Anaheim Ducks Off-season Questions: The defense corps

This is the second installment of Anaheim Ducks Off-season Questions. In this blog entry, I will attempt to address Anaheim’s crowded blueline.

At season’s end, the Anaheim Ducks came mercifully crashing down at the hands of the LA Kings. One of the big questions (along with center depth) was the defense corps. Many NHL analysts don’t feel convinced the Ducks have the blueline necessary to go deep in the playoffs. True, the Ducks defense lacks a true stud in the vein of Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, or Shea Weber. Continue reading

Bright Future and Bottom Six Analysis

Five years ago the Pittsburgh Penguins were expected to be a dynasty. Having two of the top forwards in the world and a star goaltender, back to back stanley cup appearances only seemed natural. After 2009 the future looked bright and shining until they were eliminated in the 2010 playoffs. Then again in 2011. Then again in 2012. And 2013. Oh don’t forget 2014. What happened? The morale of the franchise after the most recent loss had dropped and panic mode started to kick in. Another Stanley Cup needs to happen soon, or someone could get hurt in Pittsburgh. However the recent management and coaching changes along with the prospects finally seeming NHL ready, hope for the future has been restored. Continue reading

Jonathan Drouin vs. the World: How Steve Yzerman Picked a Superstar

At the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, some were surprised to hear that Colorado chose Nathan MacKinnon 1st overall, expecting that honor to go to Seth Jones.

With 14 goals and 42 assists in 61 regular season games (add on 5 goals, 10 assists in 20 playoff games), Jones showed that he could play all three zones with skill. He also had 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 Memorial Cup games Continue reading

What Should the Flyers Do Next?

It has been an uncharacteristically quiet offseason for the Flyers, as Ron Hextall found himself simply unable to shed the salary needed to make more moves. Instead, he focused on keeping the team’s most prized restricted free agents (or, in the case of Tye McGinn, trade him for a pick) and replenishing the newly relocated Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who has one winning season in the last five years. A better supporting cast on the Phantoms will assist the development of some of the Flyers top prospects currently projected to play in the AHL this season. Continue reading

Nashville Inks Ribeiro, Roy

Nashville may have just signed the two biggest bargains of the offseason. Early Tuesday, exactly two weeks after free agency started, Nashville inked centers Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro to one year deals, Roy to a 1m dollar contract and Ribeiro to a 1.05m dollar contract. Roy split time with Dallas, Vancouver, and St. Louis over the past two seasons, and Ribeiro spent time in Washington and Phoenix in that time. Continue reading

Anaheim Ducks: Prospect Scrimmage Recap

Last week, the Anaheim Ducks wrapped up their annual prospect development camp at The Rinks – Anaheim Ice. Swarms of Orange County hockey fans packed the building to catch a glimpse of the developing ducklings. You’d never know it was the beginning of July by looking at the stands; So Cal hockey is here to stay. 

prospect1
(ducks.nhl.com)

When it came to the hockey played on the ice, the prospective Ducks did not disappoint. The scrimmage ended in an exciting 5-3 game that came right down to the wire with an insurance empty-netter scored under a minute left. The scrimmage was divided into two twenty-five minute halves, 4 skaters aside. The following are some of the more notable ducklings and how they fared in the scrimmage:

The most impressive

Nic Kerdiles (2012 draft, 36th overall)- The Irvine native who finished last year in Norfolk after a strong season with the Wisconsin Badgers looks like he has carried his strong play into the summer. Kerdiles was impressive and by far the most dangerous forward of the day scoring a beautiful goal in the process. He knows how to get open and even better, the puck seems to find him. He may be the closest NHL-ready prospect at main camp. 

Stefan Noesen (2011 draft, 21st overall)- Noesen enters the camp as one of the older prospects in the group. Unfortunately, he essentially lost an entire year of development last year after suffering an injury that would sideline him for nearly all of the season. During the scrimmage, however, he was one of the most dangerous players on the ice. He looked confident with the puck, was not afraid to challenge defenders one-on-one, and drove the net frequently. With a little bit more seasoning, he may be right behind Kerdiles as far as being NHL-ready.

Brandon Montour (2014 draft, 55th overall)- The offensive defenseman taken in this year’s draft was a pleasant surprise at the scrimmage. Montour was all over the ice, jumping into the play frequently; he even found the net twice during the scrimmage. He carried the puck well, skated with confidence, and helped dictate the play every time he was on the ice. In every sense of the word, he is a pure offensive defenseman. It may be a few years before Montour rounds out his game. If he can, it looks like the Ducks may have yet another gifted offensive defenseman on their hands.

Ondrej Kase (2014 draft, 205th overall)- Ondrej Kase was drafted this year in the final round at 205th overall. He didn’t look like an 18 year old drafted in the 7th round though. Kase was strong on the boards, rarely gave up the puck, and created offense out of seemingly innocuous situations. Throughout the scrimmage, he made smart plays and led the rush in transition. On of the more notable plays was a 3-on-1 that he led with Kerdiles and Theodore which ended in a Kerdiles goal. The puck appeared to always find him and every time he was on the ice, his team was in the offensive zone. This may be another diamond in the rough Anaheim scouts have uncovered.

Other big names

ducks.nhl.com
ducks.nhl.com

Shea Theodore (2013 draft, 26th overall)- Theodore is Anaheim’s big name blue line prospect at the camp. He wasn’t overly impressive, yet he wasn’t unimpressive. Most of the time, he played it safe and wasn’t too noticeable either way which isn’t such a bad thing for young defenseman. Throughout the scrimmage, he made efficient passes and joined the rush when he was afforded the opportunity. The expectation is that offensive young defenseman are supposed to be dynamic and noticeable at all times but it seems as though Theodore is maturing into a solid, two-way defenseman and is learning when to pick his spots. It will be interesting to see what he does at main camp.

Nick Ritchie (2014 draft, 10th overall)- Ritchie is likely a year or two away from seriously challenging for a spot on the Ducks roster despite being a top 10 draft pick. The puck does find him and he has an NHL-ready frame but his skating needs a bit of work. There were moments when Ritchie seemed to have a step and a clear path to the net but back-checking defensemen easily caught up to him. His offensive instincts are apparent but more seasoning is likely required for this youngster.

Kevin Roy (2012, 97th overall)- Kevin Roy is a scorer. He has registered over a point a game pace everywhere he’s played, including Northeastern University in the NCAA the past two seasons. For this reason, expectations (for myself anyway) for Roy were high. In this scrimmage, however, Roy didn’t quite look as dynamic as his numbers would suggest despite registering and empty net goal to put his team up 5-3. Roy is a smaller player (listed as 5’9” or 5’10” depending where you look), which was apparent during puck battles in the corners that saw him come out on the losing end. However, his numbers do suggest he is gifted offensively and he may just need to figure out how to be effective at this level of hockey.

Overall, the scrimmage was fast-paced, high octane. It will be interesting to see how these prospects fair at main camp; perhaps that will be a better indication of which players are closest to making the jump to the big club. By the look of this development camp, however, the future of Orange County hockey is in good shape. 

**Cautionary footnote- These insights are based off of one 4-on-4 prospect scrimmage with limited intensity. A handful of these prospects are likely to look a lot different (for better or worse) if played on a 5 on 5 full check format during the regular season. 

-Ryan Cruz, @RyVCA