‏Anaheim Ducks junior prospect group is small in number, high in upside

By Jason Lewis
Julius Nattinen - Anaheim Ducks

Photo: Anaheim Ducks prospect Julius Nattinen is enjoying a breakout first season in North America playing with the OHL’s Barrie Colts and will look to continue his successful season with Team Finland at the 2016 World Juniors (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Anaheim Ducks have so few CHL and Junior A Prospects that this might seem like an altogether minor report. However, two of their junior prospects are having great seasons thus far. Both Deven Sideroff and Julius Nattinen have some definite staying power in the Ducks pipeline, and both play refreshingly different styles. With most of the Ducks prospects pushing for future roles at the pro level or developing more long-term at the collegiate level, these two players remain near the forefront of Anaheim’s prospect pool due the positive outlook.

WHL

Devan Sideroff, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: 3rd round, 84th overall in 2015

‏The spark plug that is Deven Sideroff missed the first part of the WHL season due to a virus that took the legs out from under him. However, since he has been back in the Kamloops lineup he has been noticeable and pesky. He has put up points in eight of his 14 games since returning to the lineup in late October, and also had four multi-point games. What has probably helped Sideroff a bit is that he is playing a large portion of his minutes with undrafted overagers Gage Quinney and Matt Needham. The trio, however, have combined to be a worthwhile unit in the Kamloops offense. Due to his strong play, Sideroff was added to Team WHL in the 2015 CHL Canada Russia Series.

‏Kamloops currently sits in the middle of the pack in the WHL Western Conference, and they will need Sideroff to continue to be strong. He is scoring, killing penalties, and adding on to the power play unit as well. He may not stand out as a bona fide all-star, but he is an intriguing depth forward with potential production and all-zones utility.

OHL

Julius Nattinen, C/W, Barrie Colts
Acquired: 2nd round, 59th overall in 2015

‏The Finn has had an absolutely outstanding start to his 2015-16 campaign. He has been playing in a highly skilled Barrie Colts top-six, usually as the first line center between Chicago Blackhawks prospect Roy Radke and Calgary Flames prospect Andrew Mangiapane. The three have combined for some excellent production as the Barrie top line, but that formation has already started to change with the return of highly-touted Winnipeg Jets prospect Brendan Lemieux (originally drafted by Buffalo in 2014’s second round) from a ten-game suspension.

In 23 games, Mangiapane, Nattinen, and Radke have combined for 38 goals, 10 of which have come from Nattinen. 26 of those goals have come at even strength, which means the line has essentially produced a goal a game for Barrie at even strength. With Nattinen doing the dishing between Radke and Mangiapane, he has accumulated 20 assists, good enough for second on the team. He is, however, only winning around 46.5 percent of his face-offs currently, so there are areas of improvement for the youngster.

‏Nevertheless, the strong poise, playmaking, and overall thinking of the game that Nattinen possesses have helped Barrie get atop the Central division. He is an all-situations player for the Colts as well, furthering his overall importance to the team and value as an up and coming Ducks prospect. With Lemieux in the early stages of his return to the lineup, look for Barrie to get even stronger as they move closer to a second straight Central Division title in the OHL.

USHL

Matt Berkovitz, D, Green Bay Gamblers
Acquired: 5th round, 123rd overall in 2014

‏Berkovitz has settled in nicely on the rearguard of the Green Bay Gamblers this season after joining the club from Sioux City halfway through the 2014-15 season. His 2014-15 season was also a bit disjointed due to contracting mono at the beginning of the year. However, he is healthy and playing well for Green Bay in his last year of USHL hockey. The low-risk defensemen has been solid in his own zone for the most part, which has become his signature. Skating continues to be a positive in his game, and using it to push the play forward will be key in his development. The offensive numbers have rarely been there for Berkowitz outside of his high school career. However he has the potential to elevate that part of his game in the future.

‏He was drafted as more of a long term project with Anaheim, and is committed to the University of Wisconsin for the 2016-17 season.

Non-junior prospects round-up

‏With the majority of players playing in the AHL for the Ducks, the Gulls sit at 11-7-0-1 this year. That is third in the newly-formed Pacific division of the AHL. Brandon Montour continues to make his case for an NHL call up, but we will have more on him later. Meanwhile, Nick Ritchie and Shea Theodore, two highly-regarded Ducks prospects, have been called up to the big squad for NHL action. Ritchie has made an impression – although the points have been slow in coming – while Theodore’s call did not lead to any game play before he was returned.

With a lot of noise being made about the Ducks current goaltending situation, it should be noted that John Gibson is 7-4-1 with a somewhat pedestrian .917 save percentage with the Gulls. That ranks at 20th in the AHL among regular starters. Do not look too much into that though, remember Andrew Hammond? In the NHL, Gibson has a .937 save percentage in four games, including a shutout in his most recent appearance.

‏In Europe, Jacob Larsson has looked incredibly comfortable with Frölunda in the SHL. He has been steady on the back end, and is eyeing a spot on the Swedish U20 WJC squad. In the NCAA circuit, Grant Besse has been off to a fantastic start. He is blowing away his points per game pace of the previous two years, and now has points in 10 of 12 games for a surprising Wisconsin squad this season.

Prospect of the Month

Brandon Montour - Anaheim DucksAfter his tour of North America last season that saw him bounce from the USHL, to the NCAA, to the AHL in Norfolk, Brandon Montour has destroyed the AHL so far. He is leading the Gulls in points and is tied for fifth in the entire AHL in scoring. He leads all defensemen in scoring, and is second in rookie scoring behind Devin Shore of the Texas Stars. While Montour was excellent in his short-lived USHL and NCAA careers, not many saw him taking on the pro game quite the way he has. His offensive instincts are top notch, and he skates well enough not to be at risk defensively either when he jumps up into the play. With that sort of combo and firepower in his arsenal, he might very well make it four different leagues in the last two years. It might even be easy to say if Montour didn’t play in the rather low profile Ducks system, there would be significant hype surrounding the young blue liner who just can’t stop scoring.