A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
One of the amazing things about the Ducks system, as directed by trade-happy GM Bob Murray, is that despite constantly being in the running for a high playoff seed, and not being shy about swinging deals, they never seem to trade off their high end prospects or early round draft picks. In fact, the opposite is just as likely to be true, considering the move of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa for a package that included top six winger Jakub Silfverberg and a first round pick that now sits near the top of their top ten. The system lacks quality depth, but the top duo are both high likelihood future high end contributors.
- Shea Theodore, D, Seattle (WHL) 6’2”, 178. 26th overall, 2013
- Nick Ritchie, LW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 6’2”, 226. 10th overall, 2014
- Nicholas Kerdiles, LW, Norfolk (AHL) 6’1”, 192. 36th overall, 2012
- Julius Nattinen, C, JYP-Akatemia (Mestis) 6’2”, 194. 59tht overall, 2015
- Brandon Montour, D, U. Mass-Amherst (Hockey East) 6’0”, 172 lbs. 55th overall, 2014
- Jacob Larsson, D, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit) 6’2”, 190. 27th overall, 2015
- Kevin Roy, LW, Northeastern (Hockey East) 5’9”, 160. 97th overall, 2012
- Marcus Pettersson, D, Skelleftea AIK J20 (SuperElit) 6’4”, 167. 38th overall, 2014
- Josh Manson, D, Norfolk (AHL) 6’2”, 210. 160th overall, 2011
- Max Friberg, LW, Norfolk (AHL) 5’10”, 197. 143rd overall, 2011
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Stefan Noesen, RW, Norfolk (AHL) 6-0”, 187. Trade: Jul. 5, 2013. Originally: 21st overall, 2011 (Ottawa)
- Ondrej Kase, RW, KLH Chomutov (Czech 2) 6-0”, 165. 205th overall, 2014
- Andy Welinski, D, Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) 6-1”, 191. 83rd overall, 2011
Almost conspicuous in their absence from the above lists are the sub-set of hockey players known as goaltenders. It is not due to Anaheim being unable to develop the skill set, but the opposite. They are fantastic at the trade. Between young NHL experienced tenders Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, the Ducks are set between the pipes for the next five years or more. It is worth noting the Gibson missed the cutoff for this list by two games. Had he not been given a three game cameo in 2014, he would have ranked third.
What Anaheim lacks in terms of goalies still in the system, they more than make up for it by the strength of the defenseman currently working their way towards southern California. At the top is the bluechipper Shea Theodore. A point per game producer in each of his final two seasons in the WHL, Theodore also played a central role in Canada’s gold medal showing at the recent WJC. It would be a mistake to pigeonhole Theodore as an offensive defenseman, as he is proficient in his own end as well, timing his stick checks well and not afraid to step in front of an opposing shooter. His high end mobility can be used to defend against two-on-one rushes or to lead them. While his all-around skill set could play in the NHL right now, but the Ducks have the depth to allow him to develop for half a season or more in the AHL.
Brandon Montour has similar offensive upside to Theodore, but with a far less refined defensive game. He provided nearly one point per game as a freshman in an abridged season with Mass-Amherst, and proceeded to add 10 points in 14 games at the AHL level. He has a strong shot and will drop down low to bring disarray to opposing defenses on power plays. He needs to add bulk to withstand a full pro season, but his upside looks not too dissimilar to that of current Duck Sami Vatanen.
2015 first rounder Jacob Larsson is another young Duck with top four upside on the blueline. It is almost unfair, really. While further away than the two men profiled above, Larsson also has a clear offensive bent to his game, loves to join the rush and owns a solid wrist shot. Off the puck, he also impresses with strong positioning and is not afraid to engage in physical play with the opposition. Expect him to get more time playing against men in Sweden this year as well as represent his country in the WJC.
Marcus Pettersson does not have the upside to his game displayed by Theodore, Montour or Larsson, but he, too, projects as a future big leaguer. Long and very lean, Pettersson is a good skater and plays a smart brand of hockey. Like Larsson, Pettersson will get more time playing with adults in Sweden this year and will likely wear the Tre Kronor on the big stage around Christmas.
Closer to the NHL yet further from impact than the other blueliners on this list, Josh Manson is a late round pick made good. His first taste of professional hockey was strong enough that the Ducks called on him to fill in for first an injured Ben Lovejoy and then an ailing Sami Vatanen. The former captain of Northeastern, and son of longtime enforcer (but one who could really play) Dave Manson, the younger Manson brought the physical family game back to the NHL while managing to stay above water in the possession realm. He will never be more than a third pairing guy, but he could likely fill that role right now.
Before moving on to the forwards, a quick word is in order for collegian Andy Welinski. Preparing for his fourth season with Minnesota-Duluth, the former third rounder has some pit bull to his game, especially in his own zone. He also is strong in the transition game, with a solid first pass.
As with the blueliners, Anaheim’s forward prospects are led by one stud. Like Theodore, Nick Ritchie was a former first round pick and the two were teammates for Team Canada at the last WJC. Ritchie is a mountainous power forward who has fantastic hands attached to powerful arms. He will drive the net hard and can finish his chances. As befitting a player of his stature, his reach is also exceptional. While I am not prepared to prophesize Corey Perry stat lines into his future, that is the template he will be trying to emulate. Ritchie, whose older brother Brett plays for Dallas, is physically ready for the NHL, although he may require a few months with San Diego to acclimate to the enhanced speed of the professional game.
Nicholas Kerdiles is another winger with a big frame who has a likely NHL career in his future. The upside is no higher than third line, and he needs another season in the AHL to rise above 13th forward status. He has the tools to play at a higher level, including finishing touch and good skating, but has never put it together over a full season. Not with the USNTDP, not as a Wisconsin Badger, and not yet in the AHL. A second season in the AHL will go a long way to determining his realistic upside.
Julius Nattinen is the only center in the organization worth getting excited about. A second rounder from Finland, he has good size, vision, passing skills and plays hard in both ends of the rink. At present, skating is his primary weakness, which he will work on next year with the Barrie Colts as he brings his game to North America. He should fit in and could rise up the ranks if he gains a step in his stride.
Kevin Roy is a high scoring collegiate forward who makes up in skill what he lacks in size. Active when in puck pursuit but very patient when carrying the disc, he plays with a playmakers’ mentality but can finish as well. Roy is a strong candidate for Hobey Baker honors in his senior season at Northeastern. Of all of the players after the top two, Roy is the most likely one to exceed his projections.
The top ten rounds off with Max Friberg, who stepped up his production in a second AHL campaign. Although not tall, he is stocky and does not lack for strength. He plays an energy-style game and could bring some scoring punch to the fourth line. Friberg should also receive more NHL ice time this year to follow up on his single game cameo from last season.
Two more wingers of note in the system are Stefan Noesen and Ondrej Kase. Noesen, formerly a first round pick of Ottawa, struggled through yet another injury riddled campaign last year. If he cannot stay healthy it is inevitable that his once promising skillset will erode. At this point, it is a mystery what is still left. Kase, one of the final players selected in the 2014 draft, enjoyed a breakout season with Pirati Chomutov of the Czech second division. He is a good passer with plus offensive vision and will spend this season in the AHL.
As befitting one of the exemplar franchises for skilled and tough West Coast hockey, the Ducks organizational strengths are along the boards. They are very deep in defensemen and wingers, and are comparatively weak at center and in net. Thankfully for the NHL club, those weaknesses are complemented by depth and strength at those positions at the NHL level, allowing the prospects greater likelihood of reaching the show once they are ready.