Balance and talent still present in Anaheim Ducks Top 20 despite graduations

By Chris Phifer

John Gibson - Anaheim Ducks

Photo: Goaltender John Gibson, who has found success as a rookie pro this season for Norfolk in the AHL, takes over the top spot in the Ducks Top 20 update (courtesy of Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The spring edition of the Anaheim Ducks Top 20 list features five new faces following the graduation of Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jakob Silfverberg, and Hampus Lindholm to the NHL and the loss of Peter Holland in a trade to Toronto.

Leading the way is elite goalie John Gibson and the list displays Anaheim's terrific depth up front with players like Rickard Rakell, Nicolas Kerdiles, and Nick Sorensen. The organization also done a good job stockpiling defenseman with high-end offensive skills and mobility.

1. (2) John Gibson, G, 8.0C
Drafted 2nd Round, 39th overall, 2011

The highly touted net minder has been as advertised in his first season of pro hockey. His .920 save percentage is top-15 in the league, and he is a big reason why the Admirals are still competing for the top spot in the East Division. Gibson is knocking at the door, and should get an opportunity to stand between the pipes for the Ducks sooner rather than later.

2. (7) Sami Vatanen, D, 7.0B
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2009

Sami Vatanen has been up and down between Anaheim and Norfolk a few times this season, and regardless of where he is playing, his offense and skating ability have been on full display. In 41 games with the Ducks he has impressed with 14 points (six goals), and his ability to move the puck has the Ducks very excited about his future. Getting stronger and getting better at taking care of his own zone are things he needs to improve on, but the future is bright for Vatanen.

3. (6) Rickard Rakell, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2011

The former first round pick debuted in the AHL this season and has been a force for the Norfolk Admirals. Has earned a few call-ups during the season and though he managed one assist in nine games with Anaheim, Rakell has spent most of the season with the Admirals. His 37 points in 46 games currently ranks him fourth in team scoring. He and teammate Emerson Etem, both of whom were recently recalled to Anaheim, seem to have developed some nice chemistry, although Rakell projects more as a two-way player than an offensive pivot.

4. (17) Frederik Andersen, G, 7.0B
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2012

Andersen went from being a seventh round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010, to re-entering the draft and getting picked in the third round by the Anaheim Ducks. He followed that up by emerging as the Admirals starter in 2012-13 with a sparkling .929 save percentage. When the injury bug hit the Ducks' netminders early in the 2013-14 season, Andersen stepped in and won his first six NHL starts. With Viktor Fasth getting dealt to Edmonton at the deadline, Andersen is now the back-up to soon to be UFA Jonas Hiller.

5. (8) Shea Theodore, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2013

Shea Theodore is an offensive defenseman with good skating ability. The knock on Theodore at the draft was his defensive play, and he has worked hard this year in Seattle to improve on that, all without losing the offensive spark to his game. His 79 points in 70 games was tops amongst all defenseman in the WHL, and led the Thunderbirds in scoring for the regular season.

6. (10) Nicolas Kerdiles, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall, 2012

The young power forward has followed up his tremendous rookie season by  improving on his point-per-game totals (1.03 to 1.32) while emerging as a top player in the conference, currently tied for third in Big Ten scoring. He had a very solid showing for the USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships and looked particularly adept at using his 6'2 frame to shield the puck from defenders, allowing him to work the puck well in the corners.

7. (11) William Karlsson, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2011

William Karlsson is an intelligent two-way hockey player who has shown steady progression each season since he was selected by the Ducks in 2011. Last season he made a smooth transition from Sweden's second league (Allsvenskan) to the SHL and had an immediate impact offensively to HV71. This year he improved on his strength and his offensive totals have benefited from it, scoring 37 points in 55 games (15 goals). Look for him to make the jump to North America following this season.

8. (9) Stefan Noesen, RW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Ottawa in July, 2013

The former first round pick of the Ottawa Senators had an unfortunate start to his professional career. He suffered a serious knee injury early in the season and was limited to only two games (zero points) thus far. His size and ability to chip in offensively made him a valuable asset coming back in the Bobby Ryan trade, and assuming the healing process goes well for him his future remains bright as a potential power forward at the next level.

9. (14) Nick Sorensen, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2013

Nick Sorensen's future as a hockey player remains a mystery. He possesses a solid frame, has good work ethic and tremendous offensive instincts, but his ability to stay healthy has been a big question mark the last few seasons. He performed great in a support role on a deep Swedish roster at the 2014 WJC, and has averaged 1.39 points-per-game for the Remparts in the QMJHL, but needs to find a way to stay healthy and in the lineup more often, especially when he gets to the next level.

10. (15) Kevin Roy, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th Round, 97th overall, 2012

Kevin Roy has continued his rise to becoming one of the top offensive players in the NCAA. He went from scoring 34 points as a rookie with Northeastern, to putting up 46 points in 37 games in 2013-14 and currently sits fifth in Hockey East scoring. His size will always be a knock against him, but as long as he continues to put the puck in the net, he will remain an intriguing prospect.

11. (16) Max Friberg, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall, 2011

His rookie season in North America has gone as expected and the sniper from Sweden has displayed good chemistry with countryman Rickard Rakell. He has been one of the Admirals' most consistent offensive players and his 32 points, currently ranking fifth in team scoring.

12. (13) Antoine Laganiere, C, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent in April, 2013

Laganiere turned pro following a four-year career with Yale University, which was capped off with an NCAA Championship in 2012-13. The budding power forward has had his share of ups and downs as a rookie with the Admirals, but has shown glimpses of offensive upside, and at 6'4 and 214 pounds, he already possesses NHL size.

13. (19) Steven Whitney, C, 7.0D
Signed as a free agent in April, 2013

Another in a long line of small, offensive forwards coming out of the Boston College system, Steven Whitney has been a dependable secondary scorer as a rookie with Norfolk in 2013-14. Like a few other Ducks prospects listed, Whitney's size is his major deterrent, but he has been able to elevate his game when players have been out of the Norfolk lineup and looks in line for a potential breakout season offensively in 2014-15.

14. (18) Andy Welinski, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall, 2011

Andy Welinski returned to the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season and has once again displayed the steady two-way game that earned him a spot on the WCHA All-Rookie team in 2012-13. At 6'1, he possesses average size for an NHL defenseman and must continue to get stronger. He improved slightly on his scoring average in his sophomore season, but does not project as a high-end offensive player at the next level.

15. (NR) Chris Wagner, C/RW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 122nd overall, 2010

In his second full season of professional hockey, Chris Wagner has once again shown his strong two-way game, while improving on his scoring totals and chipping in with 10 goals. He is not likely to become a top scorer at the next level, but his strong defensive work and his ability to read the game give him a realistic chance of becoming a depth player in the NHL in the future.

16. (NR) Jesse Blacker, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Toronto in November, 2013

Jesse Blacker was acquired in the trade that sent Peter Holland to the Maple Leafs in mid-November.  Blacker's offensive totals dipped from 16 points to 11 points in his second year with the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate, and he had only appeared in five games for the Toronto Marlies prior to his arrival in Norfolk. Since joining the Admirals he has provided an offensive spark from the back-end and his 21 points in 37 games with Norfolk represent an AHL career-high for the 22-year-old (he also had one goal with the Marlies for a total of 22 points in 42 games).

17. (NR) Igor Bobkov, G, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2009

Igor Bobkov, the big-bodied Russian goalie has not always had a permanent home this year, but he has played great hockey everywhere he has been. Starting the year in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies, Bobkov has been up and down between there and Norfolk as the season has gone on. When Frederik Andersen has been in Anaheim, Bobkov has been in Norfolk and has looked like a very capable option between the pipes.

18. (NR) Kenton Helgesen, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 187th overall, 2012

Returning to the WHL for a third season, Kenton Helgesen has really stepped up his game and has become a force on the back-end for the Calgary Hitmen. At 6'3 and 192 pounds, he possesses great size and has always been great at using his size to his advantage, but his offense took a huge jump this season as he has more than doubled his previous season best of 20 points with 51 through 71 games in 2013-14.

19. (20) Keaton Thompson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2013

Keaton Thompson debuted as a rookie with the University of North Dakota in 2013-14 and has certainly seen his fair share of struggles. He had a hard time getting ice-time early in the season on a veteran laden squad. He managed to get into the lineup for 21 games (three goals and four assists) and has displayed flashes of the skill and skating ability that made him a third round pick by the Ducks.

20. Jaycob Megna, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th Round, 210th overall, 2012

Jaycob Megna may have been the second-to-last pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, but his size, mobility and solid defensive zone coverage have allowed him to flourish on a well-coached University of Nebraska-Omaha team. Standing at 6’6, Megna's frame is very enviable, and he has grown into a top pairing defenseman this season, despite possessing limited offensive potential. The younger brother of Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, Jayson Megna, the Ducks are hoping Jaycob can duplicate his older sibling’s meteoric rise.

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