By Thomas Harrington
Now that I’ve spent the summer giving updates on the Ducks’ prospects, as well as examining the strengths and weakness of the Ducks’ prospect system, it’s time to go over who I believe are the Ducks’ top 10 prospects. Just a quick note: as I did a year ago, I will only be including players who are eligible to win the Calder Memorial Trophy this season. To be eligible to win this award, a player has to have played less than 25 games in any single season and they cannot have played more than six games in each of the two preceding seasons. As a result, Josh Manson, who played in 28 NHL games this past season, will not be on this list. If he was eligible for the award, he definitely would be, as he was one of the Ducks’ prospects who rose through the prospect ranks at an incredible rate this past season.
When choosing the players for this list, I looked at two different sets of criteria. The first is: what is their ceiling? Are they a future top pairing defender or a bottom pairing defender? Are they top line material, or suitable for a bottom six role? The other thing I looked at is: how likely are they to reach their NHL potential? A player may have the potential to be a top six forward, but will they actually make it that far, or be relegated to the AHL or European leagues for most of their career?
Before I get to the top 10 list, here are the players who just missed the cut: Marcus Pettersson, Nick Sorensen, Andy Welinski, Michael Sgarbossa, and Julius Nattinen. Pettersson was eighth on this list last year, but he had a bit of a rough season. He still has all the tools to make it to the NHL someday, and I still think he can. Sorensen was ninth a year ago, but fell out due to his injury issues this past season. A bounce back season from him in the SHL should put him back in the top 10 next year. Welinski does a lot of things well, but isn’t great at any one thing. He has one year left in the NCAA before he turns pro. Sgarbossa has the talent to be a second or third line center in the NHL, but has yet to put it all together. Nattinen was the Ducks’ second round pick from this past season, and will be playing in the OHL this season, his first in North America. Gone from last year’s list are William Karlsson and Rickard Rakell.
Now, on to the top 10. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parenthesis.
10. (NR) Kevin Roy – I viewed Roy as the team’s 11th best prospect a year ago, and if not for the meteoric rise of some prospects higher on this list, Roy would be a few spots higher. He’s returning to Northeastern for his senior year, and should join San Diego at the conclusion of his college career. He’s got all the tools to be a goal scorer in the NHL, but he does need to add some muscle to his frame.
9. (10) Max Friberg – While Friberg does not have Roy’s skill, his speed and determination, coupled with his tenacity, make him a hard player to play against. He made his NHL debut this past season, and I expect to see him in Anaheim more this season. He was recently extended for the next two seasons, so the Ducks clearly see a future for him. Almost every other player on this list was a top 60 pick in the draft, pretty good company for a former fifth round pick.
8. (NR) Jacob Larsson – The Ducks’ first round pick from June has a lot of room to grow, but is a safe bet to turn into a solid top four defenseman. He’s one of the smartest players taken in the past draft. Given the abundance of youth in Anaheim and San Diego, the Ducks can afford to take their time with Larsson and let him develop properly. He’ll be in Sweden for at least one season, and probably more, before coming over to North America.
7. (5) Nicolas Kerdiles – Before getting a concussion that basically ended his season, Kerdiles was having a good but not great rookie year in Norfolk. He’s still a highly skilled forward who can play both wing and center, but how he bounces back this season will play a large part in his NHL future. He’s one I’m really pulling for, and I hope he can have a much better sophomore campaign in San Diego.
6. (7) Stefan Noesen – If not for missing so much time due to injury over the last two seasons, he’d probably be higher on this list, if not in the NHL already. He’s got a great shot and solid offensive instincts and should be one of the leading scorers in San Diego this season. However, what has impressed me the most has been his ability to bounce back from two terrible injuries, and still maintain a high level of play. He made his NHL debut this past season, and I would not be shocked to see him in a Ducks uniform again this season.
5. (NR) Brandon Montour – A second round from 2014, he’s been one of the fastest risers in the Ducks’ prospect pool, just missing out on the top 10 last year. He’s the first player to start the year off in the USHL, got to the NCAA, and then turn pro and join the AHL, all in the same season. Expect him to be one of the top point producers from the Gulls’ backend this season. I’m not expecting him in the NHL this season, but after his dramatic rise over last season, I wouldn’t count him out.
4. (NR) Chris Wagner – A year ago, he wasn’t in the top 10 and wasn’t really considered close to NHL ready. However, he was one of the biggest risers in the Ducks’ prospect system this past season. He made his NHL debut early in the season, and while he failed to record a point, he made his presence on the ice felt with some punishing hits. He doesn’t have the ceiling that some other Anaheim prospects have, but he’s already proved he can play in the NHL and be a solid contributor. With the Ducks loading up this summer with bottom six depth, he’ll probably start the season in San Diego, but don’t be surprised if he forces his way back to Anaheim at some point this season. Along with Friberg, he’s one of two players taken in the fifth round to crack the Ducks’ top 10 prospects.
3. (4) Nick Ritchie – He has future power forward written all over him. With the amount of depth on Anaheim’s roster, especially after the signings the team made in August, he probably won’t crack the lineup at the start of the season, but I’m expecting him to make his NHL debut at some point this season. For now, he’ll most likely start the season in San Diego, where I’m hoping he has a solid rookie season. Given his size, I’d like to see what he and Wagner could do together. I’m hoping their physical play and offensive skills will serve them well in the AHL.
2. (1) John Gibson – Gibson is still one of the brightest prospects the Ducks have; don’t let him falling down to second fool you. He’s a future NHL starter, if not star, and should put up some very good numbers throughout his career. However, this past season he had to deal with a number of injuries and just didn’t play as much as I would have liked. It certainly wasn’t a lost year of development for him, but it wasn’t what was hoped for. This season, expect him to get a lot of time in San Diego as he gets back on track.
1. (6) Shea Theodore – Theodore has always had the offensive talent, it’s his defensive game that has long been the question mark. Over the last two seasons, it has improved dramatically, as demonstrated by his shut down role at the World Junior Championships for Canada back in January. He has the most offensive potential of any defenseman the Ducks have in their prospect pool and on their roster. He’ll be in San Diego this year, as one of their top defensemen and will probably make his way to the NHL at some point during the season.
Depending on how many injuries the Ducks suffer through this season, as many as eight players from this list could conceivably make their way to Anaheim this season. However, I think that Theodore, Gibson, Ritchie, Noesen, Wagner, and Friberg are the most likely call-up choices, depending on what the Ducks need as the season progresses.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the information on the Ducks’ prospects throughout the summer. Keep in mind that DucksNPucks will be covering the San Diego Gulls this season, and I’m planning on doing a few updates on at least some of the Ducks’ prospects throughout the season.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
Follow us Twitter @DucksNPucks !
Like us on Facebook at DucksNPucks !
Follow us on Instagram at DucksNPucks !