Anaheim Ducks had deep and talented group of prospects in NCAA and Europe in 2013-14

By Chris Phifer

Kevin Roy - Northeastern Huskies

Photo: Northeastern winger Kevin Roy led the Huskies in assists (27) and points (46) during his 37-game sophomore season (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks have plenty of skill and depth currently playing in the NCAA and various European leagues. Ten of the 13 prospects listed played NCAA hockey in 2013-14, including six defenseman.

They also have some high-end talent represented in this list with players like Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin, NCAA), William Karlsson (HV71, SHL) and Kevin Roy (Northeastern, NCAA). A few of these players have already began their professional careers following the completion of their respective seasons, while others remain a few years away from making the jump to the next level.

NCAA

Nicolas Kerdiles, C, University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall in 2012

After a standout rookie season in 2012-13, Nicolas Kerdiles entered his sophomore year at Wisconsin with increased expectations. For the second straight season he finished second in team scoring with 38 points, while missing nine games, and his rating of plus-12 was tied for the team high. Kerdiles also represented his country at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Sweden and was a leader on the ice for USA. His five assists and seven points were team highs and he displayed solid work down low on the cycle and a quick release to go along with a deceptively hard shot. He signed his first pro contract with the Ducks on April 5th, 2014 and suited up for his first game with the Norfolk Admirals on April 11th. He registered his first professional point, a goal, on April 13th versus the Portland Pirates. Kerdiles possesses an average frame but has a strong work ethic to go along with his package of skill and speed.

Radoslav Illo, C, Bemidji State Beavers (WCHA)
Drafted 5th round, 136th overall in 2009

Radoslav Illo entered his senior year with Bemidji State in 2013-14 essentially playing for a contract. The 5'11” center appeared in 31 games this season and tied his previous season high of 17 points, while posting a career-best 10 goals. Despite being undersized, he is shifty with the puck and displays a strong work ethic. He was signed to an ATO contract by the Norfolk Admirals on March 21st, 2014 and has since appeared in two games, going scoreless with two penalty minutes and three shots on goal. The 24-year-old forward’s future with the organization remains in question going into the summer.

Grant Besse, RW, University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)
Drafted 5th round, 147th overall in 2013

Grant Besse made the jump from high school to the University of Wisconsin in 2013-14 and the former winner of the Mr. Hockey Award as the top senior in Minnesota High School acclimated himself nicely. The gifted skater managed to dress in all but one of Wisconsin's 37 games and his 14 points (eight goals) were good for 10th on the team in scoring. Besse is undersized, but with his skating and his high level of offensive skill he possesses good upside, and will be given plenty of time to develop with potentially three more seasons with the Badgers left. Seven of the nine players who beat Besse in scoring have already signed a professional contract or have just finished their senior season of college, therefore there will be lots of room for Besse to climb up the depth chart and really be relied upon to lead this team.

Kevin Roy, LW, Northeastern University Huskies (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall in 2012

Kevin Roy was amongst the most impressive college rookies in 2012-13 with Northeastern and earned himself a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. Returning in 2013-14 for his sophomore season, he went on to record career highs in games played (37), goals (19), assists (27) and points (46) to lead Northeastern in scoring. At 5'10”, the question remains of whether or not he will be able to handle the physicality at the next level, but his offensive skill is not to be taken lightly and he has proven that through two years in the NCAA.

Josh Manson, D, Northeastern University Huskies (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 160th overall in 2011

Josh Manson is a defensive defenseman who possesses pro size at 6'2” and 205 pounds, and he just completed his junior season at Northeastern University alongside fellow Ducks prospect Kevin Roy. Manson has displayed good dependability over his tenure with Northeastern, appearing in 33 games in all three seasons, and although he doesn't project as much of an offensive rearguard, he managed a minor improvement every year going from four points as a rookie to seven as a sophomore and 10 as a junior. On March 25th, 2014 Josh Manson signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks and was assigned to Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Since joining the Admirals he has appeared in 11 regular season and playoff games with one goal, a minus-one rating, and 26 penalty minutes.

Andy Welinski, D, University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall in 2011

The former third round pick in 2011 is seen as a potential member of the Ducks' blue-line corps in the future and he is expected to return to the Minnesota-Duluth in 2014-15 for his junior year. In 2013-14 he appeared in 36 games and improved on his previous offensive totals with 19 points (five goals) and improved his plus/minus rating from minus-15 as a freshman to minus-4 as a sophomore while posting 51 penalty minutes. Welinski is a solid two-way defenseman who possesses average size. He is at his best when utilizing his mobility and hockey sense to his advantage. Like many young defenseman, he needs to improve his strength and defense zone coverage, but he remains a prospect to keep an eye on in the future.

Kevin Lind, D, University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 177th overall in 2010

Kevin Lind is another defensive defenseman who possesses pro size at 6'3” and 233 pounds. He recently completed his senior season and is currently on a try-out basis with the Norfolk Admirals. Over his four-year career with the Fighting Irish, Lind appeared in a total of 151 games with 29 points (10 in 2013-14). His senior year saw him post a plus-21 rating and 30 PIMs. His defensive game still needs some polishing, as does his skating, but his size makes him an intriguing prospect. On April 9th, 2014, Kevin Lind signed an ATO contract with the Norfolk Admirals but has appeared in just one game in the AHL.

Keaton Thompson, D, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall in 2013

Like a lot of other freshman college players, Keaton Thompson had a hard time staying in the line-up on a deep North Dakota squad and only suited up for 26 of their 42 games. While he was in the line-up he displayed the smarts and mobility that made him a third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, registering  eight points (three goals) and 12 penalty minutes to go along with a plus-14 rating. The North Dakota native possesses average size for a defenseman at 6'1” and 190 pounds, but his mobility, ability to move the puck and on-ice vision are what make him an intriguing prospect. He will return to play for UND in 2014-15 and as his ice time increases look for the offensive numbers to follow suit. He will also be looking at making a run for a spot on the roster that will represent the United States at the 2015 World Junior tournament.

Jaycob Megna, D, University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall in 2012

The second to last pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Jaycob Megna is an imposing force on the back end at 6'7” and 209 pounds. He emerged this season as a top-pairing defenseman on a Nebraska-Omaha squad that is well coached by Dean Blais. Never an overwhelming offensive threat, he can make a first pass out of his zone, and his 10 points were tied for fourth on the team amongst defensemen. He can move pretty well for a big guy, but he still needs to fill out physically and will be given lots of time to do just that. On April 4th, 2014 he signed his first pro contract, a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks. Since signing he has spent time with the Norfolk Admirals and has drawn into the line-up for one game, finishing with no points and a plus-one rating.

Brian Cooper, D, University of Nebraksa-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall in 2012

The undersized, offensive rearguard, Brian Cooper was drafted in 2012 after a successful three-year career with the Fargo Force of the USHL. The Alaska native then joined the University of Nebraksa-Omaha like fellow Ducks prospect Jaycob Megna, and although he was seen as a low-risk, high-reward offensive player, the points have not come as often as was expected. Through 32 games as a freshman he managed just two points and 45 PIMs. As a sophomore in 2012-13 he elevated his offense jumping up to nine points (two goals) but has not yet emerged as the top offensive player that was expected. With a possible two more years of NCAA hockey left for Cooper there is plenty of time for him to fill out his small frame and to work on his game.

Europe

William Karlsson, C, HV71 (SHL)
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall in 2011

William Karlsson is a shifty and speedy playmaking forward out of Sweden. He was drafted while playing with Vasteras, and after a dominate performance in Sweden's Allsvenskan in 2011-12 (45 points in 46 games), he made the jump to the SHL with HV71 in 2012-13. His rookie season in the SHL was a successful one as he showed the precision passing, vision and strong two-play that made him a second round pick. He was relied upon more heavily this season and he responded as he posted career highs in goals (15) and points (37) while assuming a leadership role with the team. He followed up a solid playoff showing (seven points in eight games) by coming to North America and debuting with the Norfolk Admirals. Since joining the team he has seen action in nine regular season games with two goals, seven assists and a two playoff games with one goal. The future remains bright for Karlsson and a full year in the AHL next season will be a good test for the young Swede.

Miro Aaltonen, C, Blues (SM-Liiga)
Drafted 6th round, 177th overall in 2013

After going undrafted in the 2012 NHL Draft, Miro Aaltonen had a breakout offensive season in Finland's top circuit and was really on a roll until an injury at the 2013 World Juniors halted his momentum. He returned from his injury late in the year and was an offensive force in the playoffs for the Blues' U20 team (13 points in eight games). He returned to Finland to attempt to rebound and prove he can be a consistent offensive force and with career highs in every offensive category, 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points. He is a small, speedy forward with great offensive instincts. He has great vision and is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, and can play all three forward positions. If he decides to cross the pond and play in North America, he will be an exciting player to watch when he has the puck on his stick.

Tim Heed, D, Skelleftea (SHL)
Drafted 5th round, 132nd overall in 2010

Tim Heed is an undersized defenseman with decent offensive instincts, and good mobility who is currently plying his trade with Skelleftea of the SHL. Drafted in 2010, this season was Heed's first full season in Sweden's top circuit despite being 23 years old. He held his own against higher competition and he was able to put up five points, a plus-seven rating and only two penalty minutes in 40 games. He has flipped around between quite a few teams in the last few years, and returning to Skelleftea again in 2014-15 should help with his comfort level and he'll be looked upon to take his game to the next level.