Ducks AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Kyle Kujawa

It was a season of uncertainty for the 14 Anaheim Duck prospects who were assigned to the minors this season. Anaheim was the only team in the NHL that did not have their own affiliate, so their prospects were scattered throughout North America in an effort to find each of them a situation where they could receive ice time. Anaheim has signed an agreement with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL to be their primary affiliate next season.

AHL

Stu Bickel, D, 23
6’4, 215 pounds
Clubs: San Antonio (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

Bickel’s first professional season was limited to just 21 games because of injury, so some time in the ECHL might have been what he needed to start this season on the right foot. The physical defenseman put up 13 points in 24 games with Bakersfield before injuries opened up a permanent spot with Phoenix’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio. There, he was relegated to more of a defensive role on the team’s third pairing, chipping in only two goals and two assists alongside 38 penalty minutes. He returned to the ECHL to play in Bakersfield’s nine playoff games.

A full season in Syracuse will be important for Bickel, entering the final year of his entry-level contract next season.

John de Gray, D, 21
6’4, 216 pounds
Clubs: Rochester (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

de Gray, known more as a shutdown, physical defenseman, started this season in the ECHL after playing all of last season in the AHL. This gave him an opportunity to log more minutes, especially in situations like the power play — where he would not normally play, resulting in five goals and 11 points in 29 games. An opportunity opened up for him to play in Rochester, affiliate to the Florida Panthers. He appeared in 41 games there, recording six points. The team was deep enough on the back end to keep de Gray in more of a third-pairing role, but posted one of the worst goals against numbers in the conference.

As one of Anaheim’s most experienced AHL defensemen, he will likely get a chance to land a top-four role in Syracuse next season.

Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G, 22
6’0, 197 pounds
Clubs: Springfield (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL), Laredo (CHL)

Levasseur appeared to be the odd man out Anaheim’s goaltending pipeline this season, as the younger Timo Pielmeier was given the reins in Bakersfield and Levasseur was forced to start the season with the Laredo Bucks of the CHL, an uncommon destination for an NHL prospect. Injuries in Edmonton opened up a spot with their AHL affiliate in Springfield, who ended up dead last in the AHL standings. Levasseur posted a 10-16-1 record with a respectable .896 save percentage, but a 3.59 GAA that could be partially attributed to Springfield’s inconsistent defense. He also appeared in most of Bakersfield’s playoff games, with a 3-2-1 record and a .914 save percentage.

Levasseur will need a new contract for next season. With Pielmeier being joined by Marco Cousineau, combined with Levasseur’s inconsistencies over his three-year professional career, Levasseur is unlikely to be brought back. However, he does have some AHL experience playing in his favor, should Anaheim need a veteran mentor in Syracuse.

Brendan Mikkelson, D, 22
6’2, 202 pounds
Clubs: Anaheim (NHL), Toronto (AHL)

Mikkelson appeared in 34 games with Anaheim last season, and it appeared that he would get a long look at the NHL this season. However, he was unable to stick with the team very long and recorded just two assists in 28 games, putting him three shy of graduating as a prospect. He was able to log huge minutes with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, with seven goals among 22 points in 49 games. He logged power-play and penalty-kill time, finishing the year one point behind Juraj Mikus for most on the team, despite playing in 19 fewer games.

Mikkelson’s future looks to be secure in the NHL, but much of that depends on the direction that Anaheim’s blueline will go in. Lubomir Visnovsky and Steve Eminger are the team’s only defensemen under contract for next season who saw regular ice time in the NHL last season. Mikkelson is a restricted free agent, but he could find himself with a one-way deal when he signs his next contract.

Mark Mitera, D, 22
6’3, 213 pounds
Clubs: Abbotsford (AHL), San Antonio (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

After missing most of his senior season with an ACL injury, it may have been beneficial for Mitera to get the chance to start his professional career in the ECHL. He put up 14 points in 36 games, also appearing in five games with San Antonio. The Calgary and Toronto trade that saw Keith Aulie leave Abbotsford opened up a regular spot for Mitera on their blueline. He finished the season with 27 regular season and 13 playoff games there, but recorded just five assists in that time.

Offense was never really his strong suit in his time with the University of Michigan, so the production isn’t an issue. He will receive a much bigger role playing for Syracuse next season, where it will finally become much clearer as to how close he is to an NHL position.

MacGregor Sharp, C, 24
6’1, 185 pounds
Clubs: Anaheim (NHL), San Antonio (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

A late bloomer, Sharp made up for lost time in this, his first professional season. Sharp played four years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, starting as a freshman at the age of 20. He finally earned an NHL contract after his senior season, and was one of the only forwards in the Anaheim system who was able to stick in the AHL long-term. He started in Bakersfield, but was quickly moved to San Antonio after scoring 16 points in 17 games. He recorded 18 points in 40 AHL games.

The agitating Sharp also played in eight NHL games, playing very limited minutes when Anaheim ran into injury problems. He was also assigned back to Bakersfield for the playoffs after San Antonio’s season concluded, putting up eight points in 10 games. A bigger role in Syracuse will be important for the hard-working Sharp, who will need to produce more offense in his second professional season.

Dan Sexton, RW, 22
5’10, 160 pounds
Clubs: Anaheim (NHL), Manitoba (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

Sexton was by far the biggest surprise among Anaheim prospects this season. Signed in the offseason as a free agent from Bowling Green, the start to his season was delayed. He was assigned to San Antonio, but was unable to crack the lineup before being demoted to Bakersfield. He rattled off 26 points in 18 games there, before injuries opened up a spot in Anaheim. He made a very positive impression there, scoring nine goals and 10 assists in 41 games. He also enjoyed two midseason stints in Manitoba, as well as a successful playoff where he recorded five points in the team’s first-round loss to Hamilton.

His future is uncertain. He was able to make a positive impression with Anaheim this season, and his versatility as a scorer or an energy-line player is going to make it hard to keep him out of the NHL next season. It remains to be seen to whether Anaheim will have an opening for him, as they may prefer to get him big minutes at the AHL level before giving him a regular spot.

Shawn Weller, LW, 23
6’2, 199 pounds
Clubs: Abbotsford (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

Weller had spent the majority of the past two seasons in the AHL, making it a bit of a surprise that he started the season in Bakersfield. He made no mistake proving that he belonged at the AHL level, putting up 46 points in 42 games while in the ECHL. Eventually he found his way onto Abbotsford, where he finished the final 31 games of his season. As a restricted free agent, Weller’s experience may make him useful as Anaheim begins to assemble Syracuse’s roster for next season, but his 12 points on the year make him only useful as a depth player.

ECHL

Maxime Macenauer, C, 20
6’0, 203 pounds
Clubs: Bakersfield (ECHL)

Macenauer is one of the only players on this list to have only played on one team this season. Unfortunately, his season was shortened considerably by an early-season injury that kept him out for about two months. When he returned, he was unable to get his offensive game going, finishing with five goals and 21 points in 45 games. He’s under contract for next season, but the lack of production from a former QMJHL scorer may mean more time in the ECHL before an AHL job.

Logan MacMillan, LW, 20
6’1, 205 pounds
Clubs: Abbotsford (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

MacMillan’s first professional season was a disaster. He started with a poor training camp that resulted in his demotion to the ECHL, a rare destination for a former first-round pick. The finesse in his game that he showed in the QMJHL was gone, as he posted just six goals in 30 games. To make matters worse, he was arrested in January for a DUI, ending his season in Bakersfield as Anaheim sent him home for personal reasons. He re-emerged in March to play in seven games with Calgary’s AHL affiliate in Abbotsford, recording seven penalty minutes. It’s unclear where his future lies in the Anaheim organization.

Matt McCue, LW, 21
6’5, 220 pounds
Clubs: Manitoba (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

McCue’s season was shortened greatly by a severe concussion he suffered while playing with the Manitoba Moose. He played just 10 games before suffering the injury. When he returned, there was no longer room for him in the AHL, so he finished the season with a 19-game stint in Bakersfield. More encouraging than his two assists there are the 68 penalty minutes he racked up. McCue’s game revolves more around being a heavyweight enforcer, and that number indicates that he was still able to drop the gloves after suffering his concussion.

Timo Pielmeier, G, 20
6’0, 165 pounds
Clubs: Bakersfield (ECHL)

First-year pro goaltenders sometimes have a difficult time finding a lot of playing time. This wasn’t the case for Pielmeier, who appeared in 57 games for Bakersfield this season. He posted a .883 save percentage and a 3.29 GAA, finishing second in the league with 27 wins. He will certainly see some AHL time next season, but his numbers don’t suggest that he is the runaway favorite to being the season as Syracuse’s starter.

Eric Regan, D, 21
6’3, 200 pounds
Clubs: San Antonio (AHL), Bakersfield (ECHL)

Regan spent all of 2008-09 in Iowa, playing more of a defense-first role that saw him score just one goal and seven assists in 59 games. In the same number of games, he put up 16 goals and 50 points with Bakersfield, topping career highs he set in the OHL. He appeared in just five games in the AHL, so he will need to take his newly-found offensive confidence into next season for Syracuse, his last year on his entry-level contract.

IHL

Bobby Bolt, LW, 22
6’3, 219 pounds
Clubs: Bakersfield (ECHL), Muskegon (IHL)

Once a promising power forward out of the OHL, Bolt never established himself professionally and played all but two games of the final year of his contract for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL. On the highest scoring team in the league, Bolt managed just eight goals and 18 assists. Injuries played a big factor, but Bolt was never able to show the ability that Anaheim saw in him when they drafted him. He’s at the end of his contract this offseason.