New Ducks in 2002/2003?

By Luc Villeneuve

For the last couple of years, Paul Kariya’s team has almost been the laughstock of the entire league while missing the playoffs 7 of the last 9 years. But that may change soon, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have a handful of promising players in the organisation, so Kariya may soon have help. The 2001/2002 edition of the Ducks, only had a few rookies on the roster and most of them did not have much of an impact except the former Colgate University centerman, Andy McDonald. But next few seasons may be different; a couple of excellent prospects may soon join McDonald such as Stanislav Chistov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Alexei Smirnov and Mark Popovic. Here is a list of some Mighty Ducks prospects and when they should join the club and what to expect from them.

Ilya Bryzgalov: The Russian goaltender seems to be turning out as a steal (44th overall) in the 2000 NHL entry draft by the Mighty Ducks. Last season was Bryzgalov’s first in North America, which he spent with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL. The young goaltender impressed with a .916 save percentage and even was selected on team PlanetUSA for the All Star game in Saint John’s. If the Ducks are successful in trading overpaid backup goalie Steve Shields, Bryzgalov will be in Anaheim where he should be, if not he will be back dominating in the AHL.

Stanislav Chistov: The Mighty Ducks passed on amazing rookie Dan Blackburn and huge American defenceman Mike Komisarek to select Chistov in the 2001 NHL entry draft. The Ducks would probably do it all over again even if there is a problem with Stanislav’s army obligation in his homeland of Russia. Because of this, the 5-10 winger won’t be in Anaheim until at least the 2003 training camp, but when he arrives he should make an impact. The “Next Kariya”, may be small but his speed and agility should make enough for him to succeed.

Alexei Smirnov: When the Ducks drafted Smirnov 8th overall in the 2000 NHL entry draft in Calgary, the club knew they were getting a star or bust type of player. Like Chistov, Smirnov has still to come over to North America, but he will not make the same impact as Chistov. Smirnov is more of a power forward than the latter, and should spend another year in Russia. Expect him to be in Cincinnati for half the 2003/2004 season before joining the NHL.

Mark Popovic: The CHL’s St-Mike Majors captain, Mark Popovic was the Ducks second round pick in the 2001 NHL entry draft. Some expected the solid defenceman to be in Anaheim last year, because he was tagged one of the most ready prospect in the draft. Impressive in the WJC this winter, Popovic may join the Ducks this season, but will need to beat defencemen such as Pavel Trnka, Ruslan Salei and Nik Havelid in camp. A more realistic thought would be that Popovic would start the season with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.

Obviously other players could crack the Ducks roster, but should not have as huge of an impact as these four. But one thing is certain; the future for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim now looks bright, and will be even more with their early selection in the June entry draft in Toronto, Ontario.