Gibson again tops Anaheim Ducks Fall 2014 Top 20

By Chris Phifer
Photo:

Photo: John Gibson and Sami Vatanen are among Anaheim’s top prospects. They were selected in the second round of the 2011 Draft and fourth round of the 2009 Draft, respectively. (courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images)

 

The Anaheim Ducks are becoming mighty once again. The 2013-14 season saw the team lead the Western Conference in points, and they also had prospects at all levels of the game make big impacts with their respective teams.

At the professional level, the team’s young goalies got a lot of the attention. Frederik Andersen made an immediate impact early in the season, while John Gibson‘s time to shine came at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen also made a big impact on defense with the Ducks, and given their young ages they have the team very excited about the future.

At the junior level, Shea Theodore grew into one of the best young blue liners in the entire WHL. His Western Hockey League counterpart Kenton Helgesen also saw his stock rise after adding an offensive side to his already solid defensive game.

With the core of their roster in their prime and a young up-and-coming supporting cast the Ducks look like a team that can win not only now, but also for years to come.

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

The 2013-14 season saw John Gibson rise from being the goalie of the future when he began the year with the Norfolk Admirals to goalie of the present when he was called up to start in the Anaheim Ducks’ playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings. John Gibson is a big goalie with excellent positioning and plenty of poise in the net. He has had success at every stop along the way, whether it be in the AHL, OHL, or on the international stage where he won gold medals in the U17, U18 and U20 World Junior Championships. With the Ducks opting not to re-sign Jonas Hiller this off-season, the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of John Gibson and fellow prospect Frederik Andersen to take over the reins.

2. (NR) Nick Ritchie, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 10th overall, 2014

The Ducks’ most recent first round selection, Nick Ritchie is a big-bodied power forward with good skating ability and a very heavy shot. Ritchie uses his size well to shield the puck when in possession, and also uses it to punish opponents with big hits. His ability to move his feet and offensive skills left team staff impressed at the Ducks’ Prospect Camp in July. Being a left winger and with the potential that he possesses, it’s easy to imagine him one day lining up alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the team’s top line. Ritchie will go to main camp in September to compete for a roster spot, but returning to Peterborough for another season would not hurt his development.

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

Sami Vatanen used the 2013-14 season to establish himself in North America and helped cement himself a place in the team’s future plans. After spending most of the 2012-13 season in the American Hockey League, Vatanen managed to get into 48 games with the Ducks in 2013-14, and his 21 points really opened some eyes. In addition to his excellent puck skills, Vatanen possesses fantastic skating skills powered by an effortless stride. The Ducks only lost Luca Sbisa from last year’s defense corps but they added Clayton Stoner which means that ice-time again may be a little tough to come by. Vatanen’s combination of speed, skill and hockey sense, however, will keep him in the lineup on most nights.

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

Shea Theodore was one of the bigger breakthroughs in all of junior hockey in 2013-14. He was drafted in what was a deep 2013 NHL Draf and was a bit of an after though behind other first round picks such as Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Ristolainen and Josh Morrissey. He was seen as a bit of a gambler with the puck which, despite his offensive abilities, caused him to slide in the draft. Theodore returned to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL and took not only his offense, but his overall game to the next level. Not only did Theodore lead his team in scoring, his 79 points in 70 games led all defenseman in the WHL. What sets Theodore apart from other offensive defenseman is his solid 6’2 frame and his ability to play a complete game. It seems likely that he will return to the Thunderbirds for the 2014-15 season, where the young squad has a chance to be one of the best teams in the WHL.

5. (3) Rickard Rakell, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st Round, 30th overall, 2011

Rickard Rakell is probably the most NHL-ready of all the forwards on this list, and he was one of the Norfolk Admirals’ best forwards all season long in 2013-14. Rakell was up and down between Anaheim and Norfolk all season long and even saw time in the playoffs with both teams. With Anaheim he managed four assists in eight games during the regular season, and added a goal and an assist in four playoff games. With the Admirals his 37 points in 46 games were fourth on the team in scoring despite missing a considerable amount of games. He will be entering training camp looking to make a big impact and cement himself a full-time role in the Ducks’ lineup. With the ability to play both the wing and center, and also the ability to play solid defensively with good offensive instincts, he is the definition of versatility and that will help him going forward.

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

Frederik Andersen went from going unsigned two years after being drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes to being drafted a second time, this time by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round in 2012. He joined the Norfolk Admirals the following season and stole the starter’s job and finished with 2.19 goals against average and .929 save percentage. And then in 2013-14, in just his second season in North America, Andersen was thrust into the Ducks’ net due to injuries and promptly won his first six NHL games. Andersen ended the season with 20 wins in just 28 games played and also appeared in seven playoff games before John Gibson was given the net against the Kings. The soon to be 25 year old remains the more experienced of the two Ducks’ net minders and the two should battle for starts all year long.

7. (6) Nicolas Kerdiles, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 36th overall, 2012

Nicolas Kerdiles is one of many big-bodied forwards with offensive potential within the Ducks’ organization. The former 2nd round pick finished the season with the Norfolk Admirals, appearing in six regular season games (four points) and ten playoff games (four points). Kerdiles saw a lot of action this season having also appeared in 28 games with the University of Wisconsin, where he averaged well over a point per game with 38 points (15 goals). Kerdiles also returned to the international stage this past season when he suited up for the USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships and he established himself quickly as a top player on the squad. He led the team in scoring with seven points in seven games. Kerdiles is a very hard working two-way player with an excellent competitive drive. He battles hard in the corners and is equally adept at setting up a linemate as he is at finished off chances himself. His solid all-around game and ability to play both the wing and center could earn him a call-up as early as this season.

8. (NR) Marcus Pettersson, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 38th overall, 2014

Marcus Pettersson was a 2nd round pick by the Ducks in the 2014 NHL Draft, and his potential and upside have fans salivating. Drafted as a defenseman, the 6’4 rearguard was playing center just a few seasons ago. Spending much of his life as a forward has given Pettersson an increased amount of time handling the puck and honing his offensive skills. Combine that with his enviable frame and ability to play a strong defensive game and the sky is the limit in terms of what he can become. He will likely require a few more seasons in Sweden to work on the finer points of his game and to add muscle to his slight frame.

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

Like so many others on this list, William Karlsson finished the 2013-14 season in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals. He appeared in nine regular season games with the Admirals and his nine points were a very good sign of things to come from the speedy, two-way pivot. Karlsson spent the rest of his career in Sweden, most recently with HV71 of the SHL for the past two seasons, where he amassed 65 points in 105 SHL regular season games. His playmaking skills are tops amongst Ducks’ prospects and he has the potential to become a top-six NHL forward. He is expected to begin the season with the Norfolk Admirals in 2014-15 and should be among the team’s leading scorers, possibly earning himself a call-up during the season.

10. (8) Stefan Noesen, RW, 7.0C
Trade with Ottawa Senators, July 2013

Stefan Noesen entered the his first season of pro hockey with high expectations after having been acquired from the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately for Noesen, a knee injury limited him to only two regular season games. He managed to return to the lineup in the playoffs and his four assists in four games were a positive sign for him going forward. Prior to joining the AHL, Noesen spent four seasons in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers and averaged over a point per game in his OHL career with 220 points in 215 games. At 6’1 and 205 pounds he possesses good size and he knows how to use it to his advantage to infuriate opponents. Staying healthy for a full season in 2014-15 will go a long way in getting Noesen back on track on his road to the NHL.

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

Nick Sorensen is another player who has had injury problems in the past. He has been in and out of Quebec Remparts lineup since joining the team in 2011-12, only appearing in 98 regular season games in three seasons. In that time, the 6’1 winger managed to put up 117 points (56 goals), and also 19 points (13 goals) in 13 playoff games, in part showing why he was so highly regarded in the draft. He is a hard working two-way player and is great at retrieving pucks on the forecheck. On April 3rd, 2014 he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks, and then was loaned by the team to Skelleftea of the SHL for the 2014-15 season. Playing against men in Sweden’s top league will be good for his development, and staying healthy would be best of all.

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

Kevin Roy is a classic high risk, high reward prospect. The 5’10 speedster has been a scoring machine since joining Northeastern University in 2012-13. He has excellent puck skills, and his playmaking is becoming among the best in all of college hockey. He was named to the NCAA Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2012-13, and in 2013-14 he was named to the NCAA Hockey East Second All-Star Team. He will be returning for his junior season and after having scored 80 points in his first 66 games with Northeastern, it is expected he will be one of the leading scorers in the country this season. Continuing to get stronger and adding muscle is vital to his future success, as there will always be doubts about whether his slender frame will be able to handle the physical aspects of the pro game.

13. (NR) Brandon Montour, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2014

Anaheim entered the 2014 Draft with a pair of second round picks and chose defensemen with both selections, the second of which was used to select Waterloo Blackhawks defenseman Brandon Montour. Much like Kevin Roy, Montour’s style of play can make him a bit of a risk, but he has become very good at anticipating when to jump up into the play and when to exercise caution. He was first eligible for the draft in 2012 while playing Junior A hockey in Ontario for the Brantford Golden Eagles, but he went undrafted. After spending one more season in Junior A, Montour made the jump to Waterloo of the USHL and after averaging over a point per game (62 points in 60 games) from the back end, he was one of the biggest risers on draft lists. He is scheduled to go to college at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and may be on the fast track to pro hockey if he can continue to his year-to-year improvements.

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

Max Friberg may be best known for riding his stick after a shootout goal in the World Juniors, but he is quickly making a name for himself as a go-to offensive player in Norfolk. 2013-14 was Friberg’s first full season in North America and he did not waste any time, scoring 17 goals and 23 assists in 74 games with the Admirals. At 5’10 he is slightly undersized but he is a stocky guy at 194 pounds, and his combination of speed, skill, and the ability to get under the opponent’s skin make him a valuable player. There are a few highly touted forwards joining the Admirals this season (Nicolas Kerdiles, William Karlsson) and those better linemates should help Friberg improve on his impressive rookie numbers.

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

Andy Welinski tends to fly under the radar a bit because he is not as flashy as some other prospects, but he plays a sound two-way game and possesses the potential, and size (6’2, 194 pounds) to become an NHL player one day. He has spent the past two seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he has used his speed and hockey sense to help him lead the team’s defense in scoring both seasons. He will be returning to the Bulldogs for his junior season in 2014-15 and will be expected to elevate his play and become one of the top defensemen in the conference. His offensive upside might be limited at the next level, but his size and good defensive zone coverage will make him a viable option on the blue line down the road.

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

Kenton Helgesen is a very large framed player at 6’3 and 192 pounds, and was a defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen when the Ducks selected him in 2012. He had all the makings of a solid shutdown-style defenseman through his first two seasons in the WHL, and his offensive game seemed limited with 34 points in 128 career games. Going into the 2013-14 season, Calgary decided to try Helgesen on forward and he really began to find a knack at working in front of the opposition’s goaltender. He more than doubled his previous season high of 20 points by scoring 10 goals and 41 assists in 71 games. His 246 career penalty minutes with the Hitmen show he is not afraid to use his size to his advantage when given the chance. The Ducks stuck with the idea of trying him at forward at least for prospect camp, and that versatility will help him stay in the lineup more often in 2014-15 with Norfolk. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with Anaheim on April 19th, 2014.

17. (15) Chris Wagner, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th Round, 122nd overall, 2010

Chris Wagner has always been the type of player to find ways to succeed at every level and improve from year to year. He played two seasons in the EJHL with the South Shore Kings, jumping from 34 points in his first season to 83 in his second. From there he went to Colgate University, where after putting up a respectable 19 points as a freshman he scored 51 points (17 goals) as a sophomore and promptly signed an entry-level contract with the Ducks and turned professional. Since joining the Norfolk Admirals, Wagner has been used primarily in a checking-line role. His speed, hard work and dedication to detail have made him a very formidable bottom-six player. He has slightly improved his production, going from 21 points as a rookie to 28 points in his second season. The 2014-15 season will mark Wagner’s third season as a pro and the final year of his entry-level contract, and he will be looking to continue to improve to earn himself another contract and keep his NHL dream alive.

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

Keaton Thompson is another in a long line of two-way defensemen within the Ducks’ organization. The 2013 third round pick is a former member of the U.S. National Development Program, where he spent two seasons and won a silver medal in both the U18 and U17 World Junior Championships. Thompson possesses average size for an NHL defenseman at 6’1 and 190 pounds and must continue to add muscle before turning pro. Fortunately for Thompson, college hockey provides lots of time to work out and a few more seasons at the University of North Dakota are exactly what he needs. Making the jump to NCAA hockey last season was a learning experience for Thompson, and he had a tough time getting in the lineup on a consistent basis to start the season. He began to find a permanent role near the end of the season and ultimately managed to suit up for 26 games (eight points). Thompson possesses great mobility and is an excellent student of the game. His offensive skills were apparent when he was in the lineup, and there is still a lot of untapped potential within his game.

19. (NR) Miro Aaltonen, C, 6.0C
Drafted 6th Round, 177th overall, 2013

Another high risk, high reward prospect, Miro Aaltonen is a 5’10 forward with the ability to play both center and the wing. The speedy and shifty goal scorer went undrafted twice before being selected by the Ducks in the sixth¬†round in 2013. Aaltonen began playing full-time in Finland‘s top league in the 2011-12 season when he was 19 years old, and like many other young players in pro hockey he had a tough time getting playing time in his rookie season. In 2012-13 he returned to SM-liiga, where he had a great start to the season and was looking like a very important piece on Finland’s 2013 World Junior Roster until an injury in the first game cut his tournament short. Despite the injury, he still managed three points in the game. Aaltonen did a good job of putting his injuries behind him and suited up for 60 regular season games with the Espoo Blues. His 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) were good for fourth in scoring on his team, and he was the team’s second leading scorer in the playoffs with seven points in just seven games. The 2014-15 season will see Aaltonen leaned on more and more as an offensive catalyst on his Finnish club, and a test in North America may be awaiting him should he be up to the task.

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

By far the largest prospect within the Ducks’ organization, Jaycob Megna stands at 6’7 and 209 pounds and uses every inch and pound to his advantage. Jaycob is the younger brother of Penguins prospect Jayson Megna and is hoping to make an immediate impact in the AHL much like his brother. Megna was passed over at the 2011 draft following his season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He then committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he flourished under the experienced coaching of Dean Blais. Although he does not possess much offensive upside, his stats did improve in each of his three NCAA seasons, going from five points as a rookie to seven points as a sophomore and ten points in his junior season. Megna joined the Norfolk Admirals following the completion of his collegiate career and suited up for two regular season games in the AHL. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks and 2014-15 will mark his first full season of professional hockey. His size and reach will always make him an attractive piece, and if he can continue to add muscle to his enviable frame he could be a player to watch.