Ducks CHL prospects 2007-08 review

By Kevin Forbes

The Anaheim Ducks had eight prospects playing in the Canadian Junior leagues, split evenly between the QMJHL and the OHL. Being a Ducks prospect seems to be a group affair, with six of the CHL prospects playing alongside a junior teammate who is also an Anaheim draft pick, including a pair of prospects who played at the recent Memorial Cup.

QMJHL

Logan MacMillan, LW – Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted: 1st round, 19th overall in 2007


It was a season to forget for Logan MacMillan. After finishing his 2006-07 season with an impressive playoff that led to his first-round draft selection, MacMillan’s 2007-08 campaign stalled right out of the gate with a preseason concussion. As a result, he was unable to participate in his first NHL training camp and missed the beginning of the QMJHL season. After returning and scoring at just over a point per game pace, MacMillan’s hardships sadly were not over and he left the team at the end of November due to fatigue. Returning six weeks later, MacMillan’s absences from the lineup had taken their toll on the PEI native. Although he brought a much more physical element to his game, his 15 goals and 41 points in 46 games were far below expectations. Meanwhile, in 15 playoff games, he had three goals and 13 points. At the conclusion of the Mooseheads playoff run, MacMillan joined the Portland Pirates in the AHL in the midst of their own playoff run, but did not appear in a game.

The Mooseheads had what most QMJHL observers considered to be a contending team in 2007-08. Although they finished tops in the East Division, they only made it as far as the league’s playoff semifinals. Rife with NHL drafted talent this season, the Mooseheads will not be as fortunate in 2008-09, with the majority of their stars expected to move on to professional hockey. In essence, this could become MacMillan’s team as he expects to be one of the top returning players. Much will be expected from the forward as he looks to rebound.

Bryce Swan, RW – Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted: 2nd round, 38th overall in 2006

Similar to MacMillan, his Mooseheads teammate, Bryce Swan also took a step back in 2007-08. A 20-year-old overage veteran, Swan was expected to be a scoring threat as well as a physical presence and bring leadership to the dressing room. While he was a vocal leader on and off the ice and never hesitated to throw his body around, his scoring prowess was not as apparent. Tallying ten goals fewer than the previous season, the Cape Breton native also finished the year with five fewer points despite playing in six more games. While the stat line isn’t the final say on a player’s season, the Cape Breton native’s game was simply not as effective as it was when the Ducks originally drafted him. All told, Swan finished the season with 25 goals and 49 points in 67 games.

With the shadow of the June 1 signing deadline looming heavily on Swan’s future hockey career, it’s still unknown whether the Ducks will agree on a contract with the forward. Anaheim has already signed fellow 2006 draftees from the CHL such as Matt Beleskey, John deGray and Jason Bailey with Swan remaining as the sole prospect still without a contract.

Brett Morrison, C – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted: 5th round, 151st overall in 2007

Drafted as a 19-year-old after two seasons as one of the QMJHL’s most offensively talented forwards, Brett Morrison continued his scoring ways in his 20-year-old overage season. Starting the year with the PEI Rocket, Morrison was dealt to one of the top teams in the league, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies partway through the season, where he joined fellow Ducks prospect, Maxime Macenauer. His combined stats between the two teams were 39 goals and 91 points in 65 games, placing him ninth in the league in scoring, while his 23.1 shooting percentage was one of the top in the league. With the Huskies making a long playoff run, all the way to the QMJHL finals, Morrison was an important postseason contributor as well. In 17 playoff games, Morrison scored six goals and had 26 points, leading Rouyn-Noranda in scoring and placing sixth among postseason performers. Unfortunately for the Nova Scotia native, his production did not result in a President’s Cup in his final season in the QMJHL; the Huskies bowed out to the league champion Gatineau Olympiques in five games.

No longer eligible to play junior hockey, but also not yet required to be signed to an NHL pro contract by the Ducks, Morrison could find himself playing in the Ducks system with just a minor pro contract. The main knock against Morrison throughout his career has been his size and he’ll be up against another challenge in the 2008-09 season, facing competition that is bigger, faster and stronger than he’s ever gone against before.

Maxime Macenauer, C – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted: 3rd round, 63rd overall in 2007

Little was known about Maxime Macenauer when the Ducks selected him prior to the 2007-08 season. After all, the Laval native had only played in 55 games over the course of his first two seasons in the QMJHL. He blew away all expectations in his third season in the league, scoring 23 goals and having 60 points in 67 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, enough to place him fifth on the team. Consistently playing a top six role for the Huskies all season long, Macenauer stepped up his game in the playoffs, like most of his teammates. He finished the Huskies unsuccessful championship run with six goals, including two game-winners, and 16 points in 17 playoff games. He then joined the Portland Pirates during their playoff run, but did not appear in a game.

With a number of top contributors for the Huskies not expected back due to the pull of the professional game or simply being no longer eligible to stay in the QMJHL, even more will be expected from Macenauer in the upcoming year. As is often the case in junior hockey, such a loss of talent will also result in a drop in the standings after Rouyn-Noranda was the top regular season team in the league in 2007-08.

OHL

Matt Beleskey, LW – Belleville Bulls
Drafted: 4th round, 112th overall in 2006

It’s hard to imagine how Matt Beleskey‘s 2007-08 season could have gone much better. Serving as the captain of the Belleville Bulls, he led the team all the way to the Memorial Cup. In the regular season, his 41 goals and 90 points led the team and represented a 22-point increase over the previous season, placing him 13th in the league. Meanwhile, his 33 points (including 12 goals) in 21 postseason games were third in the league in playoff scoring, with his team losing the OHL championship to the Kitchener Rangers, the 2008 host of the Memorial Cup. Ending his OHL career in style, Beleskey was named OHL Player of the Week twice in the last four weeks of the year and was named to the OHL’s third all-star team. During the Memorial Cup, Beleskey had three assists in four games as the Bulls finished third in the tournament.

Given his impressive 2007-08 season, it is little wonder that the Ducks were quick to get his signature on a three-year entry-level contract. It is expected that Beleskey will start his pro career at the beginning of the 2008-09 season. An all-weather forward, Beleskey has steadily improved each season during his OHL career and is ready to make the next step to chase his NHL dream.

Eric Tangradi, C – Belleville Bulls
Drafted: 2nd round, 42nd overall in 2007

Tangradi has advanced in leaps and bounds since his coming out party during the OHL’s 2007 playoffs, when he tallied 17 points in 15 games after scoring just 20 points in the regular season. As Belleville Bulls Coach George Burnett explained earlier in the season, Tangradi is as good as he wants to be and he was certainly motivated in 2007-08. Tangradi scored 24 goals and ended with 60 points in 56 games for the Bulls, an incredible 40-point increase over his previous year. Once the playoffs rolled around, Tangradi added another seven goals and 18 points in 21 games. The Bulls also competed in the 2008 Memorial Cup, where Tangradi was held pointless in three games.

After such a whirlwind year, Tangradi will find himself facing a much larger challenge in 2008-09. He’ll be returning to the Bulls, but it won’t be the same club that he ended the year with. Belleville expects to lose a large amount of their top talent, including fellow Ducks prospect Beleskey. As the Bulls’ fourth-leading scorer in 2007-08, Tangradi will be one of the top returning players for Belleville and will be asked to continue his remarkable development.

John deGray, D – Brampton Battalion
Drafted: 3rd round, 83rd overall in 2006

The captain of the Brampton Battalion, deGray’s contributions don’t appear as much on the score sheet as they do on the ice. A shutdown defensive defenseman, deGray’s four goals and 17 points placed him 12th on the team in scoring, but he consistently went up against the opposition’s top offensive talent and neutralized them. In the postseason, deGray’s Battalion faced the Barrie Colts and were eliminated in five games, with deGray being held without a point. He then joined the Portland Pirates and appeared in six AHL regular season games as well as three playoff matchups, although he’s still looking for his first professional point.

After a solid tryout with the Pirates at the end of his season, deGray has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Ducks and will begin his professional career in the fall of 2008. Though deGray will never make a name for himself due to offensive prowess, he should earn a steady paycheck for doing just the opposite: stopping goals from being scored.

Jason Bailey, RW – Ottawa 67s
Drafted: 3rd round, 63rd overall in 2005

It was a difficult season for Bailey in his first (and last) full year in the OHL. A 20-year-old over-ager for the Ottawa 67’s, the Ontario native missed exactly half of the season, playing in just 34 games. His absence was due to a myriad of injuries including a bout with mononucleosis, a broken nose and orbital bone, a hip flexor and a sports hernia. In fact, he played through the pain of the sports hernia during the playoffs and is expected to undergo surgery to correct the injury during the offseason. Though he tallied just eight goals and 17 points in the 34 games he did play, his disruptive style of play helped create many more scoring chances and led to 67s coach Brian Kilrea elevating him to the top line for the second half of the season. Meanwhile, in his four playoff games, he had a pair of assists, as the 67’s bowed out to the Oshawa Generals in a straight four-game sweep.

Although his season was undoubtedly frustrating, Bailey was rewarded with an entry-level three-year NHL contract from the Ducks. His rough and tumble ways obviously caught the eyes of the Anaheim brass and his gamble of leaving the University of Michigan to join the Ontario Hockey League has paid off. Bailey will begin the next chapter in his hockey career in the fall.