Mighty Ducks Top 20 prospects

By Kevin Forbes

It’s been an off-season of change for the prospect pipeline of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Fourteen players formerly considered prospects by Hockey’s Future have now moved on for a variety of reasons. Ranging from non-tendered contract offers to age restraints
to a trade, seven of those 14 who left the system were top 20 ranked players. With the inclusion of four players from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, this edition of Anaheim’s top 20 looks very different in appearance compared to the last release in January. It also features a new top prospect for the first time in almost two years.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Bobby Ryan, RW
2. Ryan Getzlaf, C
3. Ladislav Smid, D
4. Corey Perry, RW
5. Brendan Mikkelson, D
6. Tim Brent, C
7. Jordan Smith, D
8. Shane O’Brien, D
9. Shane Hynes, RW
10. Vladimir Korsunov, D
11. Aaron Rome, D
12. Curtis Glencross, LW
13. Nathan Saunders, D
14. Joel Perrault, C
15. J-P Levasseur, G
16. Dustin Penner, LW
17. Pierre Parenteau, RW
18. Kyle Klubertanz, D
19. Drew Miller, LW
20. Brian Salcido, D

The Top 20 ranking is based on long-term impact on the hockey club and is not a reflection of who is closest to making the NHL. Players are assigned a grade per HF Criteria. Other factors that help determine ranking order to varying degrees include: player age, draft position, current league and team quality, location (North America or Europe) and foreseeable opportunity.

Key: Rank (former rank), name, position – age

1. (NR), Bobby Ryan, RW – 18
Grade: 8.5C, Projection: First line power forward
Bobby Ryan makes his top 20 debut at the head of the list. The second pick in the 2005 draft, Ryan is a combination of size and skill that is so valued in the game today. He will be a welcome change for an Anaheim team that too often found themselves pushed around on the ice and unable to put the puck in the net. He’s the face of the new Ducks under the reign of
GM Brian Burke. Ryan will no doubt return to the OHL this year, where he will again contend
in the league’s scoring race. Anaheim will take it slow with the young American, as power forwards usually take longer to put their games together.

2. (1), Ryan Getzlaf, C – 20
Grade: 8.0B, Projection: Top six forward
Getzlaf could soon end his time on the Mighty Ducks top 20 as the No. 2 prospect. After almost two years as the Ducks top prospect, Anaheim’s 2003 first round selection has the NHL firmly in his sights. Although last season wasn’t without its bumps, Getzlaf has done nothing to show that he isn’t ready for a spot in the big leagues. Anaheim no doubt found it much easier to move players like Steve Rucchin and Mike Leclerc for cap purposes when they have someone like Getzlaf knocking on the door. While time in Portland would do no harm, Getzlaf will for a top six spot with the Mighty Ducks.

3. (2), Ladislav Smid, D – 19
Grade: 8.0B, Projection: Top pairing blueliner
Like the player directly above him in the top 20, Ladislav Smid is pushing hard for a roster spot in the NHL. A three-year entry level contract that he signed this off-season only puts him one step closer. Smid has spent the past two seasons playing alongside men in the Czech Senior League and should not require any minor league seasoning. Since Anaheim last played a game, Niclas Havelid and Mark Popovic have been dealt away and Martin Skoula and Kurtis Foster have been released, leaving plenty of room for Smid to step in.

4. (3), Corey Perry, RW – 20
Grade: 8.5C, Projection: Top six forward
It would be hard to argue that Corey Perry could have had a better 2004-05 season. An OHL scoring lead, a member of the top team in the CHL, a Memorial Cup MVP win and a World Junior gold medal highlight only some of the accolades that were heaped onto Anaheim’s second 2003 first round selection. Perry showed plenty of offensive dominance during his time in the junior leagues, now he just needs to prove that those skills can transfer to the pro game. His skating is still a concern, and he may not get as much room on the ice as he has enjoyed previously. Perry should see some time in the minors to begin with, but he could get a look at the NHL level this year.

5. (NR), Brendan Mikkelson, D – 18
Grade: 7.0C, Projection: Second pairing blueliner
The key word when considering Brendan Mikkelson is potential. At first glance, his 15 points in 70 games and his merely decent defensive play are nothing awe-inspiring. But the general consensus is that Mikkelson has the tools to become a very good defender. His skating and puck handling skills are arguably already at the NHL level. Meanwhile he needs to add strength to be able to play the game with a bit more grit and he needs the confidence to take the puck and attack. He will have plenty of opportunity to develop in Portland this year, where he will be called upon to be one of their top defensemen after the departure of Braydon Coburn.

6. (7), Tim Brent, C – 21
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Two-way forward
Tim Brent’s professional debut is probably something he would rather forget. He missed 20 games with an ankle injury and posted 18 points in the 46 games he did play. His play in the playoffs was uninspired and he posted just 1 assist in 12 games. However there is good news, Brent was an impressive +7 during the regular season and he’ll be a lock for a spot on the top two lines in Portland this upcoming year. Plenty of ice time and keeping healthy will go a long way towards bringing his offensive
output in line with his defensive contributions.

7. (11), Jordan Smith, D – 19
Grade: 6.5B, Projection: Second pairing blueliner
Despite being drafted in the 2004 Entry Draft, Jordan Smith has played his last game of junior hockey and is moving onto the pro game. Smith signed a three-year entry level deal this summer after leading the Sault-Ste. Marie Greyhounds defense in scoring with 32 points in 64 games and being named an OHL second-team all-star. He capped that off by joining the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks for their playoff run, where he played five regular season games and nine playoff contests switching time between both the blue line and the forward corps. An alternate captain in the OHL, Smith will bring his hard-nosed style to Portland this fall.

8. (12), Shane O’Brien, D – 21
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Second pairing blueliner
O’Brien continued to improve in his sophomore year in the AHL. Having already showed his physical two-way play during his first year, the Ontario native stepped it up a notch last season. Not only did he improve his offensive contributions by 15 points, scoring 5 goals and 25 points in 77 games, he also led all Cincinnati players with 319 penalty minutes, good enough for sixth in the league. O’Brien is a force to be reckoned with, and this year he’ll be asked to lead the Portland defense. He could be better served by
reining in his game a bit and spending less time in the box and more time on the ice.

9. (18), Shane Hynes, RW – 21
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Third line power forward
Shane Hynes was a surprise signing this summer. Entering his senior year at Cornell University, he chose instead to leave the Big Red and sign with the Ducks. In 33 games, Hynes scored seven goals and had 28 points, second on the team. He plays a tough, gritty game and has the potential to be a power forward, although he is a bit of a playmaker as well. Hynes will be challenging for a spot on a scoring line in Portland and like Glencross and Penner before him, he’ll have
to adapt to the longer schedule.

10. (10), Vladimir Korsunov, D – 22
Grade: 6.5C, Projection: Second pairing blueliner
If nothing more, the new CBA will force Anaheim’s hand when deciding the future of Vladimir Korsunov. A fourth round selection in 2001, Korsunov has been playing hard-nosed hockey for Spartek Moscow. Last season, he put up his best season stats wise with four goals and eleven points in RSL action, although his plus/minus dropped from an eye popping +45 the previous year to a -9. Some of that drop can be attributed to the team’s move from the Russian Upper League to the Russian Super League, as well as the increased level of competition due to the NHL lockout. With the new rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Anaheim will continue to
hold Korsunov’s rights until next summer.

11. (16), Aaron Rome, D – 21
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Third pairing blue liner
After being unable to sign a deal with the Los Angeles Kings, the team that drafted him, Aaron Rome looks to one day show them the error of their ways. In his rookie season in the AHL, Rome was remarkably solid at both ends of the ice. He put up a respectable 16 points in the regular season, but it was the playoffs when he really showed what he was capable of. In 12 playoff games, Rome scored three goals and had six points to lead all Cincinnati defensemen in scoring. He’ll be counted on to be one of the top blueliners this year in Portland, but if his postseason coming out party is any indication, he is more then prepared.

12. (14), Curtis Glencross, LW – 22
Grade: 6.5C, Projection: Third line forward
It was a bit of a trying year for Curtis Glencross. After an impressive debut with Cincinnati at the end of the 2003-04 season and again as a member of Anaheim’s rookie team in September, expectations were high for the former Alaska-Anchorage player. A number of injuries hobbled his year, and like most former college players, he seemed to have trouble with the longer schedule. Glencross has shown that he can dominate the game, now he needs to show that he can bring that effort consistently. Glencross will look to stay healthy this year and will fight for a spot in Portland’s top six.

13. (16), Nathan Saunders, D – 20
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Third pairing blueliner
After four years with the Moncton Wildcats, Saunders is graduating to the pro leagues. He signed a three-year deal this summer and will play in Portland this year. Saunders was the jack of all trades in Moncton this year, serving as their leader on the blue line as well as being top on the team in plus/minus and penalty minutes. He posted 28 points in 70 games, down slightly from the previous year, due to a more controlled style of play from a young Moncton defense. Saunders will look to have an impact in Portland similar to what Shane O’Brien and Aaron Rome did in their first years.

14. (9), Joel Perrault, C – 22
Grade: 6.0B, Projection: Third line forward
Entering the 2004-05 season, Perrault was looking to improve on a strong rookie campaign and take another step towards challenging for an NHL job. What followed was anything but what he hoped for. Perrault found himself fighting for playing time with a number of players who would have been in the NHL. Injuries also were a frustration, as he played only 51 games and missed all the playoffs with a concussion. That being said, Perrault did was able to match his totals from his rookie year in 14
fewer games. He will need to establish himself early and stay healthy to succeed this year. Finding regular ice time will not be any easier then it was the previous season, so Perrault will need to move beyond his disappointing sophomore year quickly.

15. (NR), Jean-Phillipe Levasseur, G – 18
Grade: 7.0C, Projection: Starting goaltender
Levasseur went from being projected as a consensus first round pick to actually getting selected in the beginning of the final round at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. A poor showing at the Top Prospects game coupled with being stuck behind a veteran Q goaltender for the second half of the year led to his downfall. The true potential of Levasseur will probably end up somewhere in between. He showed plenty of promise on a Huskies team that wasn’t always defensively sound and putting up those results all year long while holding down the starting job is the next step.

16. (NR), Dustin Penner, LW – 22
Grade: 6.0C, Projection: Third line forward
Dustin Penner is a plugger, no doubt about it. His rookie season in the AHL proved that he will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Named Most Determined Player when he suited up for MSU-Bottineau, Penner showed that same level of work ethic with Cincinnati at both ends of the ice. In 77 games, Penner scored 10 goals and had 28 points. He was also tied for third on the team in plus/minus with a +10 rating. While it could end up that he doesn’t have enough offense to hold down a top six spot in the NHL, Penner is well on his way to being an invaluable third line grinder. He’ll benefit from increased ice time in Portland this upcoming season.

17. (19), Pierre Parenteau, RW – 22
Grade: 6.0C, Projection: Third line forward
Parenteau was one of the players on the Ducks minor league team who felt the pinch for minutes because of the NHL lockout. Parenteau was stuck on the third line for most of the first half of the season. His offense regressed and his defensive play was dreadful. Then an injury to Joffrey Lupul gave Parenteau a chance in the top six and he responded with an
11- point improvement over his rookie season, with 17 goals and 41 points in 76 games. However, when everyone was healthy and back in the lineup during the postseason, Parenteau was again scavenging for minutes and found himself a healthy scratch on two occasions. He needs to solidify a spot on one of the top two scoring lines in order to continue his development.

18. (NR), Kyle Klubertanz, D – 19
Grade: 6.5C, Projection: Power play quarterback
Klubertanz was named to the WCHA’s All-Rookie team after an impressive freshman year with the University of Wisconsin. He was the Badgers leading scorer on the blue line with three goals and 18 points in 41 games. Paired primarily with Edmonton prospect Tom Gilbert last season, this year, Klubertanz will again be asked to play a key role, especially during the
power play. All of his goals last season came during the man advantage. A third round draft choice in 2004 and a wizard at moving the puck, Klubertanz is still very much a project. He needs to add muscle to his frame and would benefit from minimizing his mistakes and improving his play in his own zone, all of which should come in due time.

19. (NR), Drew Miller, LW – 21
Grade: 5.5B, Projection: Checking line forward
Miller was much improved in his sophomore season with Michigan State. He finished the year third in Spartan scoring with 17 goals and 33 points, a 23 point increase over his freshman year. He was part of a trio known as the “ER” line with freshman Chris Mueller and junior Colton Fretter, an Atlanta prospect. These three will be counted on for even more offensive contributions now that Jim Slater, another Atlanta draft choice, has moved onto the pro game. Miller will serve as MSU’s team captain this upcoming season and he exemplifies hard work on the ice. His willingness to drive to the net helped him most of all on the
power play, where he was second on the team with nine goals.

20. (NR), Brian Salcido, D – 20
Grade: 6.0C, Projection: Depth blueliner
As a 20-year-old sophomore, Brian Salcido is a bit further along development wise then some players selected at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Salcido was the “hometown” pick of the draft, selected 141st overall, but just because it was a good story doesn’t mean he isn’t skilled. An two-way blueliner, Salcido played more of an offensive role last season due to injuries among his fellow Colorado College defenders. He replied by leading all Tiger defensemen in scoring as well as tallying the fourth most points by a blueliner in the WCHA. With two more years of college eligibility, Salcido will look to build on last year’s accomplishments. He could prove to be a solid find in an organization that has been lacking defensemen with offensive flair.

Missing the Cut

Matt Auffrey, RW – 19
Grade: 5.5B, Projection: Checking line forward
Auffrey had a very trying first year with the University of Wisconsin. He was a highly-rated player coming into his freshman year after a strong tenure in the US National Team Development Program. However, he was hampered early with a broken wrist and was unable to find his stride with the Badgers after his return. In 25 games, Auffrey scored three goals and had eight points; however, four of those points were scored in his first six games prior to his injury. Auffrey will need to stay healthy and establish his place in the lineup for his sophomore year.

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