With a busy preseason schedule which saw the Anaheim Ducks play six games in eight days, Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle refrained from trimming his roster until the bulk of the preseason action was over. Major cuts didn’t occur until Sept. 26. As expected, last year’s young stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner made the opening day roster but the Ducks are expecting to see more consistent play from those prospects.
According to Bob Murray, the Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, “If they want to become great players, the only way for that is preparation and being serious about the game and serious about how they work and practice. We’ll see how they do.”
A few lesser-known prospects have surprised the Ducks coaching staff enough to earn an extended look. Among these players were right wing Tim Brent, center Ryan Shannon and defenseman Shane O’Brien.
Brent was a surprise to last so long in camp after two lackluster seasons. He came into camp in great physical shape and injury-free, and quickly impressed the Ducks brass showing quickness and offensive ability, scoring five points in four preseason games with a +4 rating.
According to Murray, “Timmy has figured it out as far as training. He’s never going to be a big guy but he’s in shape right now. He’s been injured for two years and now he’s opened our eyes here. He’s got a chance to be a good third or fourth type centerman and he’s got a little offense to his game and we weren’t sure of that at this level. He’s been a pleasant surprise because with all these injuries these last two years we just didn’t know what to expect.”
While Brent did impress, it was not enough to keep him in Anaheim but if he can play well at the AHL level the Ducks may call on him should one of the forwards go down or prove to be inconsistent.
Shannon and O’Brien were luckier than Brent and managed to make Anaheim’s opening day roster.
Ryan Shannon, RW
Last year, during an impressive rookie season in the AHL, a buzz began to circulate in the Anaheim press box about Shannon. Members of the media and coaches spoke of his scoring and quickness. Shannon’s quickness even earned him first place in the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Star Game. But despite Shannon’s scoring and quickness, his ability to succeed at the NHL level has been questioned because of his 5’9 frame.
“Everyone is worried about his size,” said Murray. “Size is not a factor for him. He doesn’t think it’s a factor there. The best thing I heard about him was last year in the year-end meeting scout Rick Patterson asked him what he needed to do to make it to the NHL and he just said ‘a chance.’ That was his answer and that tells you everything you need to know.”
According to Shannon, it was the last game of the season when his preparation for this year’s camp began.
“From that game on to the beginning of training camp, I’m thinking ‘take advantage of this.’ It’s a lot of anticipation, a lot of anxiety but I just focused on what I needed to do and not being concerned about roster spots or anything like that. Just being focused on my game.”
The preparation has paid off as Shannon notched six points in five games while playing most of the preseason on a line with Todd Marchant and Dustin Penner. He led the team in plus/minus with a +7 in five games played, but it was his quickness and relentless style of play that earned him a spot on the team.
“I’ve tried to pick up as much as I can without being distracted by those outside things but it’s been fun. It’s been a whirlwind.”
Shane O’Brien, D
Defenseman Shane O’Brien also managed to make the Ducks roster thanks to a strong preseason. The defenseman has improved over the past three seasons in the AHL. The 6’2, 237-pounder adds important toughness to the blue line which will be especially important for the Ducks with the loss of Ruslan Salei and Vitaly Vishnevski. O’Brien tallied an astounding 287 minutes in penalties last year in Portland and showed that same toughness for Anaheim during the preseason.
According to Murray, “That’s part of his game. He has that element to his game and the more he does [play physically] the more room his teammates have to skate and the better a chance he has to stay here.”
Both Murray and Carlyle reject the idea that O’Brien is just a physical player. O’Brien was the Pirates highest scoring defenseman last season notching 41 points in 77 games while scoring three points in four preseason games this year.
“He can skate and handle the puck also and he has that edge to [his] game and that’s very valuable to have,” said Murray.
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