Ducks junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Kyle Kujawa

The Anaheim Ducks have picked heavily from the junior ranks in recent years. Last year’s draft landed both Peter Holland and Matt Clark in the first 40 picks. The Ducks had a total of 10 prospects playing in juniors, half of whom have been involved in trades this season. Most will be moving on to new challenges for the 2010-11 season.

OHL

Peter Holland, C – Guelph Storm
Acquired: 1st round, 15th overall, 2009
January 14, 1991, 6’2, 195

Holland was regarded as a bit of a disappointment in the first half of the season. He was averaging just about a point per game, but was being outscored by lower draft picks and not filling the void that the Storm had for a top scorer. He had missed some time due to injury.

In the second half of the season, Holland caught fire. He finished the year with 80 points in 59 games, largely fueled by the 52 points he put up in his team’s final 32 games. Guelph was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by London, but Holland still registered eight points in six games. It’s clear that the physical forward has risen to the occasion and finally delivered the kind of play expected of a first-round pick.

Holland’s late-season success led to an entry-level contract. He’s too young to play in the AHL, so it’s likely he’ll end up in the OHL for one more season. He will need to translate his newfound consistency over a full season, which could land him among the league’s top scorers.

Matt Clark, D – Brampton Battalion

Acquired: 2nd round, 37th overall, 2009
October 17, 1990, 6’4, 218

Clark is both a late-bloomer and quick learner. Despite the fact that he is born in 1990, he’s only just finished his second season in the OHL. However, he’s made a name for himself in the OHL as one of the top defensive defensemen in the league. He’s very physical and is often tasked with facing the opponent’s top lines. He was given a bigger role this season that included some power-play time, but he only matched the 23 points that he put up as a rookie.

Because of his inexperience, there’s a chance that he’ll return to the OHL for an overage season. After Brampton’s season concluded, Clark was assigned to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, making his way into six postseason games. Now that Anaheim is slated to have their own AHL affiliate next season, there’s a chance that Clark will end up a member of the Syracuse Crunch come October.

Josh Brittain, LW – Plymouth Whalers

Acquired: 3rd round, 71st overall, 2008
January 3, 1990, 6’5, 225

In the season when he needed to prove he was worth an NHL contract, Brittain took a step backwards in his development. He was traded early on in the season from Barrie to Plymouth, and was immediately placed on the wing of top 2010 prospect Tyler Seguin. His size and puck control ability could have led to a big offensive season, but Brittain put up just 24 games in 56 with Plymouth — his least productive season in his OHL career.

A few trades that saw Plymouth add Phil McRae (STL) and James Livingston (STL) limited Brittain’s ice time down the stretch. Brittain also has a reputation for poorly-timed offensive zone penalties, but is sometimes the victim of calls only because he’s much bigger than his opponents. His only chance at earning an NHL contract is if Anaheim really likes the rare size and skill package that he does possess.

Scott Valentine, D – Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 6th round, 166th overall, 2009
May 5, 1991, 6’2, 201

Valentine wasn’t exposed that much last season, buried in a deep London Knights system before being traded to Oshawa late in the year. That made this season effectively his first full season in the league, as well as his first opportunity to play special teams. He’s known more as a penalty kill specialist, but he did see time on the second power-play unit because of his mobility and quick release on his hard, low shot.

In 63 games, he recorded five goals and 14 assists. A little concerning is his -31 rating, but it was not the worst on the team, and more than half the team was at least a -20. Valentine will return to Oshawa next season but is also a potential cheap option for a contending team looking to add a reliable depth defenseman.

WHL

Luca Sbisa, D – Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, June 2009
January 30, 1990, 6’2, 205

Sbisa was well-traveled for the second straight season, this time wearing five different jerseys. After being sent back to the WHL, he put up 13 points in 17 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Around the trade deadline, it was looking like Lethbridge wasn’t going to be in contention for a good playoff spot, so they shipped Sbisa to Portland, where he finished the season with five points in 12 games.

Sbisa also represented Switzerland internationally, twice. He was a member of the Swiss World Junior team, missing the end of the tournament with an injury. He recovered in time to join the Olympic team, logging solid minutes in five games. Now eligible for the AHL, Sbisa can be assigned there if he does not make the NHL team.

Brandon McMillan, LW – Kelowna Rockets

Acquired: 3rd round, 85th overall, 2008
March 22, 1990, 5’11, 190

One of the more successful stories in the Anaheim organization this season is McMillan. The speedy forward was third on Kelowna in scoring, his 67 points in 55 games good for the highest point-per-game average on the team. He also starred for Canada at the World Junior Championships, with eight points in six games and a brief stint on the blueline due to injuries.

McMillan will definitely see a lot of time in Syracuse next season, if he doesn’t make a push for an NHL roster spot. His speed and versatility have proven to serve him well at every level thus far, and his new-found confidence in his offensive game make him a candidate to chip in offensively as well. He doesn’t project as a major offensive threat, however.

Stefan Warg, D – Prince Albert Raiders

Acquired: 5th round, 143rd overall, 2008
February 6, 1990, 6’3, 215

Warg is another prospect who switched jerseys this season, heading from Seattle to Prince Albert after the season’s halfway point. In 64 total games, he didn’t record a goal, but he did notch 20 assists and 95 penalty minutes. His numbers are indicative of his style of play, which is a much more physical, defense-first game.

He will need a contract from Anaheim this offseason to retain his rights, otherwise he’ll likely return to the WHL for an overage season. The team has shown interest in him before, as his size and mobility make him an intriguing professional prospect.

QMJHL

Nicolas Deschamps, C – Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 2nd round, 35th overall, 2008
January 6, 1990, 6’2, 195

Critics of Deschamps demanded that he show more of the offensive flair that got him drafted. Deschamps responded by tying for the league scoring title with likely top 2011 draft pick Sean Couturier with 96 points, Couturier having accomplished that in four more games. Part of his boost in production came because of a trade from Chicoutimi to the contending Moncton Wildcats, who are currently in the QMJHL finals.

Deschamps already has a contract, and will certainly be in the AHL next season. His breakout season comes on the heels of what was a disappointing sophomore season in the league, where he failed to increase the rookie point totals that got him drafted. His smart two-way game make him a candidate to play big minutes early on in his professional career.

Marco Cousineau, G – Saint John Sea Dogs

Acquired: 3rd round, 83rd overall, 2008
November 9, 1989, 6’0, 200

Having won a QMJHL championship last season with Drummondville, Cousineau started his overage season with P.E.I before another trade to the Saint John Sea Dogs. He’s currently taking on Deschamps in the QMJHL finals. For the second straight season, Cousineau has stepped up his game in the playoffs, with a 2.30 GAA and a .923 save percentage complementing his 12-4 record.

Anaheim recently signed him to an entry-level contract, and he’ll have to battle with Timo Pielmeier, who spent the year in the ECHL, and any potential veterans that Anaheim might add in the offseason for playing time in the AHL. Anaheim will still have their ECHL team in Bakersfield, so it seems likely that Cousineau will spend at least some time there.

USHL

Radoslav Illo, C – Tri-City Storm
Acquired: 5th round, 136th overall, 2009
January 21, 1990, 6’0, 188

Illo had a strong start to the season, but slowed down slightly down the stretch. In 50 games, he scored 24 goals and added 19 assists. He also appeared for Slovakia at the World Junior Championships, logging big minutes on a scoring line. His speed and good hands in tight made him a threat to score every shift.

Illo is joining the Bemidji State Beavers next season as they shift to the powerful WCHA conference. Illo’s in a unique spot to log big minutes early on in his career, as a team coming from the CHA doesn’t typically land many NHL drafted players. However, the Beavers play a strong system and finished the season ranked 10th in the nation, so ice time is no guarantee for Illo.

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