Ducks Top 20 prospects, Spring 2008

By Kevin Forbes

In the past six months since the last Top 20 ranking, the Anaheim Ducks have made significant changes to their prospect pipeline, shipping out numerous players all in their effort to successfully defend their Stanley Cup Championship.

Top 20 at a glance

1. (1) Bobby Ryan, RW
2. (2) Mark Mitera, D
3. (3) Logan MacMillan, C
4. (4) Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G
5. (9) Eric Tangradi, C
6. (5) Brendan Mikkelson, D
7. (8) Brian Salcido, D
8. (11) Matt Beleskey, LW
9. (10) John deGray, D
10. (15) Ryan Carter, C
11. (7) Drew Miller, LW
12. (6) Bryce Swan, RW
13. (17) Andrew Ebbett, C
14. (NR) Geoff Platt, C
15. (12) Ryan Dingle, LW
16. (NR) Maxime Macenauer, C
17. (13) Bobby Goepfert, G
18. (NR) Petteri Wirtanen, C
19. (16) Kyle Klubertanz, D
20. (18) Stephen Dixon, C

1. (1) Bobby Ryan, RW
Acquired: Drafted 2nd overall in 2005

Ryan’s first professional season has gone pretty much as expected. After making the NHL squad out of training camp, he’s bounced between the NHL and the AHL all year long. Although he was unable to step into the coveted open top six role to try and replace Teemu Selanne’s missing offense during the first half of the season, his potential remains high and coming off a championship win, the team has the luxury of taking it slow with this big New Jersey native.

Known as the guy taken immediately after Sidney Crosby, Ryan is well on his way to proving he’s a player in his own right. Not only was named a starter for the Team PlanetUSA at the AHL All-Star Game, he was also recognized as one of the league’s top first-year players, being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team at the end of the season. All told, Ryan’s 21 AHL goals in 48 games placed him third on the Pirates, while his 49 points was fifth best in Portland.

Though his scoring touch hasn’t completely transferred to the NHL at this stage, his four goals and nine points in 22 games is very respectable considering the limited role he has played with Anaheim. With the Ducks continuing to miss Corey Perry for at least the majority of the first round of the playoffs, any offense Ryan can provide will be more than welcome. So far, he has no points in two post-season appearances.

2. (2) Mark Mitera, D
Acquired: Drafted 19th overall in 2006

To say Mark Mitera stepped up his play tremendously in 2007-08 might be construed as an understatement. The Michigan native returned to a vastly different University of Michigan blue line in his junior year. Suddenly the elder statesman on the backend, Mitera faced the task of leading a dramatically inexperienced group, including three players in their first college year and the remainder in their sophomore season and led them he has.

An alternate captain for Michigan, Mitera not only consistently drew the top defensive assignment against the opposition’s scoring stars, he’s also led the Wolverines blue liners in scoring with career highs in goals (2), assists(21) and points (23) in 42 games. Quite simply, Mitera’s presence on defense is a big reason why Michigan was one of the top-ranked teams in the country and why they were in the Frozen Four for the 23rd time.

Named to the All-CCHA Second Team, Mitera could turn pro and sign with the Ducks this offseason, although it is just as likely that the 20-year-old, who Michigan coach Red Berenson describes as an ideal student-athlete, stays in college and finishes his degree.

3. (3) Logan MacMillan, C
Acquired: Drafted 19th overall in 2007

It would be hard to call Logan MacMillan‘s 2007-08 season as anything but a disappointment. Coming off a red hot playoff run that led to him being selected in the first round, the PEI native’s season stalled before it really even got started with a concussion in the QMJHL preseason leading to him sitting out his first NHL training camp. Returning to the Halifax Mooseheads, his bad luck struck again in late November when fatigue forced him out of the lineup for six weeks.

With such a start and stop year, MacMillan has been forced to play catch-up for most of the year, as opposed to developing and building off his strong second half in his draft year. With that said, his 15 goals and 41 points in 46 is respectable considering the time he missed. In addition, MacMillan showed an increased physical side to his game as well as a willingness to drop the gloves.

Currently playing for the Mooseheads in their QMJHL playoff run, MacMillan is finally appearing to be playing at 100 percent effectiveness. Reunited with Jakub Voracek and Colby Pridham, his line mates during his draft year, MacMillan has three goals and twelve points in eleven playoff games.

4. (4) Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G
Acquired: Drafted 197th overall in 2005

In his first professional season, Jean-Philippe Levasseur split his time between the AHL and the ECHL, balancing the desire to play at the highest level possible and the need to see the most amount of playing time as he can. Currently with the Augusta Lynx, Anaheim’s affiliate in the ECHL, Levasseur is filling the role of backup net minder during the Lynx’s playoff run.

Sharing the goaltending duties in Augusta with Bobby Goepfert, Levasseur appeared in 29 games going 10-11, with a 2.99 goals-against-average, a .900 save percentage and a single shutout to his name. Due to injuries and NHL call-ups, Levasseur also saw time in 10 AHL games with the Portland Pirates with a 4-5-0-1 record, finishing with a stat line of a 2.50 GAA, a .886 save percentage and one shutout.

A native of Victoriaville, Quebec, the main question with Levasseur’s future is playing time. Goaltenders need to play to develop and, as Levasseur’s pro career continues, he will need a starting job in the minors to ensure he can fulfill the title of "goaltender of the future" for the Ducks. Just 21, the Ducks can afford to take it slow to develop him.

5. (9) Eric Tangradi, C
Acquired: Drafted 42nd overall in 2007

Improving steadily as the year went on, Eric Tangradi proved that his incredible 2007 playoff run with the Belleville Bulls was no anomaly. Returning for another year with Belleville, the Philadelphia native was given a larger role and rose to the task.

In 56 regular season games with the Bulls, Tangradi scored 24 goals and finished with 60 points, an incredible 40 point improvement over the previous season, despite playing in nine fewer games. Missing a month of hockey with a broken thumb, Tangradi’s numbers could have been even better had he stayed healthy. Meanwhile in the post season, he’s tallied another two goals and eight points in nine games and is currently in the midst of a five-game point streak.

With such an impressive leap forward in his development, it’s hard to put a ceiling on Tangradi’s potential. Though GM Brian Burke is known for his tendency to deal second round picks prior to the draft, it appears Anaheim may have unearthed a gem with this second rounder.

6. (5) Brendan Mikkelson, D
Acquired: Drafted 31st overall in 2005

In his first professional season, Brendan Mikkelson eased his way into a limited role with the Portland Pirates. After playing as one of the top defenders for the Memorial Cup winning Vancouver Giants, even going as far as being named to the tournament All Star team, the Saskatchewan native saw himself back in the role of a rookie with Portland.

Playing in 66 AHL games, Mikkelson scored six goals, with one coming on the power play and ended the year with 16 points. One of the only rookies to play all year with the Pirates, Mikkelson at times found himself battling with the multitude of defensemen in Portland for ice time.

Slowing down as the season went on; Mikkelson had just five points in his last twenty games, although that includes missing most of the month of February with a wrist injury. He’ll no doubt be asked to fill an increased role with the AHL squad next season, but should also expect to see a bit more freedom offensively.

7. (8) Brian Salcido, D
Acquired: Drafted 141st overall in 2005

Quite simply, Brian Salcido was stellar in 2007-08 for the Portland Pirates. An offensive blue liner, the California native exploded in his second professional season, almost doubling his scoring output from the previous year.

In 71 games with the Pirates, Salcido scored 11 goals and had 53 points, placing him fourth on the team in points and second in the league amongst defensemen. Salcido also played for Team PlanetUSA in the AHL All Star game, scoring a goal in a losing effort. To cap off his strong season, he was named to the AHL’s 2nd All Star Team. Due to the number of defensemen in Portland this season, Salcido also showcased a bit of versatility, seeing a number of shifts as a forward.

With Salcido officially serving notice that he’s ready for more, the next step will be getting his first shot at the NHL. Provided his 2008 training camp is as strong as his play with Portland has been, don’t be surprised to see this former Colorado College star back in his home state next season. He’ll be a key player for Portland during their playoff run.

8. (11) Matt Beleskey, LW
Acquired: Drafted 112th overall in 2006

The captain of the Belleville Bulls, Beleskey did whatever was asked of him during what should be his last year in the OHL. As a result, his team ended the season ranked third in the CHL and are currently awaiting their opponent for the Eastern Conference finals.

Known around the league for his gritty play and tendency to throw big hits, Beleskey is also no slouch offensively. He led the team with 41 goals and 90 points in 62 games, placing him 13th in the league in scoring. Now in the post season, he is tied for second on the team with four goals and 11 points in nine games. All four goals have come on the power play and two of them were game winners.

Needing to be signed prior to June 1st, Beleskey appears to have the requisite level of pugnacity, truculence, belligerence, hostility and testosterone that identifies the stereotypical Ducks player. Provided a contract can be agreed upon, Beleskey should start his professional career next season in the AHL.

9. (10) John deGray, D
Acquired: Drafted 83rd overall in 2006

A steady defensive presence on the blue line, John deGray was the captain who paced the Brampton Battalion to a second overall in the OHL‘s Eastern Conference. Not known for his offensive production, deGray matched his previous season stat line near identically with four goals and 17 points, although he played in two more games, finishing with 67. Not one to back down from any battle, the 6’4 defenseman led his team with 140 penalty minutes.

Despite the strong regular season performance, deGray’s Battalion squad hit a snag in the first round of the OHL playoffs, falling to the 7th seed Barrie Colts in five games. deGray was held without a point during the series, but served 12 penalty minutes.

Another prospect who is looking for a contract to begin his pro career, deGray joined the Portland Pirates to try to help solidify his case. He’s appeared in six games so far, without any points to his name and a solid +2 plus/minus.

10. (15) Ryan Carter, C
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, July 2006

With a bit more luck, Carter might have no longer been eligible to be considered a prospect at all. After filling in with Anaheim during their Stanley Cup run, Carter began the 2007-08 season with the Portland Pirates but soon found his way back into the NHL lineup.

In his brief time in Portland, he tallied three goals and five points in 13 games. Just as he was beginning to step into a larger role with Anaheim, his bid to become a full-time NHLer was sidelined due to a broken wrist. All told, his NHL numbers for the regular season ended at four goals and eight points in 34 games.

Returning just prior to the beginning of the playoffs, Carter will be asked to fill a regular role for the Ducks as they defend their Stanley Cup Championship. Provided he does well, he could be due for a healthy raise during contract negotiations this summer. In two playoff games so far, Carter has been held without a point.

11. (7) Drew Miller, LW
Acquired: Drafted 186th overall in 2003

Finishing the 2007 NHL playoffs as a member of the Ducks and earning his day with the Stanley Cup, the expectations were high for Drew Miller entering the 2007-08 season. Though he was unable to work his way into the lineup consistently with the Ducks, he took strides towards a future full-time role.

Splitting the season between the NHL and the AHL, Miller saw action in 26 NHL games, scoring twice and adding three helpers for five points. Meanwhile, his improvement from one year to the next can be easily seen in his AHL numbers, where Miller equaled his previous season’s totals in goals (16), assists (20) and points (36) in just 31 games, a remarkable 48 games fewer than last year. Currently out with an ankle injury, Miller hopes to return sometime during the AHL playoffs.

Needing a new contract for the upcoming season, Miller should once again find himself challenging for a roster spot in Anaheim in the fall. Proving he doesn’t belong in the AHL, the New Jersey native is very close to being a full-time NHLer.

12. (6) Bryce Swan, RW
Acquired: Drafted 38th overall in 2006

Usually CHL teams expect a lot of their overage players. Taking Bryce Swan‘s 2007-08 numbers at face value with a 10-goal decrease (finishing with 25) and a five-point drop (ending with 49) over the previous year, despite playing more games (67 in total), it’s easy to think he took a step back.

While this has been a frustrating year for the burly forward, it is worth noting that he has played, for the most part, an extremely different role with the Halifax Mooseheads this season. On a team with plenty of offensive depth, Swan, a natural right winger, saw significant time in the pivot position in an effort to spread the offense throughout the lineup. He also played big minutes as one of the team’s top penalty killers.

Needing a contract to continue his career with the Ducks organization, Swan has worked hard to solidify his chances of getting a deal done with an explosion of production in the postseason. After ten goals and 13 points in nine playoff games, Swan is currently out of the lineup with a concussion.

13. (17) Andrew Ebbett, C
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, May 2007

In his first season with the Portland Pirates, Ebbett was pretty much as advertised, providing plenty of offense. Signed as a free agent after a strong AHL debut with the Binghamton Senators, Ebbett led the Pirates in scoring and also appeared in the AHL All-Star game, scoring a goal and an assist for the winning Canadian All-Star team.

With 18 goals and 72 points in 74 games for the Pirates, Ebbett’s scoring prowess places him 11th in the league. He also appeared in three games with the Anaheim Ducks, being held off the score sheet in his NHL debut.

Already 25, Ebbett is a bit older than most prospects due to his four years in the NCAA. With two extremely productive AHL seasons under his belt, there’s little left for the British Columbia native to prove. The time is now to start knocking on the door of the NHL.

14. (NR) Geoff Platt, C
Acquired: Trade with Columbus, November 2007

Picked up in a mid-November deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets to help provide an offensive spark to the Portland Pirates, Geoff Platt has done just that. Catapulting the Pirates to a third place finish in the Atlantic Division and himself to 17th overall position among the league’s top scorers, Platt even had time to appear in a handful of NHL games, being held without a point in five games with the Ducks.

With 65 points in 75 games, Platt filled the role of sniper for the Pirates, potting a team-leading 32 goals, including nine with the man advantage as well as five game winners.

Platt needs to firmly establish that he can contribute at the NHL level, or face being pigeon-holed as an AHL producer, though at 22 years of age, he still has plenty of time left. With 46 NHL games experience to his name, this off-season’s contract negotiations and the upcoming training camp in the fall will be crucial to his hockey future.

15. (12) Ryan Dingle, LW
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, March 2007

Following in the footsteps of Anaheim’s successful college free-agent signings such as Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner and Ryan Shannon, Ryan Dingle spent most of his first professional season with the ECHL‘s Augusta Lynx. Though talented offensively, Dingle struggled at times adapting to the minor leagues.

In 50 games with the Lynx, Dingle scored 10 goals and finished with 27 points. He’s currently playing with the squad in the ECHL playoffs, with no points in two playoff games. Dingle also spent 19 games in the AHL with the Pirates, tallying a single goal and six points.

Considering the Ducks’ eye, or more specifically Assistant GM David McNab’s eye for college talent, it is far too early to view Dingle’s lack of immediate impact as anything less than an adjustment period. After all, this is a player who led the WCHA in goal scoring in his last two seasons of college hockey.

16. (NR) Maxime Macenauer, C
Acquired: Drafted 63rd overall in 2007

Appearing in only 14 games during his draft year, Maxime Macenauer has used the 2007-08 season to show why the Ducks chose to select him in the third round. An all-weather forward for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Laval, Quebec native has been one of the main reasons why the Huskies were a dominant force in the QMJHL all season long.

With 23 goals and 60 points in 67 games, Macenauer finished the year fifth on the team in scoring. Missing almost an entire season of development is a formidable challenge for any player (and surprisingly it is not a rare occurrence among Anaheim prospects), however, Macenauer has rebounded successfully and is well on his way.

Continuing to be a valuable contributor for Rouyn-Noranda as they expect to make a long playoff run, Macenauer has four goals and six points in six playoff games. Displaying a knack for clutch production, two of his goals have been game winners, including one in overtime.

17. (13) Bobby Goepfert, G
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, August 2007

Signed as a free agent after the Pittsburgh Penguins chose not to offer him a contract, Bobby Goepfert had a strong showing for his first professional season. Playing with the Augusta Lynx all season long, Goepfert is currently the go-to guy for the Lynx in the playoffs, helping the team earn their first post-season victory since 2001.

Seeing action in 33 games after missing the first few months of the season due to a groin injury suffered in the off-season, Goepfert had a record of 16-15-1 with a 2.60 GAA and a .912 SV%. In addition, his three shutouts tied him for top in the league among rookie goaltenders.

A Top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award in his final year of college hockey, Goepfert’s potential is impossible to rule out. Turning 25 in May, he will once again need to firmly establish himself next season to ensure he gets the playing time that he needs to develop.

18. (NR) Petteri Wirtanen, C
Acquired: Drafted 172nd overall in 2006

Comparing prospects to existing NHL players is more often than not unfair for the prospects, but in the case of Petteri Wirtanen, he could be the heir apparent to Anaheim’s shutdown star Samuel Pahlsson. Similar to Pahlsson, Wirtanen has plenty of skill in his game but prefers to focus on stopping goals, rather than scoring them.

In 78 games with the Portland Pirates, Wirtanen has tallied 10 goals and has 37 points. Meanwhile, he saw very limited action in three games with the Ducks, scoring a single goal with the only shot so far in his NHL career.

Just 21 years old, the Ducks have no need to rush the Finnish native to the NHL before he is ready. Given Anaheim’s penchant for taking it slow with prospects until they prove they are ready and the current number of players filling the Ducks bottom lines in the NHL and top lines in the AHL, Wirtanen will be given plenty of time.

19. (16) Kyle Klubertanz, D

Acquired: Drafted 74th overall in 2004

After a slight step back in his junior year with the University of Wisconsin, Kyle Klubertanz came on strong in his senior year as the assistant captain for the Badgers.

Finishing third in team scoring among defensemen, Klubertanz’s scored four goals and had 20 points in 40 games. Incredibly, his four goals (two of them coming on the power play) came in consecutive games during a stretch in late October and early November.

With his NCAA career come to an end, the next step for Klubertanz is a pro contract. Anaheim has until Aug. 15 to reach a deal with the Wisconsin native on his future with the organization. They’ll get some extra time to evaluate him as he has joined Portland on an amateur tryout. He’s appeared in five games for the Pirates, being held without a point and a -1.

20. (18) Stephen Dixon, C
Acquired: Trade with Pittsburgh, June 2007

The epitome of durability, Stephen Dixon is the only Portland Pirate to play in every game this season. In fact, he has yet to miss a single game of hockey since the beginning of his professional career three years ago. Coming to the Ducks during the offseason, the change of scenery has proven to be just what the doctor ordered for the Nova Scotia native.

After a slow start with his new club, Dixon exploded offensively thanks to increased responsibility. His 17 goals and 45 points in 80 games represent career highs and he continues to take care of business in his own end first.

Originally viewed as a purely defensive forward, and that might still be how he makes a name for himself going forward, Dixon has established himself as a two-way threat in the AHL. Looking for a new contract this summer, Dixon’s strong dependable play this year will only help his case.

Missing the Cut

Michal Birner, LW
Acquired: Trade with St. Louis, December 2007

Picked up as part of the Doug Weight/Andy McDonald trade, Michal Birner was identified as a player who needed a change of scenery to get his career back on track. A native of the Czech Republic who played his junior hockey in the OHL, Birner finished the year with 9 goals and 20 points in 58 games split between the Peoria Rivermen and the Portland Pirates. This spells a drop of eight points, though he did play in eight fewer games.

Steven Kampfer, D
Acquired: Drafted 93rd overall in 2007

Teammate to Mark Mitera, Steven Kampfer was thrust into a larger role with the University of Michigan this year due to the inexperience on the Wolverines blue line. A two-way blue line, Kampfer was third on the team among defensive scoring with two goals and 17 points. He’ll be asked to step up even more for the 2008-09 season.

Brett Morrison, C
Acquired: Drafted 151st overall in 2007

As an over-ager in the QMJHL, Morrison was a hot commodity during the league’s trading period. Going from the middling PEI Rocket to the top-ranked Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Morrison has been a key contributor as the Huskies have yet to lose a game in the playoffs. With four goals and 14 points in eight playoff games to go along with his 39 goals and 91 points in 65 regular-season games, the Nova Scotia native should turn pro next season.