Ducks Top 20 prospects, Fall 2009

By Chris Shafer

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Luca Sbisa, D
2. Jake Gardiner, D
3. Peter Holland, C
4. Mark Mitera, D
5. Kyle Palmieri, C
6. Brendan Mikkelson, D
7. Matt Beleskey, LW
8. Petri Kontiola, C
9. Matt Clark, D
10. Mattias Modig, G
11. Logan MacMillan, LW
12. Justin Pogge, G
13. Nicolas Deschamps, LW
14. Nick Bonino, C
15. Dan Sexton, C
16. Igor Bobkov, G
17. Brett Festerling, D
18. Timo Pielmeier, G
19. MacGregor Sharp, C
20. Justin Schultz, D

   
1. Luca Sbisa, D – 8.0B 
6’2, 188 pounds 
1st round, 19th overall, 2008 
 
The smooth-skating Sbisa had a breakout year last season at the age of 18. In 39 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, the talented youngster only managed seven assists but performed well. He has already shown that he can be effective at the NHL level.

While it is tough to gauge the full impact he could have on the blueline with the Ducks, his presence over the next couple of years could go a long way toward easing the loss of Chris Pronger and the imminent retirement of Scott Niedermayer. If Sbisa progresses well in his own zone, he could very easily be one of the best defensemen from the 2008 draft. 
 
Sbisa shows he is unafraid to take the body anywhere on the ice. His skating though is his strongest weapon, gliding effortlessly between zones while moving the puck. His vision is also above average. As with most young defensemen, his positioning could stand some improvement, but that won’t be enough to hold him back. Better play in his own zone will take time and NHL experience.
 
2. Jake Gardiner, D – 8.0C 
6’1, 173 pounds 
1st round, 17th overall, 2008 
 
As a late convert to the blueline, Gardiner displays everything a team could want in a puck-moving defenseman. He has all of the size, as well as vision, hands, and a quickness on his feet that allows him to play strong positional defense. Now that he’s at the back of the play most of the time, he has the opportunity to display his vision and awareness by developing plays. Most forwards that transition to defense have issues in their own end, but Gardiner is developing into the kind of defenseman that a team would want on the ice for all situations. 
 
In 2008-09, Gardiner joined an already solid defensive unit at the University of Wisconsin. By the end of the season, he finished third in points among defensemen with three goals and 18 assists in 39 games and tied for fourth in plus/minus among all skaters with a plus four. He will return to the Badgers. 
 
3. Peter Holland, C – 8.0D 
6’2, 220 pounds 
1st round, 15th overall, 2009 
 
Coming into the 2009 Entry Draft, Holland was one of the biggest question marks. Everyone knew his abilities with the puck in the offensive zone and could see his attractive size. The concerns with his selection came from his habits, attitude, work ethic, and all-around game. The Ducks were the team willing to put these issues on the back-burner in the hopes of drafting a top playmaking center.
 
Holland will take a while to develop. He has all of the talent to be a top line center for the Ducks, but will obviously have to mature. For now he will remain with the OHL Guelph Storm where he is coming off a season of 67 points including 28 goals in 68 games. He needs to show that he can take that next step offensively in the OHL before making the jump to the professional level and an approach similar to the one that the organization took with Bobby Ryan might be the best for Holland’s progression. 
 
4. Mark Mitera, D – 7.5C 
6’3, 202 pounds 
1st round, 19th overall, 2006 
 
Mitera was drafted high in 2006 and developed into a solid shut-down defenseman for the University of Michigan. Last fall, he tore his ACL before starting his senior season with the Wolverines. He returned from the injury in time to play eight games with the team and managed a goal and two assists. He then joined the Iowa Chops of the AHL for five games recording two assists before the end of the season. 
 
Mitera appears to have returned to form. He recently signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks and will likely play in the AHL. The ACL injury has set him back a bit, and in the meantime the Ducks have bolstered their defensive depth both in the prospect pool and with the club. With so many young, capable defensemen fighting to make the roster it is up to Mitera to show that he has not lost a step due to injury. 
 
5. Kyle Palmieri, C
– 7.0C 
5’10, 191 pounds 
1st round, 26th overall, 2009 
 
Palmieri is a small but crafty center with excellent vision. He is very patient with the play and reads the ice well from any position. He will not beat many physically, but his quick feet and even quicker thinking still allow him to create plays. He is a hard worker who plays with determination and energy.
 
Last season with the USNTDP, he scored 15 goals and 15 assists in the 33 games he suited up for. He has all the abilities necessary to turn into a true offensive threat from anywhere in the zone. Anaheim will likely be patient with his development, and Palmieri has already committed himself to playing for Notre Dame next year.
 
Recently at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp, Palmieri turned quite a few heads. In two exhibition wins over Russia, the 18-year-old scored two goals an added an assist.  
 
6. Brendan Mikkelson, D – 6.5B 
6’2, 202 pounds 
2nd round, 31st overall, 2005 
 
Mikkelson had spent a season and a half in the AHL before finally getting an opportunity in the NHL. The defenseman, chosen 31st overall back in 2005, was called up at the beginning of January and played all the way through April. While he was not logging the same minutes that he would have been in the AHL, he was certainly getting a feel for NHL competition. 
 
While only two assists in 34 games is not all that much for a defenseman whose strongest assets are puck movement, he did finish out his first stint in the NHL with an even plus/minus. Through the course of his time spent in Anaheim he progressed well and adjusted to the speed of the highest level of competition. 
 
It will be a rough camp for Mikkelson though, who finds himself competing with an army of young, quality defensemen who hope to make the team including Sbisa, Stu Bickel, Mitera, and Brian Salcido
 
7. Matt Beleskey, LW – 7.0C 
6’2, 202 pounds 
4th round, 112th overall, 2006 
 
When entering his final season with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL, Beleskey was challenged to pick up his production to account for departing players, and what resulted was a team-leading, 90-point season as he leaped over Detroit prospect Shawn Matthias. His goal totals through four seasons with the Bulls continued to climb from 10, to 20, to 27, and finally to 41 in his final season. 
 
Beleskey took that momentum with him to the AHL for 2008-09 where he scored 35 points including 11 goals in 58 games for the Chops. He needs to improve on his skating, but if he steps up his production in the AHL over the course of the season it will be hard for the depth-pressed Ducks to keep him down for long.  
 
8. Petri Kontiola, C – 7.0C 
6’0, 197 pounts 
7th round, 196th overall, 2004 
 
As a former late-round pick by the Blackhawks, Kontiola eventually broke out during his final two seasons in the Finnish league. He then joined the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL for the 2007-08 season where he scored 18 goals and added another 50 assists for 68 points in 66 games. That season he also managed to play 12 games with Chicago, tallying five assists. 
 
This past season though Kontiola was not producing as well in the AHL. In 81 games, he managed just 19 goals and 43 assists for 62 points in time split between the IceHogs and the Chops. 
 
While he remains a dangerous threat offensively, his desire to always pass the puck off to a teammate is predictable to an extent. Kontiola is also easy to knock off the puck. 
 
9. Matt Clark, D – 7.0C 
6’3, 205 pounds 
2nd round, 37th overall, 2009 
 
Clark is relatively low risk compared to the two centers the Ducks chose in 2009′s first round. Clark at 6’3, 205 pounds certainly has the size already to compete in the NHL. He is not known for his offense and likely never will be, but did have a 23-point performance during his first year in the OHL which was good enough for second in scoring among team defensemen. 
 
Though Anaheim already has a deep pool of puck-moving defensemen, Clark provides something that the team might be missing with the recent departure of Pronger. 
 
10. Mattias Modig, G – 7.0C 
6’0, 163 pounds 
4th round, 121st overall, 2007 
 
After a great 2006-07 performance got him drafted by the Ducks in 2007, Modig took a step backwards in his next season with Lulea HF of the Elitserien.

2008-09 brought with it a new Modig, who displayed early that he could still perform well in Sweden. His confidence snowballed, and he managed to finish the season out with career bests in the Elitserien. His 2.25 goals-against-average and .922 save percentage carried Lulea HF back into the postseason. 
 
Now at 22, Modig will have to continue his progression. His ability to remain calm under pressure can carry him far, but still needs to show that he will not be streaky. 
 
11. Logan MacMillan, LW – 6.5C 
6’1, 172 pounds 
1st round, 19th overall, 2007 
 
When drafted in the first round of 2007, MacMillan looked like he was going to be the next big scoring threat out of the QMJHL. In 68 games, he put up 55 points including 20 goals with the Halifax Mooseheads back in 2006-07, but now, two seasons later, he has not increased his production on a per game basis. Injuries have held him back.
 
When healthy, he plays effectively at both ends of the ice and has a beautiful shot. His all-around game is solid, and he plays physically without fear of dropping the gloves if need be. Everything about MacMillan shows he has the talent to not only be an offensive producer but a team very good teammate as well. The Ducks have signed him to a three year entry-level contract, but MacMillan has even more to prove this season than ever before.
 
12. Justin Pogge, G – 6.5C 
6’3, 190 pounds 
3rd round, 90th overall, 2004 
 
Pogge is Anaheim’s most recent addition and was brought to the organization in an attempt to stabilize the depth between the pipes. While Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller remain the two top goalies for the Ducks, there was a glaring hole behind them. Should either of them have gone down due to injury there was virtually no one ready to step into the backup job. Pogge may not prove to be the future in net for Anaheim, but he does give them some insurance.
 
That of course is not to say that Pogge cannot turn his career around with the organization. He was a WHL star in his final season with the Calgary Hitmen, but in transitioning to the AHL Pogge was less than spectacular. Now three years into his AHL development, he has something to prove with a new opportunity. It’s unclear which team he’ll play for yet as Anaheim will spread their AHL players among teams.
 
13. Nicolas Deschamps, LW
– 6.5C 
6’1, 182 pounds 
2nd round, 35th overall, 2008 
 
The 19-year-old Deschamps was selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Ducks as a speedy scoring winger in the QMJHL after a very strong first season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. In five fewer games during the 2008-09 season, Deschamps managed the same number of goals as his first season with 24 and only two fewer points with 65 in five fewer games. He managed to play two games with Iowa as well, earning an assist. 
 
He has performed well in the QMJHL so far but has yet to hit that breakout season. Up until now he has been purely a scoring forward with tons of speed, an above average shot, a quick release, and soft hands. In order to excel at the NHL even as a one-dimensional forward, Deschamps would need to at least fix some of these issues at the CHL and AHL level.
 
14. Nick Bonino, C – 6.5C 
6’1, 202 pounds 
6th round, 173rd overall, 2007 
 
Bonino was taken by the San Jose Sharks in the sixth round of the 2007 draft as a big high school center who dominated in Connecticut. During his freshman year at Boston University, he far exceeded all expectations by becoming the top rookie goal scorer in all of Hockey East by finding the twine 16 times for a total of 29 points in 39 games. 
 
If he exceeded expectations in 2007-08, then he would shatter them in 2008-09 with a performance good enough to finish second on the team in scoring only behind the Nashville Predators‘ top prospect, Colin Wilson. In 44 games, Bonino tallied 18 goals and assisted on 32 others for 50 points on the year. If he continues to progress this well and dominate at BU, the former sixth round selection may turn into a solid NHL center some day. Like many bigger forwards he has issues with his skating and speed, but his vision, hands, and passing are enough to give him a legitimate shot at the NHL. 
 
15. Dan Sexton, C – 6.5C 
5’9, 165 pounds 
Signed as a free agent 
 
The Ducks signed Sexton straight out of Bowling Green State University after the center had finished a breakout season. In his sophomore year, Sexton led his school in scoring with 39 points in 38 games. The 17 goals he scored that season more than doubled his freshman year totals. Now at the age of 22, the undrafted forward has earned himself a two-year entry-level contract to try to make a name for himself in the pros as well. 
 
At a very small 5’9, 165 pounds, Sexton will no doubt have to battle against bigger opponents for the rest of his career. And despite his speed he will have to improve on the other areas of his game before he can be useful to Anaheim. 
 
16. Igor Bobkov, G – 7.0D 
6’4, 192 pounds 
3rd round, 76th overall, 2009 
 
Standing at 6’4, Bobkov takes up a large chunk of the net, but still struggles with consistency. The Russian was named top goaltender at the 2009 U18 World Championships. 
 
The North American game will take some getting used to, and there is no rush for Bobkov to move to it. He tried to get to the Ducks’ developmental camp, but visa issues kept him from venturing to Anaheim. There is of course no timetable for Bobkov, but should he find some consistency in Russia he could get his opportunity to break onto the Ducks’ AHL affiliate down the road. 
 
17. Brett Festerling, D – 6.0B 
6’1, 201 pounds 
Signed as a free agent 
 
Festerling went undrafted due to a poorly timed broken wrist, but that did not stop him from making it to the NHL. After a number of years in the WHL split between the Tri-City Americans and the Vancouver Giants, Festerling earned a contract with Anaheim.
 
Festerling spent the majority of the 2008-09 season in Anaheim. In 40 games with the NHL team, he tallied only five assists. In 34 games with the Chops, he only tallied seven. Offensive numbers are of little consequence to Festerling though who makes his name in the defensive zone shutting down other players. Currently he remains a restricted free agent. Due to a surplus of young defensive talent that will be flooding both the Ducks’ and their AHL affiliate in the upcoming years, it will be even tougher for Festerling to continue his NHL career in Anaheim.
 
18. Timo Pielmeier, G – 6.5C 
5’11, 175 pounds 
3rd round, 83rd overall, 2007 
 
Acquired through trade at the same time as Bonino, Palmeier was brought in to bring goaltending depth to Anaheim’s prospect pool. He played two seasons with the Cologne Sharks of the DEL, but after being drafted by San Jose in the third round of the 2007 Entry Draft, he decided to take up the task of playing in Canadian juniors. He played for the St. John’s Fog Devils of the QMJHL for the 2007-08 season and put up respectable numbers for such a high-scoring league. The next season he broke out, this time with the Shawinigan Cataractes. He finished with a 30-9-2 record and posted a 2.67 goals-against-average along with a .913 save percentage. For the QMJHL, those numbers are very good. 
 
Now done with juniors, Pielmeier signed an entry-level contract with the Ducks, but will have to fight for ice time as Anaheim does not have a sole AHL affiliate. 
 
19. MacGregor Sharp, C – 6.0C 
6’1, 185 pounds 
Signed as a free agent 
 
In 2008-09, Sharp had a breakout year as a senior at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, scoring 26 goals and adding 24 assists for 50 points in 43 games. The center more than doubled his previous personal best in goals scored at the collegiate level, while nearly doubling his former best for points. 
 
His offensive talents will not likely fully transfer to the professional game, however. What he does offer though is an excellent forechecker with an attitude. He can skate well and will pressure the puck at every opportunity. 
 
After an amateur tryout with Iowa earned him six professional games along with a goal and an assist, Sharp was signed to a two-year entry-level contract. 
 
20. Justin Schultz, D
– 6.0C 
6’2, 162 pounds 
2nd round, 43rd overall, 2008 
 
After his stint as top defenseman in his conference in the BCHL, Schultz is ready to move on to the Wisconsin Badgers for the 2009-10 season. His offensive potential is high, with extraordinary puck-moving abilities and the skills to develop plays from the back end which is sought after in all power-play quarterbacks. At 6’2, but just 162 pounds, he needs to put on some muscle in order to play professional hockey. With Wisconsin, he will look to prove he can handle bigger competition.

Honorable mention: Sami Vatanen, D