New additions further strengthen the Anaheim Ducks Top 20 ranking

By Jason Lewis

John Gibson - Team USA

Photo: John Gibson had stellar showings for Team USA at the WJC, and as pictured here, in leading the U.S. to a shootout win over Finland for the bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championship (courtesy of JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks added several key prospects this off-season via drafting and trade. While the Ducks world was shaken by the trade of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, in return they received two tremendous pieces in Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen. They also added via draft Shea Theodore, Nick Sorensen, and Keaton Thompson. The addition of these talented players has caused a bit of a shuffle in the rankings, not due to poor play or a downgrade of potential, but simply due to an increase of quality players in the system.

The Ducks continue to add to a very strong system with many talents poised and ready to make the jump to the NHL. With an array of defenders, centers, wingers, and even goaltenders, the Ducks venture into 2013-14 with plenty of youth and fresh faces amongst the ranks.

1. (NR) Jakob Silfverberg, RW, 8.0C
Acquired via trade with Ottawa in July, 2013

In return for the trade with Bobby Ryan the Ducks landed one of the more promising Ottawa prospects in Jakob Silfverberg of Sweden. Silfverberg was a highly-touted prospect in his final years playing in the SHL, and was over a point-per-game player playing against grown men in the top-tier of Swedish hockey. His success as a shifty goal scoring winger almost immediately translated over to North American hockey with a a near point-per-game rookie start with the Binghamton Senators in the AHL. He had even further success with a 10-goal, 19-point rookie season with Ottawa.

It is clear that Silfverberg has been able to produce at every level thus far and it looks like he could be a top-six winger. He is a good skater and shows good two-way capability as well. He is not a creator of offensive play though, but rather a finisher. Paired with the right centerman Silfverberg could be a deadly scoring threat. While it must have been tough for the organization to part with Bobby Ryan, they got a player with at the least solid second line potential and possibly first at the highest of expectations in Jakob Silfverberg. He jumps right atop the Ducks top prospect chart, edging Gibson ever so slightly given that he has already had success in both the AHL and NHL. The only thing Silfverberg has to do now is do it on a consistent basis and continue to grow.

2. (2) John Gibson, G, 8.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, in 2011

Hard to imagine a system where John Gibson is second, but given the accolades at a higher level from Silfverberg, that is how it currently stands. However, that could change rather quickly in the next year. After a career of tremendous success in the OHL with Kitchener and at the international level with the USNTDP, Gibson will begin his career with Norfolk of the AHL.

His game will probably hit a few hiccups here and there as his style relies on reads and positioning over raw athleticism. With an increased speed to the game and a higher caliber of player facing him night in and night out Gibson will surely be tested early on. Gibson has faced similar challenges though in the World Championships with the USA where he was a complete and utter standout. In those five games he put up a .951 save percentage and a 1.56 goals against. You could say the real challenge here is an every day approach to the game and maintaining himself mentally and physically to the rigors of a pro season. With an already pretty impressive resumé in hand Gibson is just starting to crack into the big time. The Ducks have a decent tandem in the NHL for now so they can afford to sit on Gibson and allow him to adjust for a year or so. He has future number-one goaltender written all over him though.

3. (1) Emerson Etem, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 29th overall, in 2010

Etem had a rough go at the start of 2012-13 as he tried to find his feet and adjust to the speed of the pro game. He never quite got as comfortable as many hoped but he received a call up nonetheless. He played 38 games of a possible 48 during the regular season with Anaheim and accumulated 10 points. His real eye opening play though came in the post-season where he and his linemates of David Steckel and Matt Beleskey were a handful. He also logged time with now-graduated prospects Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri to some success. His five points in the seven-game series with Detroit was third on the team behind only Ryan Getzlaf and Francois Beauchemin.

Etem does a lot of things you have to like. He can score, he can hit, he can skate, and yes, he will even fight. The latter he showed earlier in the season when stepping up to Antoine Roussel (DAL) after a nasty hit on Palmieri. He plays that power forward game that can give opponents nightmares. He will likely hit his bumps in the road and he will have to fight to earn a spot and keep it, but Etem, at just 21 years old, has all the potential at this point to be a real impact player in the NHL. With a little more work on consistency, skating, and perhaps the defensive zone, which is already decent enough, Etem will be a key asset for the Ducks for many years. Boudreau has given him ample opportunities in all situations so far and you can expect that to continue at the open of the season.

4. (5) Hampus Lindholm, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 6th overall, in 2012

Every team needs a player like Hampus Lindholm. While he does not have quite the statistical value of a Sami Vatanen, nor does he have the true game-changing potential either, he is solid. He had a test in front of him at age 19 playing in the AHL, but the Swede looked like a professional. His comfort level and maturity is already tremendous for a player of his age. He makes a good first pass, carries the puck well, plays a strong physical game, and his reads are fantastic. Watching Lindholm play, you cannot really teach the sort of poise and calm he brings. It is almost as if the young defenseman has ice in his veins with the puck on his stick. He plays a smart game of percentages in many aspects, making low-risk passes and clearances, and positioning himself well against oncoming attackers. While his offensive upside looks a tad limited at this point, scoring just 11 points in 44 games with Norfolk in his rookie season, he is a complete player. It is not out of the question to think he gets a call up to the Ducks at least once during the year to see if that poise can translate already.

5. (4) Peter Holland, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, in 2009

Former first-round pick Peter Holland has a pivotal year in front of him. At age 22, he has put together two very solid years at the AHL, and he saw his first extended call-up to the NHL last season. He has the NHL size at around 6’2 and 190 pounds, he also has the intelligence. He plays well in both ends, can skate decent, and is not at all shy from physicality. If Holland truly wants to step forth in the NHL, he is going to have to ramp up his offensive numbers a bit. He had five points in 21 NHL games, mostly from the fourth line, so that is not a bad start. With increased usage though and more minutes, he will have to continue to find the net on a consistent basis. The nice thing about Holland is that with his skill set he can play anywhere in your bottom-six, and could potentially even play as a second line center. He has to take baby steps first though, and this year will be the first of many for the big Toronto native.

6. (3) Rickard Rakell, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, in 2011

Rakell played his last season with Plymouth of the OHL and will now join up with the Norfolk Admirals. He is another of many solid two-way forwards that the Ducks have had a penchant for drafting these last couple of seasons. He slips a little bit in the rankings compared to last time simply due to the addition of Jakob Silfverberg, and the steady next level contributions of Holland and Lindholm. Rakell has yet to move into the AHL realm and with success in that arena he will likely see himself back atop the rankings shortly.

The term “well-rounded” has probably been overused when describing the Duck system and the players within, but it is true yet again with Rakell. A consistent point-per-game player in the OHL, who was always a plus-rated player and an all-situations forward. He brings a scoring touch along with a responsible nature to his own end which should garner him a lot of use and minutes in the AHL. You could probably give him half a season or so to get adjusted properly but after that Rakell is likely to be one of the better and more valuable forwards in Norfolk this season.

7. (6) Sami Vatanen, D, 7.5C
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, in 2009

Vatanen, after an AHL All-Star caliber rookie season, continues to be one of the best offensive options on the blue line currently playing in the AHL. His puck-moving ability is off the charts, as his is utility in a powerplay situation. He had 45 points in 62 AHL games last season and was one of the leading scorers on Norfolk. He stands to improve  a lot in his own end, and his size at 5’10 makes him a liability as well. He can get out-muscled around on the end walls pretty easily and has trouble battling with much bigger and tougher opponents. Give Vatanen credit though, he knows his strengths and he plays to them very well. He jumps into the play at key times, is a tremendous skater, and sees the offensive side of the puck very well. Over time he could perhaps touch up his defensive game, but with the offensive force he brings, you will take the good with the bad.

8. (NR) Shea Theodore, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, in 2013

Theodore reads somewhere in between Lindholm and Vatenen in his skill set, which works out very nicely for the Ducks. First off he is big at 6’2, but he could still pack on some muscle weighing in at a rather light 180 pounds. He is a great skater and has some of the best pure offensive hockey IQ you will see. He came up with 50 points in his second full season with Seattle of the WHL, including an impressive 19 goals. The offense and powerplay of Seattle essentially ran through Theodore at times last season. His defensive play needs a lot of work, much like Vatanen, but he does not have the smallish frame to contend with. If he can get better on the defensive side of the puck Theodore is everything you want in a defenseman. He is a bit of a risky play at 26th overall, but it could reap a very high reward.

9. (NR) Stefan Noesen, RW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Ottawa in July, 2013

Along with the addition of Silfverberg in the Bobby Ryan trade, the Ducks picked up Stefan Noesen, who in his own right is a very good prospect. Noesen quickly became the key player on a Plymouth team that saw Tyler Seguin (DAL) once lead the charge. Noesen stepped in capably after Seguin's departure, scoring at over a point-per-game pace in his last three junior seasons, including a 2011-12 which saw him rack up 82 points in what was nearly a 40-goal, 40-assist campaign in 63 games. He diverts from the normal Anaheim Duck mold being that he is not a nasty physical forward, but rather a smooth skating offensive contributor. That is not to say that Noesen is an easy player to play against or a weak physical player. He stands at 6’1, 205 pounds and is not afraid to battle. He is versatile and will be able to make his living in many roles in a top-nine. How much of his offensive prowess translates to the AHL and beyond will likely dictate where he consistently suits up in the depth chart in the future.

10. (7) Nicolas Kerdiles, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall, in 2012

Kerdiles will slowly be morphing into the role of the main guy on the Wisconsin Badgers squad. Last year he was second in scoring to Michael Mersch (LAK) by just three points despite playing 10 fewer games. He is a gifted offensive forward and will be a part of a very strong University of Wisconsin team next season. It will be interesting to see how Kerdiles handles the role of being a leader next season and beyond. He is still just 19, and if his freshman campaign is any indication, he is going to be one of the best NCAA players by the end of his career there. His fall in the rankings comes only because the addition of Noesen, Slifverberg, and Theodore. Kerdiles is still arguably one of the most intriguing prospects in the Ducks system with a very high upside.

11. (8) William Karlsson, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, in 2011

Karlsson had a great first year with HV71 in what is now the SHL, and took away the Rookie of the Year Award. He signed an entry-level deal with the Ducks in May but could still be a loan player over to Sweden for at least another year. He has been playing against full grown men in the SHL to some success already, and that has been a path that has benefited many players like the Kings’ Anze Kopitar and other Duck prospect Jakob Silfverberg. It is a risk to play in Sweden over the AHL but if Karlsson continues to have great seasons like last one, it is probably not a bad idea. It will only help improve his confidence. That being said the Ducks would probably like to have Karlsson move over to the AHL as soon as possible and start adjusting to the North American pro game.

12. (9) Devante Smith-Pelly, LW, 6.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, in 2010

The realistic expectations for Devante Smith-Pelly have come down a bit after his initial surprise jump to the NHL. He had a very solid and hard-working season in the AHL this year potting 32 points in 65 games. He has a long way to go in the defensive game though and needs to work on his skating. While he looked like a prospective second line winger at one time time, the realistic expectation is a solid complimentary top-nine player who could contribute above average offensive numbers. The only thing holding back his utility is the defensive game. If he could work out some kinks in that end and mold into a better penalty killer it would only further his potential and usefulness at the next level.

13. (10) Antoine Laganiere, C, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent in April, 2013

The Ducks won a nice prize in the NCAA free agent market post NCAA Tournament. They signed Steven Whitney, but also laid claim to power forward and 2013 Champion Yale product Antoine Laganiere. He is a big body at 6'4 and he uses it capably. He put up a respectable 85 points in his 122 game NCAA career, 46 of which were goals. He will get into the dirty areas of the ice and also plant himself square in front of the net. He has a huge step in front of him now as he will have to compete for ice time in the AHL with Norfolk. His stock is certainly one that could shoot up if he can translate his useful crash and bang style to the Admirals successfully. 

14. (NR) Nick Sorensen, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, in 2013

Despite a pretty serious knee injury to Sorensen in 2011-12 he remained a highly-rated draft pick, which is very impressive. He recovered well and kept his stock high enough. Who knows, perhaps if he stayed healthy Sorensen could have squeaked into the first round. Regardless of that, the 18-year-old had a very good 2012-13 with Quebec of the QMJHL and continues to be a very hard-nosed and gritty battler up front. He has all the markings of a good role player some day. He has some above average offensive skills and is a great skater, how much of that offensive upside translates is hard to gauge at this point though. Regardless he has the work ethic to be an effective top-nine player.

15. (14) Kevin Roy, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, in 2012

Roy led the Huskies in both points and goal scoring in 2012-13 with 17 goals and 34 points. While he does not have the size you may want out of a top prospect forward, he is very slick and does a great job holding onto the puck and making great passes. He can act as both an effective sniper or playmaker. The one thing that seems to hold Roy back is obviously his size. At 5’10 and 170 pounds, he lacks true effectiveness in the defensive end simply because he is not big enough to deal with bigger and stronger competition. He has a ton of offensive potential though and that alone carries him into the top-15 for the Ducks. Boom-or-bust potential with Roy is very high. He could be a true steal as a fourth round pick if he can turn his defensive game into something serviceable along with maintaining the offensive force.

16. (12) Max Friberg, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall, in 2011

While Friberg looked decent enough playing for Timrå in the SHL last season, he will remain a question mark until he makes his way over to North America and gets going in the AHL. He is going to be doing so starting in the fall of 2013, so a lot of questions will start to get answered. On the surface, Friberg brings an attitude of an undersized two-way forward who despite being smallish accepts and embraces the physical game. He is only 5’10 but is close to 200 pounds, so he is built like a rock. He shows limited offensive upside but has a grinding mentality that could be very useful in a bottom-six role if he can handle the physicality. He also has a bit of a boom or bust feel to him, and moving forward he could see a sharp decline or increase in his potential in the very near future.

17. (15) Frederik Andersen, G, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, in 2012

Andersen might have been the savior of Norfolk last season in the AHL. The team did not make the playoffs, but they were way closer than they should have been with a team that ranked in the bottom five teams in the league in goal scoring. The collapse of Igor Bobkov allowed Andersen to rise to prominence seemingly out of the blue. While he was a third round pick and posted very good numbers in the SHL, few saw Andersen taking the reins of the Norfolk Admirals this quickly. He posted a .929 save percentage and a 2.19 goals against average in his rookie season in the AHL. While the 23-year old Dane has a real feel-good story to him being a re-draftee, he is looking over his shoulder now and seeing the Mac Truck that is John Gibson closing in on him. Next season he will have to duke it out with the highly-rated goaltender for starting time with Norfolk. It should be a good battle and hopefully the challenge raises the level of play of both goaltenders. It is a great problem to have.

18. (13) Andy Welinski, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall, in 2011

At this point Welinski has to be looking ahead of him a bit and seeing a draft choice like Shea Theodore as a wake-up call. He is already behind the very talented Europeans Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm and now there is another young gun to compete with. Welinski brings similar skills as a puck-moving two-way defenseman and he has all the tools to compete with those further up the depth chart. The Minnesota boy is still very raw though and has to progress in the NCAA for at least another two seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Hopefully, with a good 2013-14, he can continue to stay relevant in the Ducks system, which is starting to load up on defensive talent.

19. (11) Steven Whitney, C, 7.0D
Signed as a free agent in April, 2013

Whitney had a final season of NCAA hockey that was filled with accolades like the Walter Brown Award and an All-American Team nomination, however he is still a bit of a wildcard in terms of where he fits in. He is very skilled offensively, but again the size at 5’7 is potentially going to break him. He has tried throughout his career to engage in the physicality of the game in an effort to prove he can handle it, which has honestly gotten the nod from many scouts. His effort is noteworthy but it is hard to ignore his stature. He is still a mouth-watering prospect though when you watch him work the offensive zone and command a powerplay. A total of 26 goals and 45 points in NCAA is phenomenal stuff in all honesty. If he can come close to putting up comparable numbers in the AHL as a sort of powerplay and offensive specialist people might for once forget about his size. His work is definitely cut out for him though.

20. (NR) Keaton Thompson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, in 2013

Rounding off the Ducks Top 20 is newly-drafted defenseman Keaton Thompson. A product of the USNTDP, Thompson is a sound, all-around defenseman who plays a very safe game on both sides of the puck. He does not have that flash in either offense or defense but he can provide a solid game on either side of the puck. He is a welcomed addition to the Ducks defensive prospect pool, as several of the prospects outside of Lindholm have an offensively oriented skill set. Thompson is going to attend the University of North Dakota in the fall, and he should also take every opportunity of working with Scott Niedermayer in the Ducks organization, whom he could model himself after as a smallish defenseman who was great on both sides of the puck.

Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter: @SirJDL

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