Credit: Matthew Jansen
The Anaheim Ducks rookies put forth a decent effort in front of a spirited crowed of more than 7,500 Southern California hockey fans. Eventually falling to the Los Angeles Kings 6-1, the Kings rookies capitalized on some defensive miscues and frankly awful turnovers. The Kings rookies had the size advantage and were physical the entire game, while the Ducks rookies only mustered physical play at the starts of the period. The heated rivalry between the Kings and Ducks was imparted on their rookies, there was no love lost between the two clubs prospects. A fight between Kenton Helgensen (ANA) and Scott Sabourin (LAK) set the tone early. Scrums after the whistles were very common with common antagonist being Andy Andreoff who scored 2 goals and took a few penalties. The other player for the Kings who made the prospects lives more difficult was Alex Roach who pulled a few cross checks in the slot and was a pest all game. The Ducks only goal came off a rebound converted on by Rickard Rakell in the crease.
The play of Rickard Rakell was inspired, he looked hungry every shift and was skating well. He had a fire under him and really looks like he wants to be the fourth line center this year, he wants to prove he is worthy of a roster spot. Rakell was getting a little too fancy as well, electing to pass more than shoot. The Ducks had two 5 on 3 power plays and were unable to convert. The powerplay was anemic with a lot of passing and not enough shooting just like the powerplay of the big club. Sami Vatanen also showed off his ability to quarterback a power play but was still slightly shaky on playing defense. Late in the third period though he showed his ability to be physical in the corner and out muscle players larger than him. Hampus Lindholm was also a treat to watch in game action. Lindholm showed off his strong skating skills and ability to make a good hockey play under pressure. Many times he was able to move the puck away from pressure and give a good solid breakout pass. Outside of a turnover behind the net on the power play there was a good body of work for Lindholm. Lindholm also pulled a nice spin move and made a Kings player crash into the boards for being too overzealous on their hit.
The highlight of the night was the fight where Ross Johnston of the Ducks crushed Kurtis MacDermid, it was a good momentum shift that was followed up by a bad goal from Bobkov that definitely drained the team’s energy. After that goal the team would go on to get hemmed in the zone and make costly turnovers causing the Kings rookies to put up a 4 goal third period.
Frederik Andersen dazzled in net, making a few wonderful glove saves, and a beautiful toe save. He was challenging the shooters and moved well in net. Bobkov was the complete opposite, his confidence was definitely hit hard by letting in an early goal. The Ducks let a breakaway in which Tanner Pearson opened up the five hole and slid it between the pads. The Kings also got a seeing eye shot to go through Bobkov’s five hole, it trickled in. The other goal was on an awful turnover with the Ducks trying to pass across the middle out of their zone. These goals gave Bobkov a rough time, the only fault was on his first goal in which he didn’t get the glove up in time. The fans were restless and eventually starting cheering Bobkov’s ability to handle a puck and direct it to the corner without it going in. The word Badkov was also circling around the fans and twitter. Bobkov was solid in the shootout that was held regardless of the score as an exhibition for the fans. The goaltending depth is looking good, and John Gibson is expected to start tonight against the Kings rookies.
My stand out player of the game was Rickard Rakell, he converted for the only goal and looks poised to make the roster out of training camp. I also got the first look at Stefan Noesen in action. He was solid defensively and brought some physical play. He was definitely overshadowed by his former Plymouth teammate Rakell. A year away from seeing the NHL. Devante Smith-Pelley was one of the few physical players for the Ducks, he also had two breakaways but was unable to convert and sailed his shots either high or wide. He took a heavy slapshot off his right thigh and immediately crumpled to the ice. He was able to get back up and it didn’t effect his play. Great grit shown by Devo, in the autograph section after I asked about his bruise, said it was already quite the shiner.
Sami Vatanen appeared to be outmuscled at times, showing the one limiting factor his size. He was strong on his skates and definitely showed a tenacity in the corners to win puck battles. Vatanen was also a great PP quarterback like he has always been touted. Hampus Lindholm showed off his great skating ability in this game, he caught many players who looked like they had space. Lindholm also made good hockey plays reversing the puck or getting it out of harm’s way while in the corners. Shea Theodore was definitely outmatched a lot, which can be expected of a player fresh out of the WHL. He was so non existent that I didn’t even mention him in my first post, I had to edit this in because I forgot I didn’t cover him.
The most surprising part of the night was the play of Stefan Warg. I thought with the signing being under the radar he would be relegated to Norfolk. Warg showed he was mean and nasty to play against. Always physical in the corners and was a good shot blocker. He looked like a great glue guy or a strong defensive minded defensman. With the defense being decimated, he may get a look during the starting months of the season. Warg showed he has spunk and may be a dark horse roster spot on the big club.
Also just to add the Ducks did an autograph session with the rookies after the game. I got to interact with most of the young players and see what their personalities were like. John Gibson was somewhat in playing tomorrow mode, pretty focused not very chatty. Hampus Linndholm had the biggest grin and was enjoying everyone hyping him up. Vatanen was pretty quite and reserved. Stefan Warg was humble by my complement on his play. Nick Sorenson had flown in from Quebec and looked sharp in his travel suit. Emerson Etem was incredibly engaged with the fans, a little girl was in front of me, he asked her name and gave her a high five. He also complemented my shirt I had asked to be signed, he definitely has the star status personality but was still very sincere. Pictures were also restricted but walking away he took time to take photos with young fans. Stefan Noesen was not among the rookies and I haven’t the faintest idea why.
Bruce Boudreau was watching and in attendance but not behind the bench. The coaching duties fell on the shoulders of the Norfolk Admirals coaching staff. With the Ducks playing similar to the big club it appears despite the multiple affiliation changes the coaching staffs are on the same page.