Anaheim Ducks prospects boast talent and diversity at junior level

By Andrew Knoll
Photo: Drafted 29th overall this past summer, Emerson Etem has so far been among the top two-way players in the WHL this season. (Photo courtesy of www.whl.ca)

The Ducks currently possess five prospects at the junior level, four in the OHL and one in the WHL. Two of the prospects, Peter Holland and Emerson Etem, are former first-round picks.

OHL

Peter Holland, C, Guelph Storm
Acquired: 1st Round, 15th overall) in 2009
January 14th, 1991. Ht: 6’2 Wt: 198 lbs.

Following an impressive second half of last season, Holland has had a slow start, similar to the one he had last season. He is second in scoring for the Storm with 16 goals and 13 assists for a total of 29 points in 25 games. Guelph currently sits in last place in the Midwest division as well as the Western conference and is the lowest-scoring team in the OHL.

While the team has struggled recently as a November losing streak sent them plummeting in the standings, Holland performed pretty consistently. He has been an asset for the offensively-challenged team’s power play both in front of the net and in the slot area with his improving shot.

Holland has not exploded offensively but neither has the team around him. He has registered eight multi-point games and three multi-goal games as well as a five-game goal streak this season. His play in his own zone continues to develop though he made a prominent defensive blunder in overtime against Erie that cost Guelph the game. Holland may not be showing overwhelming, linear progress, but he continues to show the power-forward potential that made him Anaheim’s top selection in 2009.

Devante Smith-Pelly, LW, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Acquired: 2nd Round (42nd Overall) in 2010
June 14th, 1992. Ht: 5’11 Wt: 211 lbs.

Smith-Pelly impressed coaches and the local media during the Ducks’ rookie camp before returning to the OHL. He has continued to provide the mix of grit and skill he did last year in Mississauga. Along with linemates Casey Cizikas (NYI) and Riley Brace, Pelly-Smith has been a huge part of Mississauga’s runaway success. The line exploded for four goals–two of them from Smith-Pelly–and seven points in a win against Owen Sound that pushed their win streak to eight, a franchise record since the club rejoined the OHL in the 1997-1998 season. Mississauga has a 16-game point streak that includes 15 wins. They have dominated the first half of the season, earning the best record in the entire OHL and a 12-point lead in their division through 27 games.

Smith-Pelly is first on the team in goals (18) and third in points (29) while his physical play has had a consistent impact on games. He was one of three Mississauga players featured on the OHL Stars team that bested Team Russia twice in the Subway Super Series this year. They were the only team to beat Russia even once. Smith-Pelly’s defensive prowess and propensity for big hits were both on display for the international audience on hand for the games.

Smith-Pelly provides an imposing presence in all three zones. More importantly, he has shown an ability to elevate his play in big situations. One of his four multi-goal games this season came against Niagara in a game Mississauga won 2-1. It was also the win that began their eight-game win streak. Smith-Pelly projects as a bottom-six forward in the short term but one that may be able to contribute to the big club in Anaheim in the very near future. Over the long haul, his developing offensive game makes him a rather intriguing prospect to watch.

Igor Bobkov, G, London Knights
Acquired: 3rd Round (76th Overall) in 2009
February 1st, 1991. Ht: 6’6 Wt: 240 lbs.

Bobkov’s transition to the North American game has been challenging thus far but he has shown promise on the international stage. He has been a backup for the middle-of-the-pack Knights, posting a 1-4-2 record in six appearances. The perigee of his season to date came when he allowed four goals in a period of work against Kitchener at home. He had also been pulled in his previous start and was overwhelmed early in his following start against Saginaw, a 4-1 loss in which he stopped 33 shots. In his most recent outing, he dropped a 4-1 decision to Mississauga.

On the positive side, Bobkov also backstopped the Russians to a 2-1 loss to the OHL Stars in the Subway Super Series. He had the leanest numbers of the three Russian goalies with a .944 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average but lost both his decisions and the only two games Russia dropped in the series. Bobkov clearly outperformed his countrymen Emil Garipov and Dmitry Shikin, giving him the inside track on the starting job for Russia at the World Junior Championship. In one game he lost a contested bout in a shootout and in the other he negated 46 of 50 opportunities, receiving little defensive support against the OHL Stars and their first-period barrage of 26 shots.

Opponents have had differing views of Bobkov, likely a result of the differing looks he has shown in the young season. His play in the Super Series was praised as poised, confident and comfortable. Meanwhile, opponents in the OHL have generally looked to push the pace and get shots up on Bobkov early in the games in the hope of rattling the rookie netminder. By his own admission, his play in shootouts is not strong yet, likely a function of a glove hand that remains a work in progress and a still-developing feel for challenging shooters. Bobkov’s size is remarkable and he has quick pads, two elements that make him a project worth Anaheim’s time as they seek to develop some organizational depth in net.

Scott Valentine, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 6th Round (166th Overall) in 2009
May 2nd, 1991. Ht: 6’1 Wt: 211 lbs.

Valentine enjoyed a strong offensive start to the season posting multi-point games in each of his first two contests. He scored 11 points in 19 games before breaking his thumb in mid-November. He returned to the lineup on December 2nd and to date has two goals and 12 assists through 21 games.

While the offensive part of his game continues to develop, Valentine remains a valuable defensive asset. He has a plus-seven rating and 49 penalty minutes, the most penalty minutes among Oshawa defenseman despite missing five games so far this sea
son. Oshawa sits in the middle of the most competitive divisional battle in the OHL, flanked by Ottawa and Kingston in the race for first place.

Valentine’s offensive progress and continued defensive success will be critical on a blue line that also features the Islanders prospects Calvin de Haan and Tony DeHart. Despite the injury setback, Valentine’s development appears to be on a steady pace as he is now well above 200 pounds and beginning to realize some of his offensive potential.

WHL

Emerson Etem, RW, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: 1st Round (29th Overall) in 2010
June 16th, 1992. Ht: 6’1, Wt: 197 lbs.

Etem was projected by some scouts to be a top-ten selection in 2010. Many at the draft thought when the Los Angeles Kings traded up in the draft to select Derek Forbort 15th overall, they were actually moving up to grab Etem. His fall to 29th overall, a pick the Ducks acquired from Philadelphia, may salvage the quality of the package they got in return for Chris Pronger.

After an outstanding 2009-2010 campaign, Etem has continued to terrorize WHL defenses. He has posted 18 goals, 15 assists and 33 points in 28 games for the Tigers, who sit in fourth place in the WHL‘s Eastern Conference with designs on shooting up the standings in a fiercely competitive Central Division. He trails only Kings prospect Linden Vey in goals and points.

Etem demonstrated impressive pound-for-pound strength in both his upper and low body at the combine along with tremendous physical conditioning. He has been praised by coaches for his professionalism and preparedness as well as scouts for his explosiveness and ability to adapt. Etem can make difficult plays at high speeds as he explodes of his crouched, unorthodox skating stance. He transitioned from his hometown of Long Beach, Calif. to Shattuck-St Mary’s to the WHL in his formative years and now has firm footing as one of the top players in the WHL.

Approaching the midpoint of the season, Etem has posted five multi-goal games and 11 multi-point games. He plays in all situations and continues to excel on special teams. Last season, he led Medicine Hat in both power-play goals and shorthanded goals, a feat he is duplicating this season. He leads all WHL players in shorthanded tallies with four. In short, Etem is a versatile player with speed, skill, a strong work ethic, a solid reputation all over the WHL, an improving defensive game and a solid pro career ahead of him.

Andrew Knoll wrote this article.