Ducks Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By Joe Papp

Seven picks in the top three rounds of the 2008 draft helped Anaheim restock some of its system, but it still stands far behind other teams in terms of overall prospect pool.  Like all Top 20 lists, the rank was determined as a group effort by HF staff.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Jake Gardiner, D
2. Eric Tangradi, LW
3. Mark Mitera, D
4. Matt Beleskey, LW
5. Brian Salcido, D
6. Brendan Mikkelson, D
7. Eric O’Dell, C
8. Brett Festerling, D
9. Steven Kampfer, D
10. Brandon McMillan, LW/D
11. Logan MacMillan, LW
12. Nicolas Deschamps, LW
13. Justin Schultz, D
14. Mattias Modig, G
15. Sebastian Stefaniszin, G
16. Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G
17. Josh Brittain, LW
18. Marco Cousineau, G
19. Drew Miller, LW
20. Maxime Macenauer, C

1. Jake Gardiner, D
1st round, 17th overall, 2008

With the graduation of Bobby Ryan from the prospect ranks, Gardiner, 18, now takes over the top of the pack for Anaheim. He is an offensive defenseman capable of quarterbacking the power play. His recent switch from forward and his success as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin shows that he is a quick learner and has transitioned into a team leader in both stats — 17 points in 29 games, including two goals — and in the locker room.

At 181 lbs., the biggest transition for Gardiner to the pro ranks will be adjusting to the more physical element of the NHL. If he can fill his frame and continue to improve his defensive abilities, he should have no problem. His progress up to this point is encouraging, and Anaheim will have plenty of time to evaluate where he is at in his development.

2. Eric Tangradi, LW, 20
2nd round, 42nd overall, 2007

Philadelphia native Tangradi was a steal in the second round of the 2007 draft for Anaheim. Tangradi has had much success in the OHL with the Belleville Bulls with his solid defensive play and offensive ability. After averaging just over a point per game last season (60 points in 56 games), Tangradi has cleared his personal bests in every category. Currently, he is second in the OHL in scoring with 84 points in 51 games, including 38 goals.

At 6’4 and a hair over 220 lbs, Tangradi already has the size to be an effective power forward at the pro ranks, and he uses his size fully. He just turned 20 this month.

3. Mark Mitera, D
1st round, 19th overall, 2006

Mitera, at 6’3 and 213 lbs, has been a defensive force for the University of Michigan for the past three seasons. Unfortunately, as he was beginning his senior season, he suffered a tear of his ACL in his first game – a major blow for a player expected to be a leader this season.

Mitera will most likely begin his pro career in the AHL next season as he recovers from his knee injury. A return is expected soon as he looks to salvage his senior season.

With a tenacity for shutting down the opposing offense, Mitera could end up being a dominant player on an NHL blue line. While his offensive stats were solid last season – 23 points in 43 games – Anaheim will be happy if he becomes a defensive stalwart for them in the future.

4. Matt Beleskey, LW, 20
4th round, 112th overall, 2006

Beleskey, a rookie in the AHL, has been playing well and picking up points. In 36 games, he has 24 points and eight goals. On a points per game basis, this puts him top 20 among rookies in the AHL.  Known in juniors for being a tough, aggressive player, he’s continued that play as well as the scoring in the pros.

Beleskey has good NHL size at 6’0 and 207 lbs, and earned two games for Anaheim this season. With the state of the team, there is a good chance that many of the young players, including Beleskey, get a solid look for positions next season, but he’ll probably spend most of next season back with the Chops.

5. Brian Salcido, D, 23
5th round, 141st overall, 2005

Salcido, 23, recently picked up his first point in the NHL in his second game, assisting on a goal by Brendan Morrison. Picking up points is where Salcido excels, posting 51 points in 71 games during 2007-08 in the AHL, as well as 32 points in 54 games this season for the Chops (AHL).

Taken in the 2005 draft in the fifth round, that pick is starting to pay dividends. The offensive defenseman from Los Angeles will nedd to bear down defensively, as his -11 in Iowa was a team low. He will have to add to his frame and continue to work on his down-low game to succeed against NHL forwards, but the skill is certainly there.

6. Brendan Mikkelson, D, 21

2nd round, 31st overall, 2005

With one assist in 18 NHL games, Mikkelson is getting a strong look at the NHL level from the Ducks. He was scratched up until Feb. 20, when Anaheim brought him back into game action. In 27 games in Iowa, he had eight points and was -7. While he hasn’t put up the points at any pro level to this point, Mikkelson has great vision and plays a solid two-way game.

If he is unable to play physical, his offensive game suffers as well. He is a good puck mover and likes to start the rush, but has been playing too conservatively. With a little more confidence, we may be seeing Mikkelson regularly for Anaheim.

7. Eric O’Dell, C, 18

2nd round, 39th overall, 2008

While not described as a blazing speedster, O’Dell has been getting the job done for the Sudbury Wolves. In his second pro season, he has 58 points in 57 games, and is building on his rookie campaign where he was 15th in rookie scoring, yet only played in 26 games. His 30 goals are tied for the team lead. All of this has the young player rising in the rankings.

O’Dell possesses fantastic vision and good offensive instincts. Turning 19 this summer, he has another year of junior to go.

8. Brett Festerling, D
Signed as a free agent in 2005

Festerling has played in 37 games this season with Anaheim, picking up five assists and 16 penalty minutes. He currently is biding his time in Iowa, picking up six assists in 17 games, all while playing in important situations on special teams.

Festerling is a “safe” prospect – he plays solid defense, has a good head on his shoulders, and can make a good first pass. Every NHL team needs defensive depth and Festerling provides that. He has also propelled himself into the top 20 for Anaheim after being unranked last season.

9. Steven Kampfer, D
4th round, 93rd overall, 2007

Kampfer has been involved in some on-ice and off-ice incidents that have provided injuries and drama for the Michigan native, including an altercation on campus and a blindsided attack during a game after a clean hit.

Still the mobile defensive defenseman shines through on a nightly basis. Last season, he had 17 points in 42 games and has nine points in 18 games this season. He has improved to the point where he can be considered a solid future defenseman in the NHL.

10. Brandon McMillan, LW/D
3rd round, 85th overall, 2008

The 18-year-old British Columbia product McMillan is known for his leadership, speed, and work ethic. For the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, he recently accrued 41 points in 60 games, 11 fewer than it took him to reach that same mark in the 2007-08 campaign. 

Surprisingly, he’s been doing this primarily as a defenseman. The team needed a puckmover with Tyler Myers at the WJC and Tyson Barrie injured for a few games before Christmas. McMillan played defense as a pee wee, mentioned this to the Rockets coaching staff and they gave him a try. With all the offensive-minded forwards the club acquired at the WHL trade deadline, McMillan seems destined for the backend for now, where he most certainly will see more ice time.

It’s unclear whether he’ll remain at defense long term.  His tenacity and work ethic are strong.

11. Logan MacMillan, LW
1st round, 19th overall, 2007

Logan is the son of former NHL player Bob MacMillan, who played 11 seasons in the NHL. As a former first-round pick, isn’t showing that promise up to this point, and drops in the rankings. He was traded to Rimouski Oceanic from Halifax this season, and has put up 27 points in 36 games.

MacMillan is generally known for being a good two-way player, who can put a great shot on net, but be one of the first back on defense as well. At some point, he may need to decide to concentrate on defense to make it in the pros. He has shown promise (55 points in 68 games in 2006-07) but needs to get back on track.

12. Nicolas Deschamps, LW

2nd round, 35th overall, 2008

Deschamps virtually came out of nowhere to lead rookies in scoring at the QMJHL level in 2007-08 (67 points in 70 games, including 24 goals), and has continued to score this season, netting 22 goals and 33 assists for 55 points in 57 games.

The 6’2 Deschamps should make it to the NHL on talent alone. He possesses a good two-way game with a physical element. He needs to bulk up like most young players, and his rising stock will be up to him to nurture and develop.

13. Justin Schultz, D
2nd round, 43rd overall, 2008

Schultz, 18, is a defenseman in the vein of Scott Neidermeyer. He will have four years at the University of Michigan to hone his game.  For now he’s in the BCHL, where he’s tied for fourth in scoring by a defenseman with 50 points in 47 games.

The issue with Schultz will be his size. At 170 lbs, he is undersized. While his game is clearly joining the rush and providing offense from the back end, he has a good chance of losing a good deal of the physical battles he will face in the pro ranks, let alone the NCAA. The college route gives him time to work on his conditioning and defensive abilities.

14. Mattias Modig, G, 21

4th round, 121st overall, 2007

Modig is the first goalie to crack the top 20, but the low rank shows Anaheim’s lack of top-end goaltender prospects. Modig is in his third year in the SEL, putting up the best numbers ever for his hometown Lulea team. In 37 games, he’s posted a 2.13 GAA and .926 save percentage. He ranks second in the league in save percentage and third in goals-against.

An average-sized goalie at 6’1, he reads the play well and is calm in net.

15. Sebastian Stefaniszin, G, 22
4th round, 98th overall, 2007

Stefaniszin is in his first full year in the DEL, after working his way up from the junior and then farm teams. With the Iserlohn Roosters, he has a .903 save percentage and 3.34 GAA in 23 games, sharing time with veteran Norm Maracle.

16. Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G

7th round, 197th overall, 2005

Levasseur he has spent two years in the pro ranks, but hasn’t had a lot of success. His numbers as a player in the QMJHL were not very spectacular. He was drafted the latest of any Anaheim prospect on this Top 20 — in the seventh round in 2005. He is below-average in height for a goaltender at 6’0 and is currently playing for Iowa in the AHL, where he splits time with David LeNeveu.

Levasseur could be considered the most “ready” prospect to make that transition to the NHL, but Anaheim will need to stock the system with free agents in the summer.

17. Josh Brittain, LW

3rd round, 71st overall, 2008

Brittain may be one of the largest prospects in the system for the Ducks. At 6’5 and 209 lbs, he still has room to fill out his frame, and is doing so for the Barrie Colts in the OHL. Anaheim took Brittain in the third round of the 2008 draft, hoping he could become a solid power forward.

His size is already NHL ready, and now he will have time to work on his game. He could be one of the wildcards that could jump in the standings, depending on his development. With his soft hands, there is no telling how good of a player he may become.

18. Marco Cousineau, G, 19
3rd round, 83rd overall, 2008

Cousineau, also taken in the third round of the 2008 draft, cracks the top 20 for the Ducks. For two and a half seasons, he played for Baie-Comeau Drakkar. In 2007-08, his drafte year, he was 34-13-6, with a 2.81 goals against average, and a .903 save percentage.

He recently was traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs, and in 12 games has posted a 2.30 GAA and is 8-3-1. Where Cousineau sets himself apart is his work ethic – he hates to be beaten and is a tough competitor, which are two great qualities in any goaltender.

19. Drew Miller, LW, 25
6th round, 186th overall, 2003

Drew, the younger brother of Ryan Miller, has had cups of coffee for Anaheim several times in the past few seasons. His AHL numbers this year are solid, as the 6’2 New Jersey native has 34 points in 46 games for Iowa, playing on the power play and the penalty kill.

Miller’s game is strictly as a checking line center, and while he hasn’t been able to stick with the team yet, he’s a reasonable depth player. At age 25, he’s ending his tenure as a prospect.

20. Maxime Macenauer, C

3rd round, 63rd overall, 2007

Another player whose stock has dropped is the 6’0 Macenauer – injuries have plagued him while he has played in the QMJHL, as his best season came in 2007-08 when he posted 60 points in 67 games.

Macenauer has the vision and talent to be an NHL forward some day. His injuries have caused him to become a less effective player, and he needs to show he can stay healthy in juniors to make the leap to the pros.