season, Anaheim was still committed to their youth in 2003-
Despite going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup
Finals last season,
committed to their youth in 2003-04. Seven rookies played a combined 156 games
for the Ducks this year (compared to the 6 freshman who appeared in a total of
225 games in 2002-03). Only one player this year played more then half the
playing 31 games or less. The following is an overview of the performance of
the 2003-2004 rookie class.
Lupul, RW – Age 20
Lupul was the only rookie who played most of the season in
Selected seventh overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Lupul was bounced around
the lineup. He played a lot with Vaclav Prospal and Steve Rucchin before ending
the season on the top line with Rob Niedermayer and Sergei Fedorov. He also saw
time with Andy McDonald, Stanislav Chistov and Petr Sykora throughout the season.
He also saw time on the second power play unit. With his hard accurate shot and
goal scoring instincts, Lupul showed glimpses of why he was compared to former
Islander sniper, Mike Bossy. The year was hot and cold for Lupul and in
January, he was demoted to
the Ducks AHL affiliate, for three games. Lupul made the most out of that
experience, registering 3 goals and 5 points in those games. The highlight of
the season for Lupul was probably his three-goal performance for the Western
Conference YoungStars Team during the NHL All-Star Weekend. This outburst
(narrowly missing the MVP award) coupled with being placed on the top line with
Fedorov, led to him ending the season off strong. Down the stretch, he was at
his best, playing confidence and taking plenty of shots. His hard work in the
games after the Ducks were officially eliminated from the playoffs was
admirable, especially when it was widely recognized that
as a team lacked consistent effort this season.
Lupul ended the season with the second highest goal total by a rookie in Ducks
History. His 13 goals are second to only Paul Kariya, who had 18. He still
needs to work on his defensive play and he needs to beef up his 6’1″ and
194 pound frame, but Lupul looks to be on the road to being a dominant sniper.
Severson has been a depth guy for
for two seasons now, but this year was the first time he saw much time in the
NHL. He was one of the hardest working Ducks on the ice, and played mainly as a
fourth line energy player. Severson’s big opportunity came in January after the
Toronto Maple Leafs claimed Craig Johnson off of waivers. Severson was called
up shortly after to take Johnson’s spot on the fourth line and he held it for
the rest of the season. He mainly played with Jason Krog and usually rotated in
and out of the lineup with Garrett Burnett. Severson also saw some time with Chris
Kunitz and Andy McDonald.
What he lacks in offensive ability, he certainly makes up for in effort.
Severson was arguably one of the only true physical and gritty players in the
bottom 6 at times during the season. He makes good use of his 6’1″ 215-pound
frame on the ice, hitting hard and often. He split time between
in 38 games with 7 goals and 14 points along with 145 penalty minutes for the
Kunitz, LW – Age 24
After a fantastic NCAA season in which he was nominated for the Hobey Baker
Award and be named CCHA Player of the Year, Kunitz signed with Anaheim in 2003.
He started the year in
after being invisible in the rookie and training camps and was slow to get
going. In December, Kunitz started scoring. He rocketed up the AHL rookie
scoring race and was named
Player of the Month for December.
took notice and called him up on January 13th. At the time of the call up, he
as well as leading all AHL rookies in scoring. In
he split time between the third and fourth line. He played with Cam Severson,
Andy McDonald, Jason Krog and Garrett Burnett among others. On February 5th, he
was returned to the AHL to play in the AHL All-Star Classic for the Canadian
All-Stars. When he returned to
on February 10th, he was much improved and scored 5 of his 6 points during this
month, including a two-point game vs.
on the 25th. Kunitz was then returned to
for good on March 5th, where he is a part of their playoff run.
Kunitz seems to be progressing in leaps and bounds and could be a useful third
liner as early as next season. He sees the ice well and can play the body,
despite his average size (6’0″, 186 pounds). The only thing that will keep
him out of the lineup is
depth at forward.
Holmqvist, C – Age 24
It was a rough year for Holmqvist, after signing with
and coming over from
roster but was sent down in mid-October after only seeing action in two games
on the fourth line. Strong play in
prompted his return to
the beginning of December. In January, he was starting to look good on the
third line with Pahlsson, McDonald as well as seeing some time in the top 6. He
had a two-goal game vs.
on January 7th. But on January 17th, he pulled a stomach muscle that left him
out of the lineup for 22 games. He only played two more games in
after the injury, before returning to
and then the injury flared up again, ending his season.
Holmqvist is another one of the third liners that
has an abundance of. He has good size (6’3″) but is still very lanky (190
pounds). He can’t play a rough physical game, because he lacks the strength.
Drafted 18th overall in 1997, Holmqvist will need a strong camp for next year
to get a roster spot. He has the skills, but there’s plenty of competition.
Martensson, C – Age 23
Martensson has been a bit of a surprise for
Drafted in the 7th round (224th overall) in 2001, he led
in scoring in 2002-03. He played well in
again this year, being named the Player of the Month for the month of November.
This prompted a call up in December for four games. He scored his first NHL
goal on December 3rd vs.
He was then called up again in January for another 2 games, where he registered
his 2nd NHL point and 1st NHL assist vs.
He mainly saw time as a fourth liner.
Martensson is skilled and could fill in on the top 6 if needed. However, he is
soft and doesn’t play well in traffic. He needs to add strength to his
6’0″, 189 pound frame in order to really challenge for a roster spot in
He’ll have lots of competition for NHL time next season.
Popovic, D – Age 21
After a strong camp, Popovic was sent to
to start the season. At the time, it was said that he could have been a seventh
defenseman in the NHL, but it would be better for his development to play top
minutes in the AHL. Popovic was called up in mid December, but didn’t see any
playing time. Then on December 21st, he was re-assigned to the Canadian
National Team for the Spengler Cup competition. He helped
win the Cup for their second consecutive year, and then returned to
the sole game he played, and was solid.
Popovic might not turn out to be a power play quarterback, but he’s the best
He’s establishing himself as a team leader and a solid two-way defenseman in
He should get more of a look next season.
Bryzgalov, G – Age 23
Bryzgalov had a monstrous season that saw him be named Cincinnati Player of the
Month for October, February and March. He led the AHL in minutes played, was
tied for second in wins and saves, as well as being tied for seventh in shutouts
and 20th in the AHL in GAA. He played in only his second NHL game this year, an
overtime win over
first NHL experience was 32 minutes in 2001-02, letting in 1 goal on 12 shots
for a 1.87 GAA and a .917 SV %). But his solid play has shown he has little
more to prove in the AHL.
Bryzgalov could be backing up Jean-Sebastien Giguere within a year in the NHL.
The only thing holding him back is Martin Gerber, who has been extraordinary as
well in his two seasons in
The Ducks have very little depth between the pipes, but surprisingly, plenty of
quality. It will be interesting to see how they handle this situation.
the Mighty Ducks of