The Ducks Top Prospects

By Kevin Forbes

The current Mighty Ducks top 20 is one of the strongest the Ducks have ever had the pleasure of calling their own. The Ducks future at every position and almost every role is featured within these 20 players. And that future looks bright.

Here’s how the Mighty Ducks top 20 is now made up.

Stanislav Chistov, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Former: #1 prospect, Current: Graduated
Chistov has played well for the Ducks, chipping in at a healthy pace for a player who barely even skated last year, especially for his rookie season in the NHL. He would have to play astonishingly well at this point to get a nod for the Calder, but in the end, the team taking it their time with him will pay off with big dividends.

Ilja Bryzgalov, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #2 prospect, Current: #2 prospect
With Chistov graduating, Bryzgalov should of been poised to take over as the Mighty Ducks top prospect. However, Bryzgalov struggled starting out this season, and lost his #1 position to J.F. Damphousse for a while. He has rebounded, regaining the top stopper place and being named the Fifth Third Bank Mighty Ducks Player of the Month for January, and those accomplishments keep Bryzgalov from falling.

Joffrey Lupul, Medicine Hat Tigers
Former: #3 prospect, Current: #1 prospect
Lupul’s season has been everything Ducks fans have been hoping for. From representing Canada in Halifax at the World Juniors, to winning player of the week awards in the WHL, to signing an entry-level contract with the Ducks, Lupul looks to soon be a name that will be chanted at the Pond. The sniper has 30 goals and 58 points in just 39 games.

Mark Popovic, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #4 prospect, Current: #3 prospect
Popovic has done well adjusting to play in the AHL. He started slowly, but has since played a solid two-way style that has impressed many. Despite the acquisition of Sandis Ozolinsh, Popovic will be quarterbacking the Mighty Ducks powerplay soon.

Alexei Smirnov, Anaheim Mighty Ducks / Cincinnati
Former: #5 prospect, Current: #4 prospect
Smirnov has been shuttled between the AHL and the NHL. His current time with the big club was much improved compared to other looks he has been given this season. The team is taking it slow with Smirnov and he has performed well at both levels. His offensive strength will come as he becomes more used to the flow of the NHL game. One of the knocks against Smirnov before this year was his mental dedication, but slowly the team is teaching him if he isn’t doing his best, he won’t be playing in the big show. Smirnov will soon not be considered a prospect any longer.

Igor Pohanka, Prince Albert Raiders
Former: #6 prospect, Current: #5 prospect
Pohanka’s entrance into the Ducks top five is well deserved. The high-scoring centre has gone from being an unknown to Ducks fan, when he was included in the big off-season trade with New Jersey, to one of the most highly anticipated prospects in the pipeline. He is still a few years away from suiting up for the Ducks, but if his 25 goals and 50 points in 47 games is a sign of things to come, he could be an exciting player for the Ducks.

Joel Stepp, Red Deer Rebels
Former: #7 prospect, Current: #13 prospect
Stepp’s fall in ranking is because of his wrist injury that he missed 45 games for. Discovered in Mighty Ducks training camp, it is thought the wrist was broken in December of 2001. Complications have forced Stepp to miss all but 13 games of the WHL season so far, but in those 13 games, he has 11 points. With his development back on track, look for Stepp to catch up to where he once was.

Tim Brent, St. Michael’s Majors
Former: #8 prospect, Current: #7 prospect
Brent’s offensive game continues to come around, he’s on pace to reach career highs this year. He’s currently second on his team in scoring. His leadership skills are also on display as his team is tops in the Central Division of the OHL.

Jonathan Hedstrom, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #9 prospect, Current: #6 prospect
Hedstrom has enjoyed a cup of coffee in the NHL so far, and has done most of his work in the AHL, representing Cincinnati at the AHL All Star Game. He was side-lined for a while with an eye injury, but has bounced back to continue to deliver solid two-way play. Though he hasn’t shown much at the NHL level so far, within a year or so, he will be a valuable third liner.

Kurt Sauer, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Former: #10 prospect, Current: Graduated
Sauer has been solid, if unspectacular, with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Considering the approach the team is using for Chistov and Smirnov, it is surprising how much confidence they are putting in Sauer, playing him in key situations. His -22 is an indicator of how much confidence the team has put in him, perhaps too much, but he looks to be the next Keith Carney on the Ducks blueline soon.

Mike Commodore, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #11 prospect, Current: #8 prospect
For a player who was good enough to play within the defensively rock solid system of the New Jersey Devils, Commodore spending all season in the AHL has been a surprise. His physical shape was questioned during a December callup, but he has since turned it around and drove to Anaheim for a workout to prove his dedication. Hopefully, he will be able to redeem himself further to Anaheim’s coach staff if a player on the blueline goes down for a period of time.

Vladimir Korsunov, Spartak Moscow
Former: #12 prospect, Current: #12 prospect
With so many players moving around, up and down, Korsunov has stayed at rest. He missed the World Juniors with a back injury. The hard-hitting Russian needs to come across the ocean in order to raise his stock any higher. He looks to be a player similar to Vitaly Vishnevski.

Brian Lee, Erie Otters
Former: #13 prospect, Current: Not Ranked
Brian Lee was dropped down to Other Notables, simply because he is very similar to many other players in the Ducks system. He is a solid defensive defenseman with limited offensive potential. He is dedicated and plays with a nice snarl. But there are 2 or 3 other players in the pipeline just like him.

J.F. Damphousse, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #14 prospect, Current: #10 prospect
Damphousse has been impressive with his solid play while Bryzgalov suffered with inconsistency at the beginning of the year. After Bryzgalov regained his form, Damphousse has continued to play solid hockey for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks. Although a starting gig doesn’t look to be in his future, Damphousse has proven to have the attitude and ability to be a premier backup goalie in the NHL if he continues to progress.

Joonas Vihko, HIFK Helsinki
Former: #15 prospect, Current: #14 prospect
Vihko suffered an unfortunate ankle injury recently that put the rest of his season in question. However, before that he has won many fans with his offensive skills coupled with his pest abilities. Althought small, Vihko plays a fearless style that would be interesting to see with the Ducks.

Mikael Holmqvist, TPS Turku
Former: #16 prospect, Current: #11 prospect
Holmqvist’s skill level is top notch, if the Ducks can ever lure him over the ocean, he has a good chance at claiming a spot with the big team. Hopefully his appearance at the Ducks rookie camp last summer was a sign of good things to come. He needs to bulk up and will need to get used to the North American game before he can make an impact at the NHL level.

P.A. Parenteau, Sherbrooke Castors
Former: #17 prospect, Current: #9 prospect
Parenteau has translated a sucessful year so far to the biggest jump in rankings. He has been amazing in the QMJHL, proving he can score without P.M Bouchard, a knock that he wasn’t thought to be able to surpass. He also had a extraordinary World Juniors. Parenteau was traded to the Castors during the World Juniors and that team looks poised for a long run in the playoffs. But all this sucess doesn’t immediately mean he will work well in the NHL. Parenteau needs to improve his strength and physical play as well as his defensive focus.

Peter Podhradsky, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: #18 prospect, Current: #17 prospect
Podhradsky has been solid but unspectacular in the AHL for the Ducks. He has chipped in offensively from time to time, but nothing to write home about. Podhradsky is just a player you don’t have to worry about, he takes care of business and thats that. Hopefully, he’ll be able to step up and get a look from the big team soon.

A.J. Niemi, Jokerit Helsinki
Former: #19 prospect, Current: Not Ranked
Niemi continues to be one of the better defensemen in the Ducks system. But with his retreat to Finland and questionable status with the Ducks organization, he can no longer be viewed as a top prospect. Until he returns to North America or his relationship with the Ducks organization is improved, he will be an Other Notable.

Timo Parssinen, HIFK Helsinki
Former: #20 prospect, Current: Not Ranked
Like Niemi, Parssinen left for Finland and is therefore unable to be seen as a top prospect. He reportedly didn’t think he was given enough of a chance when he was with Anaheim.

Maxim Rybin, Spartak Moscow
Former: Not Ranked, Current: #15 prospect
A skilled speedy player, Rybin’s size might keep him from playing in the NHL. He needs to come to North America in order to get his shot. He’s playing well with Spartak Moscow. He could make an impact on the AHL level.

Joel Perreault, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Former: Not Ranked, Current: #16 prospect
Perreault has shown increased offensive responsibility and turned that into a 3 year entry-level deal with Anaheim. He needs to work on his strength and defensive ability, but could surprise and be a top player after some minor league conditioning.

Tony Martensson, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: Not Ranked, Current: #18 prospect
Martensson is a perfect example of how coming over to North America can raise your stock. A year ago, he was doing moderately well in the Swedish Elite League, now he is leading the Cincinnati team in scoring. Although Martensson isn’t the most physical player in the game, he gets the job done and deserves at least spot duty with the Ducks.

Cory Pecker, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: Not Ranked, Current: #19 prospect
Pecker went from being a top notch OHLer to a rising player in the AHL. He started really slow with Cincinnati but has shouldered more and more of the offensive load since then. For being a UFA pickup, Pecker was a good investment.

Brian Gornick, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Former: Not Ranked, Current: #20 prospect
Gornick has Air Force commitments to go along with his AHL duty. He commutes between an Air Force base and Cincinnati for games. This dedication makes Gornick stand head and shoulders above the rest, (although his huge 6-5 frame also makes him stand head and shoulders above others too). This dedication could even lead him all the way to Anaheim.