player, rookie or not, was.
Although Ladd was expected to come in and play a part in the Calgary Hitmen offense, not even head coach Richard Kromm could’ve predicted that Ladd, as a rookie, would finish 18th in the league in points-per-game.
The Maple Ridge, BC native has the size that scouts and NHL organizations desire. Standing at 6’2” and weighing over 200 lbs, his physical presence on the ice has certainly helped him get noticed out on the ice.
But for Andrew Ladd, getting noticed on the ice goes well beyond his size. A player with excellent vision, the Eastern Conference finalist for the WHL Rookie of the Year claims his ability to find his teammates on the ice as his strongest suit.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Andrew Ladd after the Calgary Hitmen’s last home game before the start of the 2004 WHL playoffs.
HF: The 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft is coming up quickly, and you were ranked second among North American skaters by CSS (eighth overall by International Scouting Services). What is it about Andrew Ladd they saw?
AL: I guess they saw a guy who can play an NHL style of game. They saw a big guy that can crash and bang and get to the net and contribute on a regular basis.
HF: Do you feel any additional pressure being ranked second, maybe from critics saying you were ranked too high or even scouts that are keying in on you from the crowd?
AL: Not really. I think you’ve just got to keep on going. Obviously there’s that going on, and you’re not No. 1, so you’ve got to make sure you keep going and getting better with each game.
HF: Is there anything in your mind about after you score a goal or made a bad turnover, wondering who saw it?
AL: I think its stuff you can’t think about. You’ve got to keep going. We have different goals right now so we’ve got to finish off the WHL season strong and once we do that then we can have time to reflect on personal successes.
HF: Do you have any expectations for yourself in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft?
AL: I think if I keep on playing the way I’m playing, and the way I can play, the chips will fall where they fall.
HF: Have any NHL teams been in contact with you already? Have they expressed any interest in selecting you in the draft?
AL: I’ve been in contact with a few teams over the course of the season. Our General Manager (Kelly Kisio) has shut that down because we’re focusing on our playoff drive, so I’m sure there will be more after the season.
HF: There’s something unique about this years edition of the Calgary Hitmen. They’ve got four players ranked among the top 35 by CSS. What is it about the Hitmen program?
AL: We definitely owe a lot to our coaches and obviously our scouting staff and people of that sort. We’re just developing really well, and we’ve got those big guys in defense, so that’s really good.
HF: The Hitmen have eight players selected in the Entry Draft over the course of the last two years, have they had anything to say to you guys?
AL: Not really. I think they throw in their two bits every once in a while, but mostly it’s just going at it every day.
HF: Obviously over the course of the season you’ve been bombarded with questions about the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Is it starting to get a little bit annoying for you?
AL(laughing): Um, yeah I guess. It gets to the point where you’re asked the same questions, but it’s also exciting at the same time. This is definitely a great, new experience.
HF: You attended the 2004 Top Prospects Game. Could you describe that?
AL: Oh it was great, obviously a once in a lifetime experience. It was definitely a great experience. It was also interesting because you get to see what you’re up against in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
HF: Did you take anything in particular from an event like that?
AL: Just to have fun there. Obviously it was a unique situation and you obviously won’t have too many opportunities to play with and against players of that caliber, so I just took the whole experience in. I just had a good time.
HF: The Hitmen have had an up-and-down season, what are your thoughts on it?
AL: Coming into training camp, I was just looking to make the team, make an impact in any way I could. I never thought I’d make this big of a bang, but it’s been nice. I’ve obviously played this season with a lot of great players. I started off the season with (Ryan) Getzlaf when he got back from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and (Brendan) Segal when he got back from the Nashville Predators. They made it easier on me, as did guys like (Shaun) Landolt and (Brett) O’Malley have made it easier on me too. I’ve been put in a very good situation here.
HF: Heading into the season, could you have ever imagined leading the league in rookie scoring(75 points), and on top of that, leading the entire Western Hockey League in plus/minus(+39)?
AL: Not really, no. I think I knew that I’d be able to put up some good numbers, but I wasn’t really expecting anything like this.
HF: What adjustments have you made from playing in Coquitlam of the BCHL last season?
AL: Not many, really. I think Coquitlam prepared me very well for what we’re doing right now. I got a lot of ice time there, and it was a pretty good situation. I had a lot of good experiences there, and it’s really helped me in my transition to the Hitmen this year.
HF: Looking at the team as a whole, what can the Calgary Hitmen do in the 2004 WHL playoffs?
AL: I think we can do a lot of damage; we just have to get everyone clicking. I think we need some secondary scoring and our line has to do some scoring as well. It’s just a strong team game we need to get together on and we’ll be fine.
HF: Are there any whispers of the Memorial Cup in the dressing room?
AL: Yeah. That’s always the goal. I think guys are confident we can get there.
HF: The 2004 Collective Bargaining Agreement will definitely have an impact on your entry-level contract as a projected first rounder. Is a contract something that you and your agent will be gunning for right out of the draft, before an agreement expires?
AL: Sure. I think my agent will probably deal with that. Obviously it would be nice to get an agreement done beforehand. Either way, though, it doesn’t really matter to me what gets done, as long as something does in the future.
HF: How would Andrew Ladd describe his game?
AL: A tough power forward who can drive to the net and get into the corners. I’ve got pretty good vision and I can always see my teammates. I pretty much have a very solid all-round game. My defense could be picked up a bit at times, though.
HF: Would the defensive aspects of you game be the one you feel you need to work on the most in order to make a step up to the next level?
AL: I think it’s sort of on and off. It’s an area that I need to be more consistent in.
HF: What are your biggest assets?
AL: I think my vision is a pretty big asset out there. My work ethic out on the ice and ability to get in the corners and overpower people are huge for my game as well.