Ducks 2009-10 minor-league prospects update

By Kyle Kujawa

If you’re an Anaheim Ducks prospect in the AHL or ECHL, chances are you’ve had to pack your bags a few times this season. As the only NHL team without their own AHL affiliate, Anaheim has had to shuffle around their prospects several times in an effort to get them all adequate playing time. In addition, Anaheim’s NHL struggles and injury woes have seen a handful of prospects make their NHL debuts, some earlier than expected. Anaheim has stationed prospects in San Antonio, Toronto, Manitoba, Springfield, Bakersfield, Muskegon, and Laredo.

AHL

Matt Beleskey, LW, 21
Current club: Anaheim Ducks

Beleskey started this season with the Phoenix Coyotes affiliate in San Antonio. Beleskey had a chance to claim a scoring line role on a young but stacked Rampage club. But through the first two months of the season Beleskey wasn’t getting as much ice time as the Coyotes prospects, so Anaheim reassigned him to the Toronto Marlies for three games. Through 15 total games in the AHL, Beleskey only managed two goals and seven points, not quite what was expected of him. He’s also played 11 games in the NHL, as Anaheim called him up to play more of a checking-line role. His strong play along the boards and physical game makes him a good fit in Anaheim, however, he does have offensive upside should Anaheim chose to move him to a scoring role.

Stu Bickel, D, 23
Current club: San Antonio Rampage

With just 21 games played in his first professional season, Bickel could still be considered a rookie in this season. He’s known more for his defensive style and physical element, but Bickel showed off some offensive touch, starting the season in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors. He put up 12 points in 22 games, which is one point less than his career high in the USHL, which was over 57 games. Recently, due to injuries, Bickel was called up to San Antonio. He’s played in only one game so far, but could stick around for a couple of weeks before the Rampage get healthy.

Brett Festerling, D, 23
Current club: Anaheim Ducks

Festerling played more NHL games than AHL games in his second professional season, but found himself starting the season with San Antonio. As one of the more experienced players on the roster, Festerling did find himself in a top-four role and played in all situations. However, Anaheim pulled almost all of their prospects from San Antonio in November, and Festerling was assigned to Toronto along with Beleskey. He played seven games there, with three assists, compared to just one assist in 17 games in San Antonio. He’s since been called up to Anaheim, where he’s appeared in six games, averaging 15 minutes of ice time. Festerling has 19 games left before he officially graduates as a prospect.

Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G, 22
Current club: Springfield Falcons

Not many prospects are feeling the loss of the AHL team like Levasseur. Levasseur appeared in half of Iowa’s games in the AHL last season, with a 3.11 GAA and a 13-18-4 record. While those aren’t ground-breaking numbers, he proved that he could stick around in the AHL. However, because of the crowded goal crease in Bakersfield and how difficult it is to find a regular AHL spot to loan a goaltender, Levassuer started the season with the Laredo Bucks in the CHL. He has not found much of a challenge there, with a 2.31 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Recently, Anaheim found a spot for him in the AHL with the Edmonton Oilers affiliate, Springfield. It seems that as long as Nikolai Khabibulin is injured and Devan Dubnyk is in the NHL, Levasseur will stick in the AHL. In one game with Springfield, Levasseur gave up six goals, for a .818 save percentage.

Matt McCue, LW, 21
Current club: Manitoba Moose

Anaheim’s resident heavyweight prospect found himself loaned out to the Vancouver Canucks affiliate in the AHL. So far this season, he’s been limited to just 10 games, picking up just one goal. He suffered a concussion in mid-November off a hit from  Toronto Marlie Jay Rosehill, and he’s been out of the lineup ever since. Known more for his fighting, McCue has picked up four fighting majors among 24 penalty minutes.

Brendan Mikkelson, D, 22
Current club: Toronto Marlies

Just nine games shy of graduating as a prospect, Mikkelson isn’t too far away from a regular NHL job. He started the season with the Toronto Marlies, but was quickly called up because of a few injuries on the Anaheim blueline. He spent 22 games in Anaheim, matching his totals from last year with two assists, before being sent back down to Toronto. He’s played seven total games in the AHL, putting up four points.

Justin Pogge, G, 23
Current club: San Antonio Rampage

After cutting his teeth for three years in the Toronto system, Pogge was shipped to Anaheim for additional goaltending depth this season. He hasn’t been needed in the NHL yet, so he’s split time between the ECHL and AHL. He spent nine games in the ECHL with Bakersfield, with a 6-2 record and a .902 save percentage. However, one of San Antonio’s goaltenders, Al Montoya, separated his shoulder, opening up a spot for Pogge in the AHL. He’s appeared in three games, with a 1-2 record and a .889 save percentage.

MacGregor Sharp, C, 24
Current club: San Antonio Rampage

Sharp was an offseason acquisition after leading the University of Minnesota-Duluth in scoring as a senior, with 50 points. So far, Sharp hasn’t found trouble scoring in two of the three levels he’s seen in his first professional season. He started the season in Bakersfield, with 14 points in 15 games, before being called up directly to Anaheim. He played eight games there, but only very sparingly on the fourth line. He showed some flashes, but will still need more time in the AHL. After Anaheim, he was assigned to San Antonio, where he’s put up three points in three games.

Dan Sexton, RW, 22
Current club: Anaheim Ducks

When Teemu Selanne went down with an injury, not many people expected that Sexton would be the one to fill his shoes. Sexton was originally sent to San Antonio, but quickly reassigned to Bakersfield after not getting in the team’s first two games. He tore apart the ECHL, with 26 points in 18 games. Anaheim reassigned him to Manitoba, where he put up three points in five games. He was called up to Anaheim after Selanne went down, and he’s put up four goals in five games. Sexton’s speed has meshed well with Anaheim’s top two lines, and he’s made quite an impression at the NHL level. He’ll likely be sent back to the AHL when Anaheim’s forwards get healthy, but so far he’s looking like a steal of a summer pickup.

ECHL

John de Gray, D, 22
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

The only benefit to Anaheim lacking an AHL affiliate is that it guarantees big ice time for prospects like de Gray. De Gray would have likely been slated for the bottom pairing on an AHL team, but instead can play top-four minutes in all situations in the ECHL. After just seven points in 62 games in the AHL last year, de Gray has 10 in 24 this season.

Maxime Macenauer, C, 20
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

After injuries followed him around sporadically during his junior career, Macenauer has to be disappointed with the start to his professional career. He does have five points in seven games, but in late October suffered a lower-body injury and may still miss some significant time. Macenauer is one of Anaheim’s more offensively gifted prospects in the ECHL, so his presence has been missed.

Logan MacMillan, LW, 20
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

A former first-round pick, Anaheim was not happy with MacMillan’s development in training camp, and sent him to the ECHL to start the season. This should have given MacMillan the ice time and opportunity that he wouldn’t have had if he were loaned to an AHL team, but so far, MacMillan has struggled mightily. His offensive game has slowed with just two goals and six points, and his -2 rating isn’t what Anaheim expected. At only 20, he has time to turn it around, but so far as a pro he has disappointed.

Mark Mitera, D, 21
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

Not too many teams have two first-round picks playing in the ECHL, but such is the life of the team with no AHL affiliate. Mitera, who would certainly be logging decent minutes in the AHL right now, has played just five games with San Antonio, and 14 with Bakersfield. The former University of Michigan captain is coming off a major knee injury last season, but should have more offensive touch than his zero goals and three assists in the ECHL would suggest. He’s very steady in his own zone and is still on the right track, but he might need more time in the minors than originally anticipated.

Timo Pielmeier, G, 20
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

Of all the goaltending prospects Anaheim has in the minors, Pielmeier Is the only one who hasn’t found trouble getting regular playing time. Coming off two strong years in the QMJHL, Pielmeier has an impressive 10-4-2 record on the stacked Condors team, along with a 2.81 GAA and .897 save percentage. With Pogge currently in the AHL, Pielmeier will likely play a bulk of the games over the next few months. Ideally, his time in the ECHL will serve as a stepping stone for next season as he likely transitions into the AHL.

Eric Regan, D, 21
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

Like John de Gray, Regan already has a season in the AHL under his belt and isn’t quite as challenged in the ECHL, though he is seeing new opportunity. His offensive totals in the OHL were weak until John Tavares joined the team, which helped to rocket Regan’s totals to 45 and 48 in his last two seasons. This season, he’s already doubled his production from his rookie AHL season, with 16 points in 24 games, including seven goals.

Shawn Weller, LW, 23
Current club: Bakersfield Condors

Acquired from Ottawa in the offseason, Weller had 134 AHL games under his belt, but like most in the ECHL column, was forced to the ECHL because of the lack of space. Weller has assumed a much bigger role in the ECHL than he ever had in the AHL, exactly matching his two-year AHL total of 25 points with 25 in his first 24 games this season. Whether he eventually gets another chance in the AHL remains to be seen, but for now he’s important to Bakersfield’s offense as Dan Sexton is still in the NHL.

IHL

Bobby Bolt, LW, 22
Current club: Muskegon Lumberjacks

Not too many NHL-contracted players have ever been loaned to the IHL, but that was the case for Bobby Bolt this season. After a major injury limited him to just 11 games last season, Bolt played just two for Bakersfield before being loaned to the IHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. With so many Anaheim prospects in Bakersfield, this was likely so that Bolt could find more ice time and re-adjust after missing most of last season. However, Bolt has not responded well to the demotion, with just three points in 19 games – very poor for a player owned by an NHL club.