Crop of wingers the main strength in the Anaheim Ducks Top 20

By Devon Cordell

Kyle Palmieri - Anaheim Ducks

Photo: Anahiem Ducks prospect Kyle Palmieri moved closer to becoming a full-time NHL player in the 2011-12 season, a season that included being chosen to participate at the 2012 AHL All-Star Game (courtesy of Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)


The Anaheim Ducks once again bolstered their organizational depth and addressed team needs with eight selections at the 2012 NHL Draft. Five of the picks from that draft will be featured in this ranking, with Hampus Lindholm leading the newest recruits to the Ducks' organization.

1. (1) Kyle Palmieri, RW, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2009

Palmieri is the best of many future top-six wingers in the Ducks organization. He is a high-end puckhandler with great speed and an even better release. Those skills allow him to show off his creative playmaking ability even when skating into traffic or under pressure in the attacking zone.

Palmieri will need to improve his strength to dominate at the NHL level, but little else is holding him back from being a productive NHL player. He should have a spot on the Ducks roster heading into camp after what he did with opportunities on the first and third lines towards the end of the 2011-12 season. If he continues to play well at the NHL level to start the season, he will likely seal a lineup spot for his first full year with the Ducks.

2. (2) Emerson Etem, RW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 29th overall, 2010

Etem is the second of three potential first-line right wingers in the Ducks organization. He plays a fearless game and will fight his way into any area of the ice if it means there will be a scoring opportunity for him, a trait not often found in players possessing Etem's skill. The 20-year-old winger possesses a very similar skill-set to Kyle Palmieri with great foot speed, a tremendous release, and good puckhandling ability.

Etem will need to improve his strength and defensive game before making the jump to the NHL level. He should get the opportunity to do so in a scoring role with Anaheim's new AHL affiliate in Norfolk this season. If all goes well, he should be a top-six forward in the NHL by the 2014-15 season at the latest.

3. (5) Sami Vatanen, D, 7.5C
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2009

Vatanen might be the best selection made by the Ducks organization over the past few years, and also their fastest-rising prospect with good reason. Vatanen plays a very similar game to that of former Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who was traded to the Islanders during the 2012 NHL Draft. He possesses high-end puckhandling ability, great skating, spectacular vision, and a rocket of a shot from the blue line, especially considering he is only 5’9”. Vatanen possesses all the traits that teams look for in a power-play quarterback.

While Vatanen’s offensive game is already good enough to score at the NHL level, his defensive game and strength need to show notable improvement before he sees NHL ice. His defensive game is not bad considering his size, but that area should improve with added strength. Vatanen will likely spend the 2012-13 season in the AHL, but may get a taste of the NHL over the course of the year.

4. (7) Rickard Rakell, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2011

Rakell registered his first point-per-game season with 62 points in 60 games with the Plymouth Whalers in 2011-12. His most notable improvement was in his play around the net, which included adding more strength and improving on his already great hands. He plays a game very similar to that of Corey Perry with good speed, vision, size, a hard shot, and great hands.

Rakell will return to the OHL for another season, playing with a very strong Plymouth team. As long as his development progresses as it should, he should have no problem scoring at least 70 points next season. Assuming all goes well and his two-way game continues to improve, he will likely join Norfolk for the 2013-14 season.

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

Holland’s game has developed as planned in Syracuse so far. He is coming off a great 2011-12 season where he totaled 60 points in 71 AHL games and netted a goal for Anaheim during his four games with the big club. For a player as big and strong as he is, Holland has good hands, a powerful shot, and decent speed. He is also versatile and can play any spot on the power play, although he is best-suited at center.

Holland will definitely get a shot to crack the Ducks roster for the 2012-13 season, but will have a spot in Norfolk if he fails to make the NHL roster. With continued AHL success, another look at the NHL is likely this season even if it is in a fourth-line role. He is close to being NHL-ready and it is only a matter of time before he joins the Ducks on a permanent basis.

6. (4) Devante Smith-Pelly, LW, 7.0B
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2010

Smith-Pelly impressed everyone over the course of the 2011-12 season by holding down a roster spot with the Ducks straight out of junior hockey. He tallied seven goals and six assists for 13 points with the Ducks over a 49-game season that was shortened due to an injury suffered at the WJC. At his best in front of the net, he possesses a very good snap shot, decent speed, and puckhandling ability. He may not have a ton of offensive potential, but it will be clear as to what he can provide as far as scoring punch goes after another season or two with Anaheim.

Smith-Pelly will rejoin the Ducks for 2012-13, likely beginning in a third-line role with a chance to move up if Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau decides to stick him with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry again to balance out the scoring lines. His production will decide what line he plays on in the future, but all signs point towards him being an NHL player for years to come.

7. (NR) Hampus Lindholm, D,  7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 6th overall, 2012

Lindholm is an excellent skater, with an explosive first few strides. He is a good puckhandler and looks effortless when starting a breakout. He is not afraid to rush with the puck, but will in most cases make the safe outlet pass and follow the play up ice. Defensively, Lindholm is very sound. He is not afraid to play a physical game and is poised with or without the puck. He has the potential to become a top-four NHL defenseman with good offensive upside.

Lindholm is expected to debut at Anaheim's training camp, but he is likely to spend the 2012-13 season playing out the final year of his contract in Sweden. He should see more ice time with Rogle BK, which earned a promotion to the Swedish Elite League this season, if he returns to Sweden. Another year at the pro level overseas would give Lindholm the opportunity to prepare himself to play in North America for the 2013-14 season, either with Anaheim or Norfolk.

8. (8) William Karlsson, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2011

Karlsson plays a fast, two-way game, as evidenced by his performance for Sweden at the WJC. He sees the ice well and is very good offensively. He tallied 45 points in 46 games with Vasteras IK during the 2011-12 season while playing against men in Sweden's second-tier league, the Allsvenskan. While he is not quite NHL-ready from a physical standpoint, he projects as a second-line center that can make an impact at both ends of the ice.

Karlsson will attempt to transition full-time to the Swedish Elite League with HV71, likely joining the Ducks organization in Anaheim or Norfolk for the 2013-14 season. His development over the course of the upcoming year will determine whether or not he is ready for a stint with Anaheim the following year.

9. (6) John Gibson, G, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, 2011

Gibson is coming off his first OHL season in which he posted a .928 save percentage, 2.75 goals against average, and 21-10-0 record for the Kitchener Rangers. He has good size and rebound control. Gibson is also very good at covering the bottom half of the net and has a good glove hand. An efficient goaltender, he positions himself well and is able to quickly move post-to-post.

Gibson will rejoin the Rangers for at least one more season, looking to increase his workload before his eventual transition to the pro game. The Ducks have great organizational depth in goal and will not rush Gibson’s development process.

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

Drafted out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Kerdiles played in 18 USHL games and tallied four goals and 13 points. He is a smart, two-way forward who possesses good physicality and puckhandling ability. Already 6’2” and 191 pounds at the age of 18, size should not be an issue for him moving forward.

Kerdiles will go to the University of Wisconsin for the 2012-13 season, joining a program that has developed several NHL players in recent years. The Ducks exceptional organizational depth on the wing will give him time to develop at his own pace with the Badgers and he is likely three to four years from the pro ranks.

11. (9) Max Friberg, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall, 2011

Friberg is coming off his first season in the SEL where he tallied 10 points in 48 games with Timra IK as an 18-year-old. He also played a big role for Sweden’s U-20 team at the WJC and was named to the tournament All-Star team, posting nine goals and two assists in six games en route to Sweden capturing the gold medal. Friberg works hard and uses his exceptional speed on the forecheck to cause trouble for defenders. He is a very good puckhandler and has a knack for scoring big goals.

All signs point towards Friberg rejoining Timra IK for the 2012-13 season where he will continue to play against men and adapt to the pro game. It is possible that he plays another two seasons in the SEL as Anaheim’s farm system will not have much ice time to spread around.

12. (10) Andy Welinski, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall, 2011

Welinski was a surprising selection in 2011, even in the third round. However, his numbers almost tripled in his post-draft season with the Clark Cup champion Green Bay Gamblers in 2011-12. He tallied 37 points in 54 regular season games and earned the USHL's Defenseman of the Year award for his efforts. Welinski is a very good skater, rock-solid defender, and possesses a booming slap shot.

He is a two-way defender who will look to improve all aspects of his game when he heads to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2012-13 season. Still a raw prospect, four years at a program as strong as Minnesota-Duluth will give him plenty of time to round out his game. He has the potential to develop into a top-four defenseman at the NHL level, but Anaheim can be patient with the likes of Vatanen and Lindholm ahead of him in the system.

13. (17) Igor Bobkov, G, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2009

Following a rough start to his OHL career in London in 2010-11, Bobkov went from a top junior team in London to one of the league's bottom-feeders in Kingston. While his numbers may not have shown it, Bobkov improved with Kingston while being able to increase his workload to 58 games. He posted a .902 save percentage and 3.64 goals against average for the Frontenacs, a team which ranked second to last in the OHL with 290 goals against.

A 6'4” frame is one of the many things to like about Bobkov's game at this stage of his career. He gives opponents nothing to shoot at down low and positions himself well so that he is tough to beat up high as well. The 21-year-old goaltender has decent hand speed, and because of his size, is able to move post-to-post relatively well.

Bobkov had two good stints with the Syracuse Crunch following each of his OHL seasons. With Syracuse in the 2011-2012 season, he posted a 2-1-1 record with a 2.68 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He will look to build off that next year with the organization's new AHL affiliate in Norfolk.

14. (12) Chris Wagner, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 122nd overall, 2010

Wagner made great strides over the course of his second ECAC season with Colgate University. He had a breakout season and posted 51 points in 38 games, showing that he has the tools of an NHL-caliber prospect. He is a strong skating two-way forward who can play in a skill role or in the physical game depending on the situation. He is also great on faceoffs despite primarily lining up at right wing. He led Colgate with 34 assists and 69 penalty minutes in 2011-12.

Wagner signed a pro contract with Anaheim over the summer, opting out of his final two years at Colgate. He is still developing as a two-way player but should see ice time with Norfolk to begin his adjustment to the pro game.

15. Radoslav Illo, C, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 136th overall, 2009

The Slovakian-born center Radoslav Illo began his North American career in 2008 with two productive seasons with the USHL's Tri-City Storm. He did not immediately translate that success to the college level, but he took a step in the right direction as a sophomore at Bemidji State. Playing in an expanded role, his production more than doubled in 2011-12 as he totaled seven goals and 17 points in 30 games.

The 22-year-old Illo will return for another year at Bemidji State where he stands to see an increased role if he can continue playing with confidence and producing chances. He should continue to work on his skating, puckhandling, and becoming a stronger, more physical center. Despite not having great upside, Illo’s work ethic and dedication to improving his game could eventually land him in a bottom-six role in the NHL.

16. (13) Matt Clark, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2009

Clark is a shutdown defenseman whose game has continued to improve since he was drafted in the second round in 2009. He has never provided much offensively, nor does he project to score a lot, but his defensive abilities and the nasty side to his game all but assure him a job in the NHL down the road. He is a very strong and physical defenseman who excelled with Syracuse in the 2011-12 season and even earned a two-game stint with Anaheim.

Clark does not have a lot more to improve on before making the jump to the NHL. His defensive awareness and physical play should translate well to the big club, but he could just as easily play another season in the AHL.

17. (20) Joseph Cramarossa, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2011

Cramarossa is a strong, physical center who shows a relentless effort level on a nightly basis. While he does not project to provide much offensively in the NHL, his size, physicality, and defensive game make him well-suited to a checking role. Cramarossa split the 2011-12 season between Mississauga and Belleville,  totaling 27 points in 44 games between the two stops.

Cramarossa would be eligible to play in the AHL for Norfolk for the upcoming season where he could skate on a checking line and on the penalty kill, or he may return for an over-age season in Belleville. Although he may take some time to learn the pro game in the AHL, Cramarossa has the potential to develop into an NHL regular who can provide a physical, defensive game.

18. (NR) Kevin Roy, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2012

Roy already showcased his offensive brilliance since being drafted while playing on the fourth line of Canada’s team in the recent Canada-Russia Challenge. He is a high-end puckhandler who has a very strong first few steps and a good top speed. Although he does not possess the ideal size for an NHL center, it should not hold him back if he can add strength. Roy has a goal-scorer's touch, but is not selfish and is equally capable of giving up the puck as he is taking the shot himself.

Roy backed out of his commitment to Brown and will join Northeastern this fall. Joining Northeastern in Hockey East will provide Roy with a much higher level of competition and give him the opportunity to play a big role while continuing to fill out and develop his play at both ends of the ice.

19. (NR) Frederik Andersen, G, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2012

Andersen was originally drafted in the 7th round by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010, but then re-entered the 2012 NHL Draft when no agreement was reached with the Carolina organization. Andersen spent the 2011-12 season with Vasta Frolunda HC in the SEL, his first season outside of Denmark. He led the SEL during the regular season with both his .943 save percentage and 1.62 goals against average in 39 games with the club. Andersen is a very big goalie who uses his size and positions himself well to take up a majority of the net. He possesses good athletic ability and decent rebound control.

Andersen is still somewhat of a raw prospect, and he does not have a lot of experience against a high level of competition. The 22-year-old goalie is expected to compete for the back-up job in Anaheim, but could return to Frolunda or accept an assignment to Norfolk if the NHL season is pushed back.

20. (NR) Andrew O’Brien, D, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2012

O’Brien went undrafted in 2011, but the Ducks selected the 19-year-old defenseman 108th overall at the 2012 NHL Draft thanks in part to his increased production, 6'3” frame, and nastiness that he brought to each game with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. The blueliner tallied 29 points, eight of which were goals, 95 penalty minutes, and a +2 rating over 68 games in the 2011-12 season.

O’Brien is no stranger to perseverance, as he also went undrafted in the OHL before signing in the QMJHL with Chicoutimi and finally working his way into the league at the age of 18. He will need to continue to persevere, as he needs to improve his decision-making and foot speed if he wants to have a shot at the pro level. O'Brien has another year or two of junior hockey to improve those areas, but he could be working his way onto Norfolk’s roster in the AHL in the next two to three seasons.