Mighty Ducks CHL prospects update

By Kevin Forbes

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have seven prospects currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League. The players are dispersed equally across the three leagues and follow the conventional wisdom on the positions of strength for each. The two QMJHL prospects are both goaltenders, the three OHL prospects all play forward and the two WHL prospects patrol the blue line. Four of the Ducks CHL prospects are picks from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, including second overall selection, Bobby Ryan.

Matt Auffrey, RW, 19 (Sixth round, 172nd overall, 2004)
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Matt Auffrey surprised almost everyone with his mid-October decision to leave one of the NCAA’s top teams, the Wisconsin Badgers and join the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL. Auffrey struggled through an injury-filled freshman year. He scored four points in his first four games but then a broke wrist sidelined him for 12 games and he ended the year with eight points in 25 games. As his sophomore year began, Auffrey found himself on the outside looking in, playing in just one game before he made his decision to switch. The Kitchener Rangers had previously made Auffrey their third round choice in the 2002 OHL Priority Selection.

Since joining the Rangers, Auffrey hasn’t missed a beat. In 11 games, he has scored five goals and has a total of nine points, along with 16 penalty minutes. That is good enough to tie for seventh on the team in scoring. All five of his goals have come on the power play, including a two-goal game at the end of October. His only knock could be his -4 plus/minus, but that is hardly a cause for concern on a team which features just two players on the positive side of the coin. The Rangers are currently seventh in the OHL’s Western Conference. It remains to be seen how the switch to junior will affect Auffrey’s future development, but short term results look very promising. The 19-year-old is eligible to play in the OHL for the 2006-07 season, if he isn’t offered a contract by Anaheim before then.

Bobby Bolt, LW, 18 (Fifth round, 127th overall, 2005)
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

The scouting report on Bobby Bolt remains unchanged since the draft. He is still a prospect with plenty of size and a willingness to go to the net, but he remains a work in progress. So far, his one power play goal and four points in 21 games is down from his production last season, where he tallied 11 goals and 25 points in 67 games. It appears he used up all his offensive magic early in the season, putting up half his points (the goal and an assist) in a single game at the end of September. He has, however, continued to bring muscle to the Frontenacs lineup, leading the team with 47 penalty minutes including three fighting majors. Kingston is currently fourth in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.

Bolt participated in Anaheim’s rookie camp as well as their training camp before the season started. He was also a member of the team of Anaheim prospects that won the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament for the second year in a row. Only 18, Bolt will be given plenty of time to develop, but he has shown some interesting potential in his short time with the organization.

Gabriel Bouthillette, G, 20 (Seventh round, 203rd overall, 2004)
Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

During his first season as the starting goaltender for the Titan, Gabriel Bouthillette possessed an unenviable record of 15 wins, 33 losses and 5 ties. So far in 2005-06, Bouthillette has exceeded that mark for wins and is just a victory away from tying his QMJHL career high. His record of 16 wins and 6 losses is as good an indication as any of how quickly fortunes can change in the Canadian Hockey League. The Acadie Bathurst Titan are the top team in the QMJHL this year and are currently second in the CHL’s Top 10 rankings. Much has changed from the team that finished last in the Q last year.

As much as Bouthillette’s improved numbers are the result of a superior team playing in front of him, Acadie-Bathurst’s progress has a lot to do with how well the 20-year-old is playing between the pipes. He’s currently one of the top goaltenders in the QMJHL, with a 2.70 GAA (6th overall) and a .909 save percentage (tied for 10th overall). He leads the league in minutes played and he is tied for the league lead in wins with fellow Ducks prospect Jean-Phillipe Levasseur, who is profiled below. Of course, with the added experience as an over-ager, players like Bouthillette are expected to make strong contributions, so his NHL potential is still murky. However, due to Anaheim’s dearth of goaltending prospects, he has a good shot at being offered a contract next summer.

Brett Festerling, D, 19 (Signed by Anaheim as a free agent)
Vancouver Giants (WHL)

Brett Festerling was passed over in two NHL drafts, but as he plays in his fourth season in the WHL, he already has what many draft picks never get: an NHL contract. Festerling was a free agent invitee to the Ducks rookie camp and he competed in the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament. The 19-year-old played strong enough to catch the eye of Anaheim’s top brass and was rewarded by an invitation to participate in Anaheim’s training camp for a few days, before he was returned to the WHL with his name on the dotted line of a three-year entry level deal.

Festerling is a solid blueliner who skates well and is competent at both ends of the ice. He isn’t the type of player who puts up a lot of points (just 41 points in 177 games prior to this season), but he can make a safe first pass and doesn’t embarrass himself. So far this year, he has three assists in 19 games for Vancouver. He has six penalty minutes and is a respectable +4. The Giants are currently fifth in the WHL’s Western Conference.

Jean-Phillipe Levasseur, G, 18 (Seventh round, 197th overall, 2005)
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

Jean-Phillipe Levasseur’s stock fell dramatically leading into the draft, mainly due to the fact that he saw barely any ice time during the second half of the season. With a mid-August trade of New York Islanders prospect, Sylvain Michaud to the Chicoutimi Sangueneens, the path was paved for Levasseur to take the starting position for the Huskies. He has not disappointed.

So far this season, Rouyn-Noranda is second in the QMJHL and ranked third in the CHL top 10. Levasseur’s 16 wins ties Bouthillette for league lead and he is second in the league in minutes played. Levasseur’s 2.86 GAA is tied for 10th overall and his .905 save percentage puts him at 12th in the league. Levasseur is well on his way to being considered a late round steal from the 2005 draft.

Brendan Mikkelson, D, 18 (Second round, 31st overall, 2005)
Vancouver Giants (WHL)

Brendan Mikkelson has gone through an interesting time early on this season. Originally expected to step up and replace Braydon Coburn (ATL) in the Portland Winter Hawks lineup, Mikkelson was hampered by a bruised collar bone and missed time in the first few weeks of October. He returned to the ice only to soon be dealt to the Vancouver Giants, where he became a teammate of fellow Anaheim prospect, Brett Festerling. Currently, Mikkelson is sidelined with a knee injury. In the 11 games that he has played, Mikkelson has a goal and seven points, as well as 16 penalty minutes and -1 rating.

The 18-year-old participated in Team Canada’s World Junior Development Camp over the summer and was slated to play for Team WHL in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge at the end of November and the beginning of December. Mikkelson is considered to be a candidate to play for Team Canada at the 2006 World Juniors in Vancouver. Unfortunately, his current knee injury could prevent him for playing in the Canada-Russia Challenge and could also have a negative impact on his bid to play for his country at the World Juniors.

Bobby Ryan, RW, 18 (First round, 2nd overall, 2005)
Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Two years ago, one of Anaheim’s newly drafted players, a right winger in the Ontario Hockey League with skating problems opened eyes as he came in second in the league scoring. He followed that with leading the league in points the next year, as well as a Memorial Cup and a World Junior gold medal and now he’s in the National Hockey League. That player, of course, was Corey Perry. This year, Anaheim has another newly drafted right wing with skating issues setting the Ontario Hockey League on fire and they’re hoping his future is just as bright. In 18 games, Bobby Ryan has 14 goals and 49 points, good enough for third in the Ontario Hockey League, behind the London Knight duo of David Bolland (CHI) and Rob Schremp (EDM). He has 14 penalty minutes and a +4 plus/minus for the Owen Sound Attack, a team ranked fifth in the OHL’s Western Conference. Ryan may not have a supporting cast like Perry had with the London Knights, but he is living up to his second overall selection.

However, there has been a slight bump along the way. Team captain for the Attack, Ryan was suspended for a game after chewing tobacco with rookie Jeff Moor on Owen Sound’s team bus. That miscue notwithstanding, Ryan is enjoying a dominant year in the OHL and should probably be included on Team USA for the 2006 World Juniors this upcoming winter.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.