Mighty Ducks CHL prospects season review

By Kevin Forbes

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim had seven prospects who played in the Canadian Hockey League during the 2005-06 season. The players are spread equally among leagues and positions. The prospects in the WHL play defense, the three players in the OHL play forward and the two goaltenders are both playing in the QMJHL.

One of the players in the OHL is Bobby Ryan, the top prospect for the Mighty Ducks, while two of the other CHL players also appear in the latest edition of the Hockey’s Future Top 20 prospects for Anaheim. In addition, Matt Auffrey just missed the cut for the Top 20.

Bobby Ryan, RW
Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Drafted in the first round, second overall in 2005

Currently listed as Anaheim’s top prospect, Ryan’s season can best be described as two halves which scarcely resembled one another. He started the season extremely strongly, challenging for the league lead in scoring at times as he put up 73 points in his first 33 games of play. He followed this with a solid showing in Vancouver wearing the red, white and blue for Team USA at the 2006 World Junior Championships. Once he returned, it was a different story though. In the 26 games he played following the World Juniors, Ryan only scored 22 points, a significant decline compared to his production earlier in the year. For the season, Ryan finished with 95 points, including 31 goals in 59 games. This placed him 10th in the league in scoring as well as leading his team in points and assists.

In some ways, Ryan’s 2005-06 season is very similar to the previous season. In both cases, he started very strongly and flirted with the league scoring lead and then due to a variety of circumstances did not have an effective second half. In 2004-05, Ryan suffered a separated shoulder in the Top Prospects game that led him to finish the year with 89 points in 62 games, which placed him sixth in the league in scoring. It is worth noting that in his draft season, Ryan was a team-high +30, while now a year later, he’s a -4. In the same period of time, the Attack has gone from having a team plus/minus of +58 to an even differential this season.

There have been multiple whispers speculating that an unreported injury is the reason behind Ryan’s decrease in effectiveness. Although Owen Sound’s coaching staff denies anything of the sort, claims have been made that Ryan is nursing an injured leg or ankle that is affecting his mobility. The tight lips from the coaches are to be expected, considering it is playoff time and any confirmed knowledge of such an injury would no doubt be exploited by the opposition. From all reports, the injury does not appear to be too serious, but for a player who already has been knocked for his lack of speed, any impairment to his skating would be difficult to work through.

The Owen Sound Attack faced the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The Rangers, who were seeded third in the Western Conference, dominated the season series between the two teams, winning all six games. It was a different story in the postseason however, with the Attack putting away the Rangers in five games. It was sweet vengeance for Owen Sound after Kitchener Rangers knocked the Attack out in the second round of last year’s playoffs. Ryan has scored a lone power-play goal and has a total of five points in those five games, which places him fifth in team playoff scoring. The Owen Sound Attack will face the London Knights in the second round of the OHL playoffs.

Brendan Mikkelson, D
Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Drafted in the second round, 21st overall in 2005

The 2005-06 season didn’t end soon enough for Brendan Mikkelson. At the end of the day, he no doubt wants to forget the 22 games he did play and the season of misfortune that he went through. Mikkelson suffered a bruised collarbone in his first game of the season with the Portland Winter Hawks and returned just in time to pack his bags for Vancouver after being traded to the Giants. By the middle of November, he was out with a knee injury which deep-sixed his chances of playing on home ice for the World Junior Championships. The flip of the calendar didn’t change his fortunes either, as another knee injury finished his season on Jan. 13. Mikkelson was able to show off his offensive skills when he was able to lace them up, scoring at a half point-per-game pace, with 11 points in 22 games, including two goals.

Jean-Phillipe Levasseur, G
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Drafted in the seventh round, 197th overall in 2005

A year ago, Jean-Phillipe Levasseur fell dramatically at the NHL Entry Draft, mainly due to his lack of playing time during the second half of the season. This year, getting the chance to show his skills was not a problem. Levasseur played in 58 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season, third most in the league. He didn’t look out of place, with a league-leading 35 wins, along with 19 losses. Two of those wins were shutouts, both occurring during the same week in December, which led to Levasseur being named the CHL Player of the Week. Levasseur finished the season with a GAA of 3.42 and a save percentage of .891, seeing an average of 31 shots in a game.

Although Levasseur slowed down during the second half of the season (there is no doubt that fatigue was a bit of a factor), his contributions helped put the Huskies near the top of the QMJHL standings for most of the first half. The team finished respectably third in their division and fifth in the league with 91 points.

The Huskies faced the Shawinigan Cataractes in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. After winning the first game, Rouyn-Noranda dropped four straight and were eliminated. Levasseur posted a 3.23 GAA and a save percentage of .913. He saw an average of 37 shots a game and was outplayed by Shawinigan’s Julien Ellis (VAN) who shut out the Huskies twice in the winning effort.

Matt Auffrey, RW
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted in the sixth round, 172nd overall in 2004

The decision to leave the University of Wisconsin and join the Kitchener Rangers has proven to be a shrewd move by Matt Auffrey. Auffrey was stuck behind countless players on a deep NCAA team and fighting for playing time. Instead of transferring schools and being ineligible to play for a season, Auffrey made the jump to the OHL. The decision has paid off, with Auffrey adding another scoring threat to the already strong Kitchener team. In 59 games with the Rangers, Auffrey scored 24 goals, which tied him for fourth on the team. He was also a huge threat with the man advantage, scoring 17 power-play goals which were the third most on the league’s third best power-play team. In total, Auffrey has 50 points, which placed him sixth on the team.

The Kitchener Rangers finished the season with the third best record in the Ontario Hockey League. After losing to the eventual Memorial Cup Champion London Knights in the OHL Western Conference finals last year, the Rangers were looking to make considerable noise again in the 2006 OHL playoffs. Unfortunately, their first match up was against the Owen Sound Attack. Having eliminated the Attack from the postseason in the previous year, the Rangers found the tables turned on them this time, losing the series in five games. Auffrey was fourth on his team in scoring with a goal and three points in those five games.

Bobby Bolt, LW
Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL
Drafted in the fifth round, 127th overall in 2005

Bolt took a step slightly back in his second full season in the OHL. Despite playing for a much improved Kingston team, Bolt’s totals in all offensive categories declined. Prior to being drafted last summer, Bolt was part of a very effective second line for the Frontenacs alongside Bobby Hughes and Chris Stewart. The trio was expected to contribute significantly to Kingston’s attack this season and although Hughes and Stewart both finished top five on the team in scoring, Bolt found himself tumbling down the depth chart. In 68 games, Bolt scored five goals and finished the season with 15 points and a -7. This can be compared to the 2004-05 season when Bolt had 11 goals and 25 points in 67 games with a -2.

Despite Bolt’s lack of production, the Frontenacs rose in the standings after finishing ninth in the OHL’s Eastern Conference in 2004-05. This season, they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and faced the Sudbury Wolves in the first round of the playoffs. The Frontenacs fell in the series after six games and Bolt was held without a point in the postseason.

Gabriel Bouthillette, G
Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Drafted in the seventh round, 203rd overall in 2004

Gabriel Bouthillette posted a 2005-06 season that was very similar to that of fellow Duck prospect Levasseur. Drafted a year prior to Levasseur, Bouthillette endured a tough 2004-05 season on a young team, but this year saw the Acadie-Bathurst Titan turn the corner. Bouthillette finished the year second to Levasseur in wins with 34. He was also just behind Levasseur in games played with 57 and losses with 20. He also had two shutouts, again the same as Levasseur, although his goals against average was superior at 2.81 as was his save percentage at .905. Bouthillette faced an average of 29.5 shots a game.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan finished second in their division and fourth in the league, right in front of Levasseur’s Rouyn-Noranda. They faced the PEI Rocket in the first round and won the series in six games. Bouthillette has fallen flat on his face so far in the playoffs. He’s played in five games, with two losses on his record and a 4.50 GAA coupled with a .838 save percentage. The Titan was only able to knock off the Rocket by going with backup goaltender Maxime Joyal who was acquired from the Quebec Remparts during December of 2005. Joyal has gone 4-0 with a GAA of 1.80 and a save percentage of .913.

Brett Festerling, D
Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Signed as a free agent, September 2005

The Ducks signed Brett Festerling to an entry-level contract over the offseason. Festerling had a solid tryout with the Ducks and was returned to the Vancouver Giants after signing the deal. Once returning to the WHL, Festerling found himself called upon to play a larger role with the Giants, due to some long-term injuries on the blue line, most notably fellow Anaheim prospect Mikkelson. In 67 games, Festerling scored a goal and had seven points as well as finished the season at +6. He also served as an alternate captain for the Giants and was named the team’s Inspirational Leader in their end of season achievement awards.

Despite their injuries on the blue line and missing star forward Gilbert Brule (CLB) for the majority of the season, the Giants finished as the top team in the Western Conference and easily defeated the Prince George Cougars in five games in the first round. Festerling had a lone assist in the series and was a +3, which ties him for third on the team. The Vancouver Giants will face the Portland Winter Hawks in the second round of the WHL playoffs.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.