Mighty Ducks Top 20 prospects

By Kevin Forbes

The new Hockey’s Future Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Top 20 features six new faces. Among them are two 2004 draftees (not counting twice drafted Tim Brent), three free agent signees and one player acquired through trade.
The top 20 is based on long-term impact on the hockey club and is not a reflection of who is closest to making the NHL. Players are assigned a grade (per HF Criteria) reflecting the projections and comments from team officials. Other factors that help determine ranking order to varying degrees include: player age, draft position, current league and team quality, location (North America or Europe) and foreseeable opportunity.

As many as five of the prospects listed here have a strong chance of being on Anaheim’s opening night roster. That number could rise even higher if the Mighty Ducks make any more offseason moves.

1. Ryan Getzlaf – Center – Calgary Hitmen, WHL
Getzlaf continues his reign as the Ducks top prospect after a strong 2003-04 campaign. He started his year with an impressive effort at Anaheim’s training camp and continued on to represent Canada at the World Juniors as well as play for Team WHL at the RE/MAX Canada/Russia Challenge. In just 49 games, Getzlaf was tied for team lead in scoring last year with 75 points. However, he was unable to lead his team far into the playoffs and Calgary was eliminated in seven games by the Red Deer Rebels in the first round of WHL playoffs. Getzlaf could finds himself staying in Anaheim for 2004-05. Chosen 19th overall in 2003, if he does make the Mighty Ducks roster, he would be the fifth first round selection to be on Anaheim’s opening day roster in the last three years.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov – Goaltender – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Bryzgalov’s 24th birthday present came four days early this year. On June 18th, the Ducks traded backup Martin Gerber to Carolina, clearing the way for Bryzgalov to take over as the No. 2 man behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere. He deserves it after three seasons in the minors, culminating with his impressive 2003-04 season. He led the AHL in minutes played as well as coming in second in wins and saves. Bryzgalov also established career highs in nearly all goaltending stats, including GAA, save percentage and shutouts. A second round selection in 2000 (44th overall), Bryzgalov capped it all off by being selected to play for Russia at the World Cup later this summer. Due to some questions between the pipes for Russia, it’s possible that he could even be their starting netminder.

3. Ladislav Smid – Defenseman – HC Bili Tygri Liberec, Czech Republic
Smid makes his debut at No. 3, highlighting how important a top notch blueliner is to Anaheim’s system. Considered a safe pick when he was drafted ninth overall this year, Smid plays in a top Czech league. As a result, he is poised and plays a mature game, despite being only 18. Although he only had two points last season, he is heralded as being an excellent puck mover. Smid will return to the Czech Republic for next season, but could be contributing in the NHL in two years time.

4. Corey Perry – Right Wing – London Knights, OHL
Perry got better as his year went on in 2003-04. He wasn’t chosen for Canada’s WJC team, though the reason was only speculated on. Perry used this as motivation however and narrowly missed leading the OHL in points. He also played for Team OHL in the Canada/Russia RE/MAX Challenge. The 19-year-old joined the Ducks AHL farm team in Cincinnati after his London Knights were eliminated from the OHL playoffs. In just three games of AHL playoff action, he tallied two points (a goal and an assist), showing a glimpse of his great offensive potential. Although he still has plenty to work on, the 28th overall choice in 2003 is looking like a keen selection.

5. Mark Popovic – Defenseman – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Sending Popovic back to the AHL for a second year despite a strong camp has paid off for the 21-year-old blueliner. He used his time to round out his game and now will challenge for a roster spot as a player who is poised and complete. Despite tallying less offensively, Popovic was called upon to be a steady leader on a young blueline and he performed admirably. He took some time away from Cincy to help Canada successfully defend the Spengler Cup in December and returned to make a short NHL debut. An early second-rounder in 2001, Popovic may have the inside track to replace the departed Niclas Havelid in Anaheim’s lineup.

6. Tim Brent – Center – Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, OHL
Brent was once again a standout with St. Mike’s. He was their captain and led them in almost every offensive statistic, despite taking time off to play for Canada at the World Juniors. A leader on and off the ice, he wore an “A” at the WJC as well as captaining Team OHL in the Canada/Russia RE/MAX Challenge. Unfortunately, he was unable to come to terms with Anaheim for a contract and the 37th pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft re-entered the draft for 2004. The Mighty Ducks were unwilling to let this 20-year-old pivot go that easily, and so when the third round cam and Brent was still around, they selected him again, 75th overall. Now the main goal is to get him signed to an NHL contract and, if successful in that venture, begin his development in Cincinnati.

7. Chris Kunitz – 24 – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Kunitz will turn 25 just before the season begins, but if all goes well at training camp, he should be looking at a regular NHL roster spot by that time. Last season, Kunitz started slowly before exploding in the AHL and thus garnering an NHL call up. At the time of his NHL debut, Kunitz was leading both affiliate Cincinnati and all AHL rookies in points. He saw time mainly on Anaheim’s third line before being returned briefly to the AHL to participate in their All-Star game. Upon his return to the NHL, Kunitz played even better and was only returned to Cincinnati to help with their playoff run. Although Kunitz may have plenty of competition for a third line role with Anaheim, he has already shown that he has little else to prove in the minors.

8. Aaron Rome – Defenseman – Swift Current Broncos/Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL
Signed by Anaheim after being unable to come to terms with the Los Angeles Kings, Rome adds depth to the Ducks blueline. He was drafted 104th overall (fourth round) in 2002 and should step immediately into Cincy’s lineup this fall. Touted as a stay-at-home type, he still was third in the WHL in defenseman scoring (52 points in 69 games), as an overager last season. Rome plays with a bit of an edge (210 PIM last season) and will probably need a year in Cincy before challenging for time in the NHL.

9. Curtis Glencross – Left Wing – University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, WCHA
Glencross led his UAA team to a berth in the WCHA Final Five Tournament for the first time in team history. This was just a year removed from the team winning only one game in the 2002-03 season. He was the team’s leading goal-scorer as well as their points leader (34 points in 37 games) and had made a name for himself around the league as a feared checker. His tenacious play and offensive upside attracted Anaheim, as well as a few other clubs, to him. Glencross, 21, signed a three-year deal with the Ducks in April and immediately began to play for Cincinnati. He tallied three points in seven regular season games with Cincy and then stepped up with a seven-point effort in nine games of AHL playoff action. His development could depend on how patient Anaheim is willing to be. He could step into a fourth-line role now, or the Ducks could wait and Glencross may wind up being a top six player in a few years.

10. Tony Martensson – Center – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Martensson finished the season atop the scoring race in Cincinnati for the second year in a row with 50 points in 67 games. Soon after the end of the season, however, he signed a two-year deal to return to the Swedish Elite League, playing for Linkoping. Despite his strong play in the AHL, Martensson only saw six games of NHL action during his two years in North America, scoring a goal and an assist. His slim stature made it difficult for the 24-year-old to fit in on Anaheim’s bottom two forward lines. However, he still received a qualifying offer from Anaheim this off-season, signaling that despite leaving for Europe, the team still has him in their plans.

11. Shane Hynes – Right Wing – Cornell University, ECAC
A player like Hynes is a rarity in the Ducks system and a prized possession around the league. Featuring size, grit and a nose for the net, the words “power forward” set most scouts drooling. Hynes was third in goals scored and was second on his team in penalty minutes, last year. Anaheim continues to take it slow with this 3rd rounder in 2003, and he will probably finish college before getting much of a look. Either way, the 19-year-old is coming along nicely.

12. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau – Right Wing – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Parenteau is looking more like a ninth round (264th overall in 2001) steal every year. He followed up his dominance in the QMJHL with a strong rookie season in the AHL. He was second only to Chris Kunitz in rookie scoring for Cincinnati. Parenteau’s offensive skills really got going for a streak during January and February when he scored most of his points. He’ll be called on to help out more offensively this year, and he’s up to the task. Parenteau may end up arriving in the NHL ahead of schedule.

13. Kurtis Foster – Defenseman – Chicago Wolves, AHL
Foster was acquired in the draft day deal with Atlanta that saw Niclas Havelid become a Thrasher. Originally a Calgary draft pick (second round in 2000), Foster is best known for his cannon shot, which has been clocked in excess of 100-mph. Unfortunately, the rest of his game is still a work in progress and the 23-year-old has not seen significant time in the NHL. Blessed with good size and good offensive instincts, he’ll be in competition for the roster spot of the player he was traded for.

14. Joel Perrault – Center – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
Perrault was the pivot on the third line for Cincinnati for most of his rookie season in the AHL. He finished off third in rookie scoring on the team as well as tied for second in both shorthanded goals and game-winners. With the departure of Tony Martensson to Sweden and Keith Aucoin to free agency, the 21-year-old is now, by default, Cincy’s top center until other moves are made or players are signed. If his QMJHL stats are any indication, he is able to handle offensive responsibility.

15. Vladimir Korsunov – Defenseman – Spartek Moscow, Russia
Korsunov has spent his entire hockey career in the Spartek Moscow system and had his best season last year. He helped the once powerhouse team return to the Russian Super League after being relegated to the High League for one season. A defensive blueliner with plenty of grit, last season he was an astonishing +45 in plus/minus. In May of 2004, the 21-year-old signed a two-year contract extension with Spartek Moscow, but it isn’t believed that the contract would cause any trouble if Anaheim wanted to bring him to North America. Sadly, despite his strong play, the Ducks still haven’t expressed much interest in bringing their fourth round pick in 2001 (105th overall) across the ocean.

16. Brandon Rogers – Defenseman – University of Michigan, CCHA
Rogers has had three solid years of two-way play with Michigan. Now entering his final year, the 22-year-old will challenge for a spot as soon as he graduates, even with the recent moves Anaheim has made to shore up their blueline future. Chosen in the fourth round in 2001, Rogers is an alternate captain with the Wolverines and led all Michigan blueliners in points last year.

17. Shane O’Brien – Defenseman – Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, AHL
The third player out of the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors organization in the Top 20, O’Brien enjoyed a solid rookie season in the AHL. After missing the beginning of the season to get a contract signed, he finished the year second on the team in PIM as well as one of only three regulars who posted a positive plus/minus (+2). A fearsome physical force, O’Brien also saw some time on the power play last year, and has some offensive skill. The 20-year-old spent most of last season paired with fellow St. Mike’s alumni, Mark Popovic.

18. Dustin Penner – Left Wing – University of Maine, Hockey East
Signed by Anaheim in May, as an undrafted free agent, Penner is a hard-nosed grinder with some offensive upside. Penner, 21, only played a single season with the Black Bears, notching 11 goals and 23 points. He will play in Cincinnati next season, and could find himself in the NHL as a third-line grinder in two years time.

19. Nathan Saunders – Defenseman – Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL
Saunders was one of the top blueliners on a powerhouse Moncton team last season. He led his team in penalty minutes and was fourth in plus/minus. A gritty blueliner, he also possesses some offensive skills, tied for second in defenseman scoring with the Wildcats. Selected in the fourth round in 2003, Saunders is only 19 and has plenty of time to continue developing.

20. Jordan Smith – Defenseman – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL
The second 2004 draftee on the list, Smith is a hard nosed blueliner. Picked 39th overall, he was tied for team lead in plus/minus last year with the Greyhounds. Smith sees time in all situations, from power play to shorthanded and is developing some strong offensive skills to go along with his gritty defensive play. He’s also been asked to be a leader and he was named the ‘Hounds Best Defenseman last year.

Notes

Prospects Brian Gornick, center and defenseman Jan Tabacek did not receive qualifying offers from Anaheim and became Unrestricted Free Agents on July 1st, 2004.

Anaheim will be hosting the 2nd annual four-team round robin rookie tournament. The event will run from September 9th to the 13th at Disney Ice in Anaheim. Complete list of details including rosters and game times will be available later in August. Last summer, the Los Angeles Kings organization held the tournament. The Phoenix Coyotes and the San Jose Sharks also take part.

The World Hockey Association’s prospect draft saw a multitude of Ducks prospects being selected. Tim Brent was selected by the Halifax franchise in the 3rd round (18th overall). Ryan Getzlaf was selected 72nd overall (9th round) by the Dallas team, and the next pick saw Aaron Rome be selected by the Founders’ Franchise. Shane Hynes was selected 151st overall (19th round) by Florida, while newly drafted Matt Christie was selected 193rd overall (25th round) by Toronto. In the WHA’s Free agent draft, Kurtis Foster was selected in the 24th round, 186th overall by Dallas.

Unsigned 2002 draftee Brian Lee was recently spotted at a Chicago Blackhawk rookie camp. Brian Lee was also selected in the WHA prospect draft, 163rd overall in the 21st round by Detroit.

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