Ducks junior prospects update

By Kevin Forbes


The Anaheim Ducks have nine prospects currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League. Unlike last season, when the players were evenly distributed amongst the three Canadian junior leagues by position, this year sees five of the prospects (four forwards and one defensemen) playing in the Ontario Hockey League. The Western Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League both feature two prospects a piece, with two defensemen out west and a goaltender and a forward in the east.

QMJHL

Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G, 19 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted 197th overall in the 7th round in 2005


After a bit of a slow start, Levasseur and the Huskies are both beginning to round into form as the holidays approach. The Huskies are currently fifth in their division and ninth in the league with a record of 15-11-2-2. Levasseur has been responsible for 13 of those wins, in addition to
eight losses. Rouyn-Noranda’s woes have primarily been defensive with Levasseur facing an average of 35 shots per game, which puts him
near the top in the amount of work he sees a night.


The Victoriaville native currently has a save percentage of .894, which places his tenth in the league. His goals-against-average of 3.72 places him 20th in the league and he has one shutout. Levasseur has excelled during the shootouts, allowing just two goals on 22 shots. This is a success rate of almost
91 percent, which is the best amongst goaltenders who have faced at least ten shooters.


Levasseur was named the defensive player of the week for the week ending on Nov.
26, after posting a .930 save percentage and facing an average of 45 shots over a three-game span. He also played for Team QMJHL in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge, stopping 18 shots in a 6-2 victory. Levasseur was invited to the Canada’s World Junior camp in the summer and performed well and he could be included in the winter camp, to be announced in early December. If his strong play continues, he could even have a shot at representing his country in Sweden.

Bryce Swan, RW, 19 – Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted 38th overall in the 2nd round in 2006


In some ways, Swan’s season has mirrored Halifax’s own fortunes so far this season. Both have been inconsistent after high expectations were placed at the beginning of the season. The Mooseheads’ record of 14-12-2 is the fifth best in the Eastern Division and it places them tenth in the entire league. Their inconsistent play has led to the coaching staff publicly calling for their veteran players to step up earlier this month.


Swan is no exception to this criticism, as he has traveled a rocky road so far this season. Early in the season, the burly Cape Bretoner suffered a broken bone in his arm, causing him to miss five games. Soon after returning, he was suspended for three games for his actions in a scrum against Val D’Or. It has only been since returning from that suspension that Swan has begun to play the physical and productive game that the Ducks drafted him for.


In 21 games, Swan has tallied ten goals and 16 points along with 29 penalty minutes. He is a disappointing -10, although the team is only -3. There is good news however; his 33 hits place him fourth on the team, and second amongst forwards. He’s also in the midst of a four game point streak with three goals and seven points over that period.

OHL

Matt Auffrey, RW, 20 – Brampton Battalion
Drafted 172nd overall in the 6th round in 2004


For the second year in a row, Auffrey has found himself switching teams after the season has begun. Last year saw the Cincinnati native jump from the University of Wisconsin program in the NCAA to the Kitchener Rangers due to concerns over playing time. This year, he was moved from Kitchener to Brampton, after the Rangers found themselves with one too many over-aged players. Prior to being dealt, Auffrey was being rotated in and out of the lineup in order for the Rangers to adhere to the OHL’s over-ager rules.


If the numbers are any indication, this move has had positive results on Auffrey’s quest for an NHL contract. The Battalion is last in the Central Division and they’ve only won six games since acquiring Auffrey, however they are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference with a record of 11-14-1-2. To their credit, Brampton is currently on a four-game winning streak.


Their right-winger’s fortunes have been a little brighter. After scoring just three goals and four points in his seven games with Kitchener, Auffrey was energized by the change of scenery and increased opportunity. In 17 games with Brampton, he’s tallied seven goals and 16 points along with 32 penalty minutes. However, his overall plus/minus of -10 is an example of the play of the team around him.

Matt Beleskey, LW, 18 – Belleville Bulls
Drafted 112th overall in the 4th round in 2006


After scoring 20 goals and 40 points last season, Beleskey is well on his way to blowing past those totals with solid play so far this year. He finds himself on a Belleville team that is atop the East Division and second in the Eastern Conference in the
OHL.


Second on his team in scoring, Beleskey’s totals are no doubt helped somewhat by the
strong team around him. That’s not to say that the Windsor native isn’t skilled in his own right. In 25 games, he’s lit the lamp 13 times and assisted on another 13 for 26 points, with a +4 and 46 penalty minutes. Seven of those goals were scored on the
power play, an important stat given that Belleville is in the bottom half of the league in power-play effectiveness, despite their success to date.

Bobby Bolt, LW, 19 – Kingston Frontenacs
Drafted 127th overall in the 5th round in 2005


In a situation similar to that of Matt Beleskey, Bolt is also breaking through this season, already surpassing his totals from last season and well on his way
to breaking through his career highs. However, like Beleskey, his emergence has as much to do with his natural development curve as it does with the environment around him. Kingston is one of the offensive forces in the OHL this year, although their record of 12-11-2-1 shows that as a team, they may not be as attentive in their own end.


In 25 games, Bolt has scored 11 goals, including five power-play markers and has a total of 20 points along with 33 penalty minutes and a -4. He is beginning to use his
6’3 frame more effectively and as a result, has been able to move up in the lineup to fill a more productive role compared to the checking line spot he found himself in last season.

John de Gray, D, 18 – Brampton Battalion
Drafted 83rd overall in the 3rd round in 2006


If goaltenders develop best when they see a lot of shots, are stay-at-home defensemen also nurtured by playing for a poor team? That’s the question to ask when discussing John
de Gray and the Brampton Battalion. Playing alongside of fellow prospect Auffrey,
de Gray is the captain of the struggling Battalion.


Seeing time in all 28 games so far this year, de Gray has scored a lone goal on the
power play and has a total of seven points and 36 penalty minutes. A telling stat however is his +6 plus/minus, tops for all Brampton players who are -28 overall as a team. The key defensive presence for the Battalion,
de Gray must not be happy with his team’s play on the penalty kill, which ranks second last in the league. Thankfully, Brampton has taken the
third fewest penalties in the league.

He was named to Team OHL to compete in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge, but due to the number of returning players for the Team Canada blue line, he’ll have to wait a season before getting any sort of shot at playing in the World Juniors.

Bobby Ryan, RW, 19 – Owen Sound Attack
Drafted 2nd overall in the 1st round in 2005


Anaheim’s top prospect is playing in what will probably be his last season in the
OHL. Starting the season as the captain of the Owen Sound Attack, Ryan has been at the helm of a team rife with inconsistency and having since been stripped of the “C’ just goes to show how their fortunes have gone this year. The Attack’s record stands at 14-11-0-2 which places them third in the Midwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference. It should be noted that their 106 goals scored are tied for third most in the conference.


Ryan has definitely contributed to that goals tally, adding 16 of his own, along with 24 helpers for 40 points in 25 games. These totals place him 17 points back from the lead at 12th in league scoring, as Ryan competes for the scoring championship for the third year in a row. His ten
power-play markers have helped place the Attack at sixth in the OHL in effectiveness with the man advantage.


Ryan’s play has improved dramatically after a bit of a slow start, by his standards and his next challenge will be helping the Attack gain ground on the other teams in the OHL, with or without a letter. He’ll also be expected to play a key role for Team USA at the World Junior tournament in Sweden.

WHL

Brett Festerling, D, 20 – Vancouver Giants
Signed as a free agent in 2005


One year later, different result. That’s the goal of Festerling and his Vancouver Giants this season. After winning the WHL championship rather handedly last year, the Giants were disappointing at the Memorial Cup and they are hoping for a much improved performance when they host the tournament next spring. So far, everything seems to be going to plan, with Vancouver atop the Western Conference and second in the league thanks to an impressive 21-2-2-2 record.


Festerling has embraced a larger role with the Giants in his fifth and final season in the WHL. Not only is he the team captain, but he is also one of the Vancouver’s top go-to guys on the defensive end of the game. However, he’s also getting a bigger chance at the other end of the ice then he has in previous years as well. In 25 games, he’s scored two goals and has seven points, along with 32 penalty minutes. He sees time on the top unit of the league’s second best penalty kill, as well as second unit time on the
power play, which is eighth in the league.

Brendan Mikkelson, D, 19 – Vancouver Giants
Drafted 31st overall in the 2nd round in 2005


New year, another chance. Unlike his teammate, Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson was watching from the stands when the Giants competed in the WHL Championships and the Memorial Cup. After being sidelined most of last season, the most notable being a severe knee injury, the Saskatchewan native is looking to rebound and make memories of his own in the CHL’s championship tournament.


The road to recovery is a long one, and Mikkelson spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year still reacquainting himself with the speed and flow of the game. In 25 games so far this season, he has scored 13 points, but curiously finds himself without a single goal. Mikkelson has also struggled a bit defensively with one of the only minus ratings, a -1 on a very strong team. He has seen plenty of
power-play time with seven of his assists coming with the man advantage.


Mikkelson will play for Team WHL during the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge. He was invited to the Team Canada summer camp, but his participation was limited as a part of his rehabilitation. As it stands, his chances of making Team Canada are slim, due to the number of returning blueliners for the squad. However, he could potentially find himself invited to the winter camp in early December.

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