This is the first part of my look into the Ducks top prospects. It will be a 6 part series starting with this list of honorable mentions. In case you guys are wondering, I’m getting my information for this from websites like hockeysfuture.com and thehockeynews.com. I hope to finish this series before the end of 2011, but I work a lot this week and possibly next week as well, so we’ll see how it goes.
Let’s start this list of honorable mentions with the Ducks most recent 1st overall pick.
C/RW – Rikard Rakell - This 18 year old was drafted by the Ducks 30th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He is from Stockholm, Sweden and is in his second season in North America. More specifically, his second season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. In his first season with the Whalers, he posted 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points in 49 games. He has elevated his play this year with 17 and 20 for 37 in just 32 games. He shoots right-handed and is about 6’2″, 190 lbs. He has very good work ethic and since coming to North America has worked to improve his overall game, more specifically the defensive side of the game. With good hands and scoring potential to go along with his improved defensive abilities and physical conditioning, some are saying he could be in the NHL sooner than originally thought.
LW – Patrick Maroon – He lost his way in a manner of speaking in the Philadelphia Flyers organization and found his way to Anaheim and made an immediate impact with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. He immediately became one of the teams top players and top leaders. Born in St. Louis, MO, the 23-year-old has developed into a strong power play asset with his soft hands and big frame, 6’4″, 225. He had a hot start to the season with the Crunch and has been called up to the Ducks twice, I believe. I don’t think it’s too long until he’s up here permanently, especially with the aging players currently on the Ducks, Selanne, Koivu and Blake.
C – Nick Bonino – Ducks fans have already seen a good amount of Bonino but not enough to not consider him a prospect. He has been a favorite within the organization but due to injuries and underperformance, he has been up-and-down a lot within the organization. He was a sixth round pick of the hated San Jose Sharks but was traded to the Ducks in 2008-09, the deal that sent Travis Moen and Kent Huskins to the Sharks. The Farmington, Connecticut product has decent size, 6’1″, 186. He hasn’t been up much this year, but has shouldered a heavy load in Syracuse and dealt with it pretty well, averaging more than a point per game. In order to reach the NHL consistently, he’s got to stay healthy. If he does he could develop into a decent NHL player some day.
G – John Gibson – Now here is one of my personal favorites of the Ducks system. This Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania product was one of the top goalie prospects, if not the top prospect, going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. At 6’3″, 212, he’s got very good size and does a good job of covering up the net. Originally, he was going to play for the University of Michigan, but opted to play in the OHL and now plays with the Kitchener Rangers. With Kitchener, he has put up extremely good numbers, 14-6 with a 0.933 save percentage, while leading the Rangers to the top tier of the OHL. He has number one potential for the NHL but won’t reach it for a few more years. He is great at controlling rebounds and his combination of size and athleticism makes him a very good prospect.
D – Sami Vatanen – Finally, this Finn has been regarded as possibly the best defensive prospect in the system. I agree, except for a certain collegiate player that I will discuss in a later post. At a diminutive 5’10”, 176, he is not a shut down defenseman at all. However, he has established himself as a dynamic offensive defenseman with great speed and great puck-moving ability. He already is one of the elite defenseman in the Swedish Elite League, SM-liiga. He was a fourth round draft pick by the Ducks back in 2009. Vatanen is one of the two real prospects the Ducks have on the blue line.
So those are my honorable mentions. I really like Gibson and Vatanen. Gibson will be, barring a trade, the Ducks starting goalie of the future and he could be a damn good one, and along with Jack Campbell one of the next great American goaltenders. Vatanen is going to be a great guy to quarterback the power play in the future with the Ducks. However, the only thing with that is, along with Fowler and Schultz, the defenseman that I will discuss in another post, the Ducks could have three very good power play defenseman to put out there. I hope to post the next one within a few days, but no guarantees.
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