Mighty Ducks rookie tournament preview

By Kevin Forbes

The second annual Pacific Division Rookie Tournament will be held at Disney Ice in
Anaheim,
California. The four-team round robin event features the top prospects
from
the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes
and the
San Jose Sharks and it kicks off on September 9, 2004. Anaheim is the
host
team of the tournament this year, taking over the duties from Los
Angeles,
who hosted the inaugural tournament. Last year’s final saw the Phoenix Coyotes pull off the win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks placed fourth and are looking to
rebound.

Anaheim’s roster along with game schedules can be found here.
The team contains only players who played last year in North America,
as it
is difficult for unsigned Europeans to leave their club teams once
their
season has already begun. The roster also features a tournament low
five
tryout players, with Los
Angeles
, Phoenix
and San
Jose
sending 28 tryout players between them.

The following is a brief breakdown of the Mighty Ducks roster by
position:

Goaltenders

Highlighting the Ducks lack of depth between the pipes, 2004 draftee
Gabriel Bouthillette looks to be the top netminder for Anaheim.
Prior
to the tournament, he was engaged playing preseason hockey with the
Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL. Bouthillette looks to challenge for
the
starting position with the Titan after a solid rookie year with
Gatineau.
Backing up Bouthillette is Mathieu Poitras, a goalie on a tryout
contract. Poitras played last season as the over-age starting netminder
for
the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and had a GAA of 3.47 and a save percentage of 0.907. No
longer QMJHL eligible, he hopes to make an impression and perhaps earn
a contract to fill the vacant backup position with Anaheim’s farm team in
Cincinnati.

Defensemen

Anaheim has a gritty solid group of defenders, featuring four players in Hockey’s Future Mighty Ducks
Top 20 ranking. It will be led by Shane
O’Brien
,
who is just coming off an impressive rookie season in the AHL with
Cincinnati. Behind the hard-hitting O’Brien is Aaron Rome and
Juha
Alen
. Rome should be especially motivated, as he is a former
prospect of
the Los Angeles Kings. Unable to reach a contract with them, the former
WHL
blueliner signed with Anaheim in the offseason. Alen is looking to
build on
his solid, although unspectacular rookie year with Cincinnati.
Nathan
Saunders
is going to help patrol Anaheim’s blueline for the second
rookie tournament in the row. The Moncton Wildcat will also be counted
on
keeping the opposition honest. Jordan Smith will be on hand to
provide a first look to Ducks fans on why Anaheim chose him in the 2004
entry draft. Joining Smith from Sault St. Marie is Brad
Staubitz
,
another player in Anaheim on tryout. Staubitz is an undrafted solid
defensive blueliner, who is entering his overage year with the
Greyhounds.
Rounding out the defense is undrafted tryout Andrew Canzanello who just graduated from Colorado College, where he was a strong
puck mover for the Tigers.

Forwards

Anaheim’s strongest position could be up front, with them sending seven of
the
10 forwards in their Top 20 prospects. Top
prospects
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry headline an impressive bunch.
Getzlaf, a Calgary Hitman, is expected to be able to challenge for a
roster
spot with Anaheim this season, while Perry, a London Knight, will be
counted
on to provide plenty of offense for the rookie team. Both were chosen
in the
first round of 2003 by Anaheim. Tim Brent has a new contract and
will
play a two-way role. The twice drafted St. Michael’s Majors captain
signed a
three-year entry level deal on the eve of the tournament. Curtis
Glencross
and Dustin Penner are both big college free agents
signed after the 2003-04 NCAA hockey season ended. They’ll be counted on
to bring size and strength to the top lines. Glencross was able to fit
in
some time with Cincinnati before the season ended and he performed
well.
Pierre Parenteau and Joel Perrault are being counted on
to
continue their strong play from their rookie season with Cincinnati
last
year, while Joel Stepp and Igor Pohanka are both hoping
to
improve on their freshman efforts in the AHL. George Davis will
be
counted on to provide muscle, after a year that saw him play for Halifax
in
the QMJHL and Cincinnati in the AHL.

The Ducks liked Zenon
Konopka
so
much that they signed the tryout to a two-year contract before the
tournament began. Konopka split time between the AHL (Utah) and ECHL
(Idaho)
last year and plays a hard-nosed game with no lack of determination or
heart. Brent Kelly is another player who saw time in both the
AHL
(Cleveland) and the ECHL (Johnstown) last year. He’s a tryout who might
already be familiar with San Jose’s team because of his time in
Cleveland.
Andrew Gibbons wasn’t drafted at the 2004 draft and is hoping to
make
a strong impression as a tryout now. He played last season with the
Oshawa
Generals of the OHL and will no doubt return there after the tournament
ends.

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