If contenders are built from the goal out, then the league must be a little bit jealous when it comes to the defensive pipeline and the major goaltending prospect the Anaheim Ducks currently hold. It seems like every single year, when everyone would figure the Ducks to go for a forward in the early rounds, they go back to the well and select another highly skilled defenseman.
While several prominent wingers like Nic Kerdiles and Nick Ritchie have made their presence known, the true treasure of the Ducks pipeline is in their deep and talented blueline pool. On top of already-prospering homegrown blueliners like Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks added further talent at the 2015 draft with Jacob Larsson, and are also starting to get Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore closer to the big time. There may be a blueline logjam sometime in the near future For now, the Ducks enjoy what is probably one of the strongest defensive pools in the entire NHL. They are scattered across the Ducks preseason top 20 along with many other interesting and noteworthy players in other positions.
20. (14) Kenton Helgesen, LW/D, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 187th overall in 2012
The 21-year old opted to return to the Calgary Hitmen last season for his overage season, and posted goals that doubled his 2013-14 numbers and logged some valuable playoff minutes. He also was the captain of the Hitmen last season. While Helgesen by no means stands out in the pipeline, his size and versatility (being able to play both winger and defense), gives him more than a fighter’s chance to be a valuable commodity in the future. He did not make any vast improvements in production during his overage season which caused a decent sized drop in his ranking. However, he remains an intriguing prospect given the versatility and leadership he has shown, but also the willingness to adapt and still play well.
19. (16) Keaton Thompson, D, 6.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall in 2013
Thompson has flown relatively under the radar at University of North Dakota while other defensive prospects like Jordan Schmaltz (STL) and Paul LaDue (LAK) have taken center stage. The latter will be returning for his junior season with the squad and could very well be saddled with Thompson on the top pairing. The 19-year old plays a very low-flash game relying on his smooth skating and outlets. While he has yet to show a whole lot in the way of offensive firepower, Thompson overall is a fairly smart and skilled defenseman who occasionally has his defensive lapses. His offensive numbers could see a big boost this season if his role and even strength minutes continue to rise.
18. (NR) Deven Sideroff, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 84th overall in 2015
The 18-year old winger out of Summerland, British Columbia was a nice pickup for the Ducks in the 2015 third round. Sideroff has played the role of an offensive firecracker for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL with his solid skating and work ethic. While he lacks a little bit in size, his plus skating ability and fearlessness make him a formidable forechecker and a frustrating target for defensemen to track. He will not score a lot of flashy goals, but he definitely can create open ice for his teammates when he is working in the offensive zone.
17. (12) Andy Welinski, D, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall in 2011
The 22-year old continues to be a steady contributor on the blueline for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He posted his third straight season of double-digit assist totals, and was able to break the 20-point mark this past season with a career-high nine goals. While he does not have a lot of great natural tools, he is a solid thinker of the game and plays a well-rounded defensive game. The minor boost to some of his offensive stats is a nice surprise, but Welinski has enough to offer elsewhere to potentially be an outside contributor to a bottom pair someday. He is still widely considered one of the notable NCAA prospects and will also likely don the captaincy for the Bulldogs this coming season. His seemingly precipitous drop in the rankings can be blamed partly on his modest season but also on the several outstanding seasons and new additions the Ducks prospect pool witnessed over the last several months.
16. (NR) Troy Terry, C, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 148th overall in 2015
Terry has been trending in the right direction ever since joining the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP). He has always been considered a player with good potential scoring capabilities, but he really put it to the forefront in a big 44 point rookie season with the USNTDP last season. He is a smallish forward but has very good hands, solid stick work, and plus skating to go along with it. He heads off to the University of Denver and should see plenty of high profile chances in a scoring role with Denver in the future.
15. (19) Ondrej Kase, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 205th overall in 2014
The Czech teenager got rave reviews for his 2014-15 season with Piráti Chomutov of the Czech second league. With his great season he helped Chomutov achieve promotion to the Czech First division. Unfortunately for Chomutov, but much to the delight of Duck fans, Kase signed a three-year entry level deal with the team and should be in San Diego for the 2015-16 season. Kase demonstrated some solid playmaking abilities and a willingness to battle against much larger and older opponents. It definitely caught the eye of the Ducks scouts, as the effort to sign him to an ELC proved successful. Given his skill set of speed and skill, he should be an interesting player to watch moving forward in the AHL.
14. (11) Nick Sorensen, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall in 2013
Sorensen suffered a very frustrating 2014-15. Originally from Sweden, where he played quite well in the junior ranks, the Danish-born winger made way to the QMJHL where he had similarly promising results. With little left in terms of competition from the CHL, he made his way to the SHL, signing with top-ranked Skellefteå in order to up the competition. Unfortunately his season was beleaguered with injuries and a difficulty getting into the side on a full-time and effective basis. He logged just 14 games on the season between a wrist injury and trying to break into an already set roster halfway through the year. He will be on loan in Sweden for one more season, only this time with Linköping where he should see a better opportunity to play. It will more than likely be a make or break year for the offensively gifted Swede.
13. (15) Max Friberg, LW/RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall in 2011
Friberg does not scream top-six forward. However, he does not exactly scream bottom line grinder either. He has grown quite well into a role of complementary top-nine forward in recent seasons. He had another offensively sound year with the Norfolk Admirals last season, leading the challenged squad in scoring. Nevertheless, Friberg continues to be an elusive call-up for the big squad. At 22 years old he is getting to the point where he has to force his way onto the NHL roster or risk being passed up by more high profile players moving forward. With a few vacancies and a fluid nature to the Ducks bottom-six, the Swede could see himself jump into the mix with another consistent start to 2015-16 or a good training camp.
12. (9) Marcus Pettersson, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall in 2014
The lanky defenseman is in something of a holding pattern currently. His 2014-15 was not particularly impressive, as the young Skellefteå native failed to really find a role with his hometown club in the top division. Given his strong mobility and on-ice thinking, Pettersson has a lot of exceptional tools to go along with his naturally gifted size. The only things he lacks, and which should come with time, are maturity and confidence. Last season probably did not do much to instill much of the latter, but he will get another shot at making an impact with Skellefteå AIK in 2015-16. There is a lot to like with Pettersson – it is just a matter of him putting it altogether.
11. (6) Kevin Roy, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall in 2012
Roy has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NCAA the past two seasons. With back to back years of 40-plus points, Roy will return for his senior season and potentially a third 40-point campaign. The high flying skills and creativity of the 22-year old have been fun to watch at Northeastern University, and it will be one more year before he gets to test them at the next level. This could almost be seen as a step back for Roy, who is already one of the older prospects in the pipeline and has very little left to prove at the college level. Nevertheless, another good season could only make his stock rise.