By Thomas Harrington
With the San Diego Gulls so close to Anaheim, it’s become easier than ever for Bob Murray and the Ducks to call up players when needed. It could be for an injury fill-in, for a sick player, or because they are producing at a rate in the AHL that they deserve the call-up. Sometimes when that player is called up they are inserted into the lineup right away. Sometimes players are called up on more of a just in case basis and don’t see any game action. Either way, with the Gulls just a few hours away, expect to see a number of San Diego players make their way to Anaheim at some point this season, especially with the potential holes in Anaheim’s current roster.
Potential Open Spots
Let’s start by going over the potential open spots in Anaheim’s roster to get a general idea of what kinds of prospects the Ducks could call up. The Ducks like to carry an extra body on both defense and at forward. However, the Ducks do sometimes carry one more player and hit the roster limit of 23 players.
In net, the Ducks look pretty set with John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier. If something happens to one of them, Dustin Tokarski is the most likely call-up on an emergency basis. I do not expect to see Kevin Boyle called up this season. Boyle played in both of Anaheim’s rookie games in Colorado. He played the entire game in the loss and stopped 24 of 27 shots against Colorado. He played in only the first period against San Jose and stopped all 13 shots that came his way.
On defense, the Ducks currently have seven players signed to a one-way contract: Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Clayton Stoner, Kevin Bieksa, Josh Manson, Simon Despres, and Korbinian Holzer. There is of course also Hampus Lindholm, who is currently a restricted free agent. Once he’s signed, the Ducks will have eight defensemen on their roster. Anaheim doesn’t like putting one-way contracts in the AHL, but it’s not unheard of and Holzer did spend some time in San Diego last season. If the Ducks choose to carry seven defensemen, he’ll be San Diego bound. So Anaheim’s defense looks pretty set unless they run into injury issues during the season.
The Ducks currently have 10 forwards signed to one-way contracts: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Garbutt, Antoine Vermette, Nate Thompson, Jared Boll, and Chris Wagner. The Ducks also signed Mason Raymond over the summer, but that was a two-way deal, and they also have restricted free agent Rickard Rakell. However, Rakell recently had surgery; and while he should be back in about two weeks, he might not be quite ready for the start of the season. Also, Thompson is currently injured and will most likely miss well over half the coming season. So the Ducks’ forward lines definitely have some holes and there are some open spots to be won in camp by Anaheim’s rookies.
Players Who Could Be Called Up From Juniors
Before getting to the potential call-ups from San Diego, let’s first take a look at Anaheim prospects playing in Canadian juniors who may get a chance in Anaheim this season. I’ll only focus on junior players who have signed a professional contract, so prospects like Sam Steel who haven’t signed a contract yet won’t be considered. Prospects who have a chance at making Anaheim’s roster include Julius Nattinen, Deven Sideroff, and Max Jones. It’s unlikely any of these three will make Anaheim’s roster on a full-time basis this season, but if any of them have a good enough camp, there’s a chance they could get a few games in Anaheim. As long as they play less than 10 games, the first year of their contracts will not begin. With Thompson out long term and Rakell potentially not ready for the season, I think that Nattinen has the best odds of these three to get some games at the start of the season. Of these three prospects, he’s the most polished and probably the closest to being NHL ready, and there could be a short-term need at center.
Another factor to consider is that in the recent rookie games in Colorado, Nattinen led all Anaheim players with three points in those two games. Anaheim has its biggest holes on their roster on the left side, so Jones is the next most likely. He plays a physical game and if he can translate that to the NHL, he could still be a positive contributor even if he’s not scoring. He scored a goal in Anaheim’s win over San Jose’s rookies. While Anaheim is better on the right side, Sideroff could fit in on one of the bottom two lines if the Ducks want to give him that experience. Sideroff played in both of the rookie games but didn’t register any points. While I think it unlikely, the Ducks could decide to go this route to give their young prospects a taste of NHL action before returning them to their junior teams.
Players Who Could Be Called Up From San Diego
Despite a stacked defense, the Ducks’ backend will run into injury issues at some point this season. Also, if the Ducks end up trading any of their many defensemen, a roster spot could be opened up on the blueline. The Ducks’ two best prospects, Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour, are the two players most likely to get the call from San Diego. At some point this season, Theodore will be in Anaheim, and it’s possible he could be with the Ducks for most of, if not the entire season. Even if the Ducks don’t trade anyone, if he’s good enough in camp, he could force his way onto the roster, prompting Anaheim to send Holzer to the AHL. Not wanting to risk possible injury, Theodore only played in the second rookie game for Anaheim but served as the captain in the victory.
While I don’t expect Montour to get a ton of playing time in Anaheim this year, I do think that it’s highly likely that he makes his NHL debut at some point this season. It’s possible he could have a season very similar to what Theodore had last year, where he plays anywhere from 10 to 20 games when the Ducks need him and spends the rest of the season in San Diego. He also only played in one of the rookie games, as he served as the alternate captain in the loss to Colorado. Given the amount of depth Anaheim has on defense, I think it unlikely that any other defensive prospect will get recalled from San Diego. If anyone else from San Diego does get called up, it would most likely be veterans Nate Guenin or Jeff Schultz.
With so many holes at forward, here are the most likely prospects to be called up from San Diego: Nick Ritchie, Stefan Noesen, Nic Kerdiles, Ondrej Kase, Nick Sorensen, Joseph Cramarossa, Michael Sgarbossa, and Kalle Kossila; with Ritchie, Noesen, and Kerdiles the three to most likely see the most amount of NHL action.
Ritchie played over 30 games last season and only scored four points, but was dominant at times in the AHL. Once he figures out the game in the NHL, he could turn into a great power forward. With only Cogliano, Garbutt, and maybe Raymond patrolling Anaheim’s left side, there’s a huge opportunity for Ritchie to make a big impact in Anaheim this year. He played on the top line in both rookie games and scored two goals in Anaheim’s victory. Kerdiles is the other left winger who has a huge chance to have a breakthrough season. He can also play center, so with Rakell possibly out, he has even more of an opportunity to make Anaheim’s roster this season. Kerdiles scored an early goal against Colorado, but unfortunately, he did not finish the game as he got boarded. He did not play in the second game and the official word is that he is under observation. Hopefully, he’s not out long term and is ready to go when training camp starts.
Similar to Kerdiles, Kossila can play both left wing and center. Since he’s so new to Anaheim’s system, I think he’s less likely to make his way to Anaheim early in the season. However, he’s a highly skilled forward and if he plays well enough in San Diego, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made his way to the NHL sometime in the second half of the season, although I think it’s more likely he gets his first NHL action after spending a year in the AHL. Kossila played center in both rookie games but did not record any points.
On right-wing, the Ducks have Perry, Silfverberg, and Boll; Wagner can also play on the right side. That’s a pretty steep drop after the top two. There’s a huge opportunity for Noesen to break through into the NHL this season, after getting two games over the last two seasons. Even though the Ducks’ top two right wing positions are locked up, Noesen could benefit by seeing action on Anaheim’s third or fourth line, giving him more of a chance to adjust to the NHL. If Wagner plays center and Boll ends up as the team’s 13th or 14th forward, there will still be at least one more open spot on Anaheim’s right side.
Kase had a strong season for the Gulls last season, although he did miss a lot of time with injury. Similar to Kossila, I don’t think he’ll make the roster out of camp, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was called up later in the season. This will be Sorensen’s rookie season in the AHL, but he’s been playing professional hockey in the SHL for the last two seasons. Sorensen’s professional experience could give him a leg up on some of Anaheim’s other prospects and make his way to Anaheim this season. He played in the Ducks’ top six in the rookie games and recorded an assist in both games.
The Ducks appear set at center, but with Thompson out long term and Rakell possibly playing wing or missing time because of his surgery, there could be a center spot available behind Getzlaf, Kesler, and Vermette. If Kerdiles or Kossila makes the roster as a winger, the Ducks have a few centers in San Diego who could work out. Sgarbossa was one of San Diego’s top centers last year. Despite his limited NHL action, he’s a veteran of several seasons in the AHL and could fit in nicely in Anaheim’s bottom six. Cramarossa is an effective penalty killer and is another player who could work out on Anaheim’s fourth line. Neither of them is likely a huge part of Anaheim’s future, but either could contribute this season and give the Ducks some safe minutes in the bottom six.
Anaheim Line Shuffle
With Randy Carlyle back as the Ducks’ head coach again, it’s hard to predict what kind of lines he will put together. Will he put Getzlaf and Perry back together? Or keep them separated as Bruce Boudreau did for much of last season? Will he keep the line of Kesler, Cogliano, and Silfverberg together? Or break them up and utilize Kesler and Silverberg in more of a scoring role and Cogliano as a checker? What he decides will have a big impact in terms of what kinds of players from San Diego make the transition to Anaheim this season. Does he need scorers or bottom six players? Or, will he have kid line as he did with Getzlaf and Perry a decade ago? There are numerous possibilities for him to explore. Thankfully, with training camp just over the horizon, we should start getting a glimpse of what his plans are very soon.
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