Theodore, Sorensen lead small group of Anaheim Ducks junior prospects

By Chris Phifer

Shea Theodore - Seattle Thunderbirds

Photo: The WHL’s leading scorer amongst defensemen, Shea Theodore has nine assists in his first three games in the month of December (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks' prospect pool only contains three prospects currently plying their trade at the Canadian Hockey League level, two in the WHL and one in the QMJHL. Their current lack of depth is due in part to large number of prospects moving up to the professional level in 2013-14, and is not an indicator of a weak prospect pool.

The Ducks tend to favor the Ontario Hockey League the most out of the three CHL leagues but with players such as Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, and Joseph Cramarossa all joining the Norfolk Admirals this season, their depth in the OHL was depleted. With two first rounds picks in the 2014 NHL Draft, look for the Ducks to re-stock their cupboard at the junior level.

QMJHL

Nick Sorensen, RW, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 2nd round (45th overall) in 2013

Being healthy was the main goal for Nick Sorensen going into the 2013-14 season. He came back from Anaheim's main camp and quickly got back to business with the Remparts, registering 12 points in his first seven games. However, the injury bug eventually bit Sorensen again, he missed seven of the next nine games for Quebec, but remained productive in the games he saw action in with three points in two games. He then returned to the lineup and promptly went on a five game goal-scoring streak and has increased his season totals to 13 goals, 14 assists for 27 points in just 19 games.

There is no questioning the offensive presence that Sorensen brings to the Remparts when healthy, and hopefully he can manage to stay in the line-up more often in the second half of the season. Often seeing playing time with fellow NHL draftees Adam Erne (TBL) and Fabrice Herzog (TOR), Sorensen brings a good blend of skill, size, and smarts. Look for him to elevate his game at the World Juniors as a returning player for Team Sweden.

WHL

Shea Theodore, D, Seattle Thunderbirds
Acquired: 1st round (26th overall) in 2013

Shea Theodore is an offensive defenseman with great skating ability and excellent vision. He posted a very impressive 50 points in 71 games in 2012-13 on a Seattle team that finished with a losing record. He returned to the WHL for a third season, and has been Mr. Everything for the Thunderbirds. Theodore was given an "A" upon his return to Seattle, and he has played like a leader. Through 29 games, he has points in all but eight contests.

In the midst of a torrid run with nine points in his first three December games, Theodore ranks near the top of the list in every offensive category amongst WHL defenseman with 12 goals (second), 26 assists (first), and 38 points (first). He has been known as a bit of a gambler in the past, but with a plus-nine rating to this point, he appears to be rounding out his game nicely. His exclusion from the WHL roster for the Subway Super Series was seen as a bit of a surprise, and does not bode well for his chances of cracking Team Canada's roster for the 2014 World Junior Championships. However, as a 1995-born player, he remains eligible for the 2015 WJC and could play a vital role if he continues to progress the way he has.

Kenton Helgesen, D, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 7th round (187th overall) in 2012

Drafted for his size and his potential to play a shutdown role in the future, Kenton Helgesen has been developing nicely with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. His willingness to impose his will on the opposition is nothing new to the 6'3 defender, but 2013-14 has seen him improve on his offensive production. Going into the season, Helgesen’s third in the WHL, he had played 128 career games for the Hitmen with a total of 34 points (season high of 20 in 2012-13). Through 29 games to start the 2013-14 season, he has already eclipsed his previous high with 21 points, tied for 20th amongst WHL defensemen.

Though this spike in offense is welcomed by fans and Ducks management, his future still lies in the defensive side of the game. He is a good character player who is willing to stick up for his teammates, and is capable of being, as evidenced by being named an alternate captain for the Hitmen in 2013-14. He is a tireless worker, has been a plus player his whole WHL career, and spends a lot of time killing penalties. His improved play is one of the reasons his Calgary team currently sits only one point out of first place in the Eastern Conference (with four games in hand), and he will need to continue to play at a high level if they want to go deep in the playoffs. Helgesen remains unsigned by the Ducks, but his improved play and the intangibles that he brings to the table should earn him a contract and the opportunity to play his game at the AHL level.

Other Notes

Kevin Roy, C, Northeastern University Huskies (NCAA)
Acquired: 4th round (97th overall) in 2012

Kevin Roy was seen as a big risk/reward type when he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and so far that risk has been paying off. As a rookie at Northeastern in 2012-13, Roy averaged over a point per game with 34 points in 29 games, earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. He returned for his sophomore season, and has been every bit as good as he was last year. His 12 goals have him tied for fifth amongst all college players, and his 21 points are tied for 12th.

He often suits up on a line with freshman John Stevens and senior Braden Pimm, and the trio has been Northeastern's most productive unit through 16 games. Roy's lack of size has yet to be a deterrent at the NCAA level, and his sophomore season could very well be his last year in college. His dominant offensive play may been enough that the Ducks would like to see him in the AHL for 2014-15 to see if he can continue his scoring success at the next level.

John Gibson, G, Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
Acquired: 2nd round (39th overall) in 2011

Gibson entered his first season of professional hockey being touted as the goalie of the future of the Ducks, and while he has been spectacular in net for Norfolk to begin the year, his play has been somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of Frederik Andersen. Gibson is a big body that moves extremely well, and he is very mentally tough. He is seen as a big game goalie, and has been a winner at every level before coming to the AHL.

There was a bit of a logjam in goal for the Ducks to start the season with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth being the two netminders for the big club, Gibson and Andersen were left to split time in Norfolk. However, when injuries hit Anaheim and Andersen was recalled, Gibson was left with a big opportunity to prove himself. He has gone on to post an 8-5-3 record, and he has done everything possible to give the Admirals a chance to win every night. His 2.31 goals against average is 14th best in the league, and his save percentage of .928 is good for second (goalies who have played a minimum of 420 minutes). He is seeing a ton of shots, having made over 30 saves in nine of his 19 games played, and posted a season high 47 saves in a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins on November 15. His future remains extremely bright within the Ducks' organization, and management will have a few tough decisions to make regarding which of their four goalies they want to move forward with in coming seasons.

Frederik Andersen, G, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Acquired:  3rd round (87th overall) in 2012

In a year that has seen many relatively unknown goalies play extremely well for their respective clubs, such as Cam Talbot in New York, Marek Mazanec in Nashville, and Ben Scrivens in Los Angeles, Frederik Andersen has been every bit as good for the Anaheim Ducks. Andersen started the year in Norfolk, his second season the AHL, and quickly regained the form he showed last year, going undefeated in two starts while posting an incredible 0.96 goals against average and .971 save percentage. The injury bug eventually hit Anaheim, and Andersen was recalled to the big club early in October.

Once he arrived in Anaheim, he quickly went on an incredible run of seven straight wins. His first win came in a game against the Dallas Stars that had seen Jonas Hiller get pulled early after having allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period. Andersen came in to start the second and promptly shut the Stars out from there on, and his team responded to his play by scoring five goals over the final two periods for a comeback 6-3 win. After that, it was strictly business for Andersen who boasts of a record of 8-1. He has only allowed more than two goals in one start so far, and his 1.74 goals against average and .938 save percentage are right up there with the best goalies in the league. Andersen took the Ducks' goaltending depth from excellent to the best in the league, and his emergence has led to plenty of speculation about whether or not one of Hiller or Fasth will hit the trade block at some point over the course of the season.

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