The Ducks have more than doubled their investment in both the NCAA and European pro ranks, selecting two players competing in Sweden in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and diversifying their holdings at the college level. There is currently a very diverse mix of forwards and defensemen among the European and collegiate prospect pools.
Justin Schultz, D, Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2008
Schultz made the All-America first team for the second straight season in addition to making it back-to-back seasons among the top 10 Hobey Baker Finalists and being named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. He became the first defenseman to ever lead Wisconsin in goals. He led the team in plus/minus rating and led the nation in defensive scoring. Schultz not only chewed up minutes by volume, he keyed quality offensive opportunities. He was on the ice for nearly two thirds of Wisconsin's total goals and for over 80% of their power-play markers.
Schultz's on-ice exploits have become so consistent and increasingly well-rounded that his future is now the hotter topic of debate. The Ducks wanted to sign him to an entry-level deal this season, bringing him into the fold immediately and accelerating his path to restricted free agency. Schultz now seems destined for a limited form of unrestricted free agency whenever he officially leaves Wisconsin, although the Ducks hold his rights exclusively until June 1. Little will be known about Schultz's future until the scholastic year ends at Wisconsin in late May. He could have either an excellent prospect of being an instant addition to the Ducks roster or possibly opt for an entirely different situation elsewhere.
Ryan Hegarty, D, Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2008
Hegarty completed his four-year career at Maine and then signed a contract with Syracuse, the Ducks' AHL affiliate. Hegarty was a shutdown player in college who was frequently matched against top scoring lines and used a lot to kill penalties. He has respectable size but will need to continue adding strength, particularly if he does not add to his offensive repertoire. Older and more experienced than most AHL rookies, he could take on a notable role with the Crunch next season.
Radoslav Illo, C/W, Bemidji State Beavers (WCHA)
Drafted 5th round, 136th overall, 2009
Illo expanded not only his role this season but also his confidence, poise, efficiency, and effectiveness. He arrived with a reputation as a natural scorer and has begun to establish it at the NCAA level. He also has solid passing skills, a pair of traits that make him a promising weapon with the extra man. Illo will need to continue to refine his instincts and develop his physique. An early transition to the North American game and a strong work ethic has enriched Illo's development, which will be intriguing to watch as he strives to reach the NHL.
Josh Manson, D, Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 160th overall, 2011
Manson, an aspiring second-generation NHLer, was drafted out of the BCHL and this season he began his career with Northeastern University. His play lacked consistency in terms of quality and volume but he remains a promising prospect as a converted forward with formidable size. In the BCHL, he became more productive after the conversion to defense, which was also aided in part by his pre-existing willingness to bang bodies. Manson must continue to become more reliable in his own end, gain strength, and carve out his identity on the blue line. He projects as a big, physical, mobile, offensive-minded rearguard who Northeastern hopes can make a bigger impact next season.
Brett Perlini, C/W, Michigan State Spartans (CCHA)
Drafted 7th round, 192nd overall, 2010
Another second-generation talent, Perlini has reached the end of a fine career with Michigan State which saw him develop offensively, fill out physically, and discover an identity as a hard-working forward with a scorer's touch. He has established himself as a stronger leader, teammate, and competitor as well as a leading scorer for his club. Perlini battles relentlessly for pucks and position, showing the kind of motor and adequate skills that could make him a solid energy player down the road as long as he continues to develop.
Nick Pryor, D, Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th round, 208th overall, 2008
Pryor completed his junior season at Maine but in many ways one could consider his first two seasons there red-shirt years. Pryor battled a serious hip injury as a freshman and a series of injuries as a sophomore that limited him to 11 games in two seasons. Symptom-free from the concussion that ended his second campaign, he played in 36 contests for the Black Bears and posted a respectable 13 points, including some work on the power play. Pryor also sustained a broken ankle in his final year of junior hockey, meaning he has lost the better part of the developmental years to injury. While nothing jumps off the ice about Pryor yet, a healthy season was perhaps the most encouraging sign he, the Ducks and, Maine could have hoped for this year.
Chris Wagner, C/W, Colgate Raiders (ECAC)
Drafted 5th round, 122nd overall, 2010
Wagner emerged as an offensive force and a complete centerman in his sophomore season at Colgate. He fell six points shy of tripling his scoring output from his freshman year and honed his defensive skills throughout the season as well. Capable of playing any forward position, Wagner has dedicated himself to becoming a strong centerman, including the defensive side of the position and excelling in the faceoff circle. It may be a testament to the strength and depth of Anaheim's lower rungs that Wagner has not received more publicity and higher standing in the organization. He has shown a high level of competitiveness and the ability to bring his game up a level as the stakes increase. If he can continue to break out offensively and add strength, his next emergence could be as a very pleasant surprise at the NHL level.
Kevin Lind, D, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)
Drafted 6th round, 177th overall, 2010
Lind has earned a significant role as a stay-at-home defenseman for two seasons at Notre Dame. He has established a reputation as a strong defender with a long reach, active stick, good balance, NHL size, and all the tools to excel in individual battles. He has a big body along with a growing willingness to use it as he develops strength and grit. While his defensive instincts are strong, he has yet to assert himself on offense. His production slid back to a meager three points in 39 games this season. Lind has a promising mix of defensive skills and outstanding discipline but will need to find his game with the puck to maximize his potential.
Sami Vatanen, D, JyP HT Jyvaskyla (SM-liiga)
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2009
Vatanen had another exciting in campaign in Finland. A fluid skater who stickhandles with aplomb, passes effectively, and has the poise to quarterback a power play, Vatanen has played an imaginative, finesse-based game. Vatanen turned in career highs in goals, assists, and points as he flirted with a point-per-game campaign, ultimately producing 42 points in 49 games. He has drawn comparisons to Reijo Ruotsalainen, another undersized Finnish blueliner who distinguished himself as one of the greatest skaters in the world.
While Vatanen can improvise, he does not take risks that compromise his team's tight structure or force them to adjust in order to integrate his skills. He will generally need to be paired with a stay-at-home partner, though that is hardly exceptional for an offensive-minded rearguard. While Vatanen's size may be somewhat of an obstacle, he will undoubtedly make a foray into North America in the near future. Whether or not the venture is successful, Vatanen has already established himself as a star in the top Finnish pro ranks.
William Karlsson, C, Vasteras IK (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2011
Karlsson was perhaps the least productive of the Ducks' representatives on Sweden's gold-medal winning Under-20 team but that did not mean he failed to showcase his skills on the international stage. A quick, imaginative playmaker, Karlsson may one day fill the void left by Andy McDonald in Anaheim. Karlsson has been solid in his own end, making him a fluid, two-way player. In his first full pro season, Karlsson notched 45 points in 46 games for his Allsvenskan club. As Karlsson develops physically, he should draw nearer and nearer to the NHL.
Andreas Dahlstrom, C, Almtuna IS (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 6th round, 161st overall, 2010
Dahlstrom has spent his season on a pair of loans to lower-division clubs in Sweden. He has not found a comfortable role or produced points at any level during this campaign. Dahlstrom changes speeds effectively but does not have a ton of speed or efficiency. He would clearly be considered more of a playmaker than a scorer. Dahlstrom has lost development time due to injury and will need some time in Europe to find his game.
Max Friberg, LW, Timra IK (SEL)
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall, 2011
Friberg emerged as a star for Sweden's Under-20 squad, lighting it up for 26 points in 16 games and 11 points in six tournament matches. He blends speed, tenacity and solid pound-for-pound strength. A strong forechecker with a powerful stride and soft hands, Friberg could forge an identity as an energy player or perhaps even a top-six winger. Already competing in the Eliteserien, Friberg may be the most mature of the Ducks' trio of promising Swedes from the 2011 Draft. Like Devante Smith-Pelly, Friberg could be a player with more offensive skills than advertised that also plays responsible defense and makes for an outstanding teammate. He can play both wing positions and compete in all situations.
Tim Heed, D, Malmo Redhawks (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 5th round, 132nd overall, 2010
A puck-carrying defenseman with the poise to excel on the power-play point, Heed has become an offense threat from the blue line in the Allsvenskan league. Heed has grown more comfortable since converting from forward, carrying over many of the offensive skills while shoring up defensive deficiencies. Heed does not have NHL size and likely never will, so he will need to develop into a very highly skilled player in order to make the big jump.