The Anaheim Ducks have done a fairly good job over the last several years of slowly phasing young players into the lineup, while not thrusting them entirely into the fray without preparation. For this reason, they have just three prospects who have garnered long-lasting NHL time on the year. With that being said, there are several prospects in the minors who are on the cusp of NHL time, but will probably see at least the remainder of the season with the Gulls in San Diego. There is not a whole lot of room on the Anaheim depth chart, but a few have still cut in and are making an attempt at regular playing time.
Elsewhere, the Ducks had three representatives in the World Junior Championships late in December and in early January. We will review how the trio did in Helsinki.
John Gibson, G, 22
The 2011 2nd round selection of the Ducks has finally started to settle in to the NHL game. After bouncing up and down between the AHL and the NHL the last two and a half years, the 22-year-old has had his longest call-up and consecutive start run to date. So far in 2015-16 Gibson has a .923 save percentage with a 1.91 goals against and a 11-7-4 record in his 21 games. While there is still a certain level of inconsistency to Gibson, it looks as though he may have finally grasped the Anaheim starting position away from Freddie Andersen. The young goaltender has always been lauded for his competitive edge, and it is hard to imagine he would give up the starting job at this point, with the Ducks just now starting to put together a more consistent winning effort.
Fundamentally Gibson has been hit and miss, but passable as an NHL goaltender thus far in his early career. Consistency will remain an issue until he can get a better feel on the NHL game. Until then we will continue to see swings in save percentages form a game to game basis. Gibson recently passed the 45-game mark in the NHL, and that by Hockey’s Future standards graduates him from the system.
Shea Theodore, D, 20
In his first professional season in the AHL, Shea Theodore has impressed enough to earn himself an extended call up with the NHL squad. He has shown good examples of why he has stuck up in the NHL as well. Theodore skates and thinks exceptionally well, and it has helped the Ducks’ transition game immensely. Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has not held back with him either, as Theodore has played over 20 minutes on several occasions, and is generally settling in around the 18-20 minute range. This includes shorthanded and power play time.
He has mainly split time between Clayton Stoner and Josh Manson, both of whom can play the stay at home role to his agile and capable puck moving ability. If you are a fan of the analytics approach, Theodore is currently allowing just 1.05 goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5, while holding a 53% corsi-for percentage. With six points in just 13 games, he is looking very comfortable in his first NHL stint.
Josh Manson, D, 24
Manson has been a surprisingly good late-round find for the Ducks. He latched on to an opportunity to make an impression on the Ducks’ bottom-pairing last year with injuries at the back end of the defensive depth chart, and has further solidified himself this year.
Manson is low-flash, but has proven capable at what he does. He and Hampus Lindholm have paired up this year for what has been one of the Ducks best overall pairings. Manson does not individually produce a ton of offense, but together they certainly have some strong shot suppression and possession numbers. When they are together the Ducks usually generate around 61% of the corsi opportunities and 54% of the goals.
From an individual standpoint, Manson has upped his ice-time at multiple times during the year. He has played in excess of 20 minutes on multiple occasions, but is settling in at around an average of 18:20 a night. Coupled with his good analytics numbers, he is turning into a strong top-four contributor. Not bad at all for a sixth-round selection. Like Gibson, Manson has used his opportunities over the past two seasons to graduate from prospect status.
2016 World Junior Review
The Ducks have had some mighty prominent prospects in the World Junior Championships over the last several years. This year, however, they had a few more low-key players in the mix. The Ducks had three prospects in the mix over in Helsinki over the holiday period, two with Sweden, and one with the host country of Finland.
With Sweden, Ducks fans were able to get a look at a couple of mobile blueliners in Marcus Pettersson and Jacob Larsson. Pettersson in particular had a very strong tournament, and proved to be one of Sweden’s best transitional defensemen. After a difficult year of development last year, this was a good thing to see from the 6’4 d-man. He showed strong passing ability and a good heads-up awareness. His decision making seemed sharp, and his passes sharper. While there is still room to improve physically, it was a good glimpse at what Pettersson is capable of. He finished the tournament with four assists in seven games, which was tied for the points lead among defensemen on Sweden. This is not bad considering the 19-year old who is currently playing with Skellefteå was not considered a lock to make the squad in early December.
Both Pettersson and the other Ducks defensive prospect, Jacob Larsson, played primarily bottom-pairing minutes. Larsson, like Pettersson, had an altogether strong showing in the tournament with glimpses of his good all-around game. Perhaps the only blemish on the radar for both players, Larsson in particular, was the extremely lackluster effort put forth in the Bronze Medal game against the United States. That, however, is an understandable effort given the disappointment of losing to Nordic rivals, Finland, in the semi-finals. Larsson was a healthy scratch for a game in order to get Adam Ollas Mattsson (CGY) some time as well.
Speaking of Finland, Julius Nattinen enjoyed a gold medal run with the home country. Nattinen himself had three points, a goal, and six shots in his seven games. He was moved around the lineup from time to time, as Finland had quite a few centers. He was a regular on the Finns’ 2nd and 3rd line, rotating between wing and center. The Ducks should be excited about this kid though. He showed great examples of puck control and possession, and was often a handful for opposing teams to defend against. He does not have bad speed for a big guy either.
Overall, all three of the Ducks prospects had pretty strong showings. The scouting squad in the Nordic countries for Anaheim still know how to find some talent.
Prospect of the Month
The Kamloops Blazers have no problem scoring this year. Their problems have been rooted in defense and goaltending. They have given up 159 goals while scoring 164 and remain in contention for a wild card slot in the WHL playoff race.
One player who has done excellent in the last month of the season for Kamloops is 2015 3rd-round selection Deven Sideroff.
Sideroff has been bouncing between the first and second line right wing of the Kamloops top-six, and has posted five goals and ten assists in his 14 January games. This includes two power play goals, a shorthanded goal, and four multi-point games. The energetic forward has been doing a little bit of everything for coach Don Hay. He is currently fourth on the team in scoring behind the big trio of Collin Shirley, Matt Needham, and Gage Quinney.