Mighty Ducks: Rookies make the team

By Kevin Forbes

With the season opener for the Anaheim Ducks only hours away, the Ducks will have
plenty of new faces on their team this year. Gone are players like Paul
Kariya, Adam Oates, Fredrik Olausson and Patric Kjellberg, and coming in to
replace them are players like Sergei Fedorov, Vaclav Prospal and Craig
Johnson. But the real focus will be rookies Joffrey Lupul and
Mikael Holmqvist as well as players making their NHL debuts, like
Garrett Burnett.

Joffrey Lupul (7th overall in 2002) and Mikael Holmqvist (18th overall in 1997) will be the third and fourth first round draft picks
to break into the opening roster of the Ducks in the past two years. They’ll
follow in the footsteps of last year’s Russian duo of left wingers Stanislav
Chistov (5th overall in 2001) and Alexei Smirnov (12th overall in 2000).
Expect Lupul to have an impact similar to Chistov’s last year, however do
not expect the Edmonton native to start off as fast; Chistov had a
four-point night on opening night last season. Lupul had a good camp and a
very good preseason. He shared the rookie Duck preseason scoring lead with
Ryan Getzlaf with three points and also tied for the team lead in goals
scored with three. He will probably see mostly time on the second line, however
Anaheim Coach Mike Babcock did pair him up with both Steve Rucchin and
Sergei Fedorov during the preseason and he faired well. Lupul still needs to
work on his skating, his strength and his defensive play, so expect the team
to take it slow with him, much like the way they handled Chistov last
season. When Mike Leclerc returns from his knee injury in December, the
former Medicine Hat Tiger may lose his spot on the roster if he isn’t
playing well.
Projected Impact: 3rd liner, 20-30 points if he
stays in Anaheim all season

Mikael Holmqvist’s journey to the NHL really kicked into high gear during
last year’s rookie training camp. Bryan Murray, then coach of the Ducks, was
instantly a fan of Holmqvist’s smooth skating and playmaking abilities.
After a breakthrough season with TPS Turku in Finland, Holmqvist was signed
by Murray, who was by now GM of the club. Holmqvist played mainly as a
center in Finland, however expect him to be used as a left winger in
Anaheim. He sees the ice very well and will no doubt please Coach Babcock
with his already strong two-way instincts. At 24, Holmqvist is a bit older
then some of the other rookies the Ducks have had through the years, so he
should be able to step into the lineup and produce immediately, without much
difficulty. He won’t be able to push himself into the top six, but he also
doesn’t have the gritty, physical style required for a checking line.

Projected Impact: 3rd liner, 15-25 points (mainly assists)

Garrett Burnett has never played a game in the NHL, despite being 28 years
old. His dream will finally be realized soon as Burnett inherits the
policeman role from injured and temporarily retired, Kevin Sawyer. Burnett
led the league in preseason penalty minutes, as a sign of things to
come.
Projected Impact: 200-250 Penalty Minutes if he plays a
regular shift.

The Ducks offseason this year was exciting right down to the final cuts, as
many close and important decisions had to be made on who would play what
role, and what players to sign.

Many believed Ryan Getzlaf deserved a spot on the final roster more
then Joffrey Lupul. Getzlaf’s hard-nosed gritty play made him a preseason
fan favorite and he backed it up by tying Lupul for the Duck rookie
preseason scoring lead with two goals and an assist. The main reason why
Getzlaf was returned to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL may have to do with
the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring in next summer. Getzlaf does
not currently have a contract signed with the Ducks and both Getzlaf and the
Ducks would no doubt rather wait and see how a new CBA will affect rookie
salaries and the rookie max. Getzlaf should make the team next season,
making him the 5th first rounder to make the jump in three years. It’s quite
possible that a player like Corey Perry could be the sixth a year
later, too.
Projected Impact: One Year Away

Mark Popovic could of made the jump to Anaheim as a seventh defenseman
according to GM Bryan Murray, but the team would rather him play constantly
in the AHL to continue his development. Popovic also could have used the
opening provided by Keith Carney’s broken foot (out 4-6 weeks) to showcase
his talent during the regular season, but instead the Ducks acquired
hard-nosed veteran Todd Simpson from the Phoenix Coyotes during the waiver
draft. When Carney returns, expect one of the blueliners to be dealt, but
don’t expect that to make any room for Popovic, as he sits behind eight NHL
experienced players. Popovic will play this season in the AHL, but he could
still be called up later on if he impresses.
Projected Impact: One Year Away

Cam Severson was considered a lock to make the team on the fourth
line at the beginning of camp, but he was outperformed. Garrett Burnett
proved to be a better fighter and agitator. The final straw that pushed Severson out of his spot was the return of
center Andy McDonald from post-concussion syndrome. McDonald missed a large
chunk of last season after suffering his third concussion in two years. After the signing of Craig Johnson, apparently to replace the injured Dan
Bylsma, who will be out with a knee injury until November, and the promotion
of Joffrey Lupul as well as Mikael Holmqvist, there just wasn’t room for
Severson. He should however be one of the first Ducks called if someone goes
down up front and also Severson should see more time then he
did last season (2 regular season games and 1 playoff game).

Projected Impact: 5-12 games

Cincinnati players like goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, defenseman
Shane O’Brien and forwards Chris Kunitz and
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau also all showed that they have what it
takes to play if Anaheim does come calling.

Notes

The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks cut their roster down to 23 for the
2003-04 season. Ducks prospect George Davis and impressive Anaheim
try-out Sandro Sbrocca are among the players who were assigned to San Diego Gulls
of the ECHL, while defenseman Bill Cass is no longer with the
Anaheim organization after being released from try-out by Cincinnati.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks have released a new third jersey for
the 2003-04 season. The jersey which is black with dark plum, silver and
white highlights will be worn during 15 games this season. Also the Official Mighty Ducks website has
unveiled a new look for the new season.

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