Here is my top 20 list of Anaheim Ducks prospects. Some of them are pretty close and could be put in different orders. For example 6-8 could be mixed around in any order. All 3 play different positions and are in different stages of their careers, playing in different leagues. It is hard for me to say what is a better prospect someone like John Gibson who has potential to be a Number 1 goalie in the NHL or someone like Devante Smith-Pelly, who has already shown he has what it takes to play in the NHL. My cut-off for this list is 65 NHL games. So a player like Nick Bonino who has played 71 is no longer considered a prospect, but a player like Smith-Pelly is, because he has only played in 33 NHL games. If I was ranking Bonino, I would probably have him somewhere between 8-10.
1. Justin Schultz, D- With 42 points in 34 games Schultz leads all college defenseman in scoring. He has played so well that some think he may be in a Ducks uniform as early as next week when the Wisconsin playoffs are over. The Ducks still need to sign him to a contract to make that possible, so it will be interesting to see what happens next week. Schultz is an offensive defenseman with pretty good size at 6’1″ 185lbs. The offense has been there for a while now, and this past season especially the defense side of his game has really improved as well. Schultz is projected as a top 4 NHL defenseman, and could possibly be a top 2 sometime in the future.
2. Kyle Palmieri, LW- Palmieri leads the AHL with 32 goals. What makes this stat even more impressive is he has done it in 40 games which is 19 games less than the player in second place. He is known to also bring a physical side to his game despite his small size of 5’11″ 193lbs which brings Chris Kunitz to mind. It is in my opinion that Palmieri is going to be a great player in the NHL some day, and it could be as early as next season. With the contracts of Jason Blake, and Niklas Hagman expiring at the end of this season, it is possible that Palmieri can slip into the second line LW spot if the Ducks do not sign anyone in the off season to take that position.
3. Emerson Etem, RW- Etem is having an incredible season leading the WHL with 55 goals in 59 games. Etem has great speed, and a great shot that will hopefully translate well at NHL level. His defense and physical play has also improved this season. We are never sure when Teemu Selanne will retire, but if and when he does Etem might be a good replacement. If Etem goes takes the path that most offensive forwards have in the Ducks past, he may start next season in the AHL before he eventually earns a spot on the Ducks roster.
4. Peter Holland, C- Holland is having a solid season as a rookie in the AHL with 42 points in 54 games. If his offensive skills continue to develop he could possibly make a great 2nd line center one day. If the don’t Holland has the size at 6’2″ 195 lbs. to also be effective in a bottom 6 role as well. With Holland and Palmieri playing so well together in the AHL it brings hope that they can one day make an effective line in the NHL.
5. Rikard Rakell, C- The Ducks have been adding many Swedish players to their prospect pool recently, and the best one may be Rikard Rakell. Rakell is playing his second year in North America for the OHL Plymouth Whalers putting up decent numbers with 56 points in 55 games. Rakell is very responsible defensively, and is improving his physical play for an over all very well rounded 2-way game. Rakell, as well as fellow swedes and Ducks prospects William Karlsson, and Max Friberg won the World Junior Championship Gold medal together, all 3 players having very key roles in the tournament.
6. Sami Vatanen, D- The small (5’10″ 177 lbs.) but offensively talented Vatanen has 34 points in 44 games in Finland. He Should be playing in North America next year. He will likely spend a year in the AHL before he challenges for a spot on The Ducks.
7. John Gibson, G- The highest regarded Ducks goaltending prospect since Ilya Bryzgalov had a great rookie season in the OHL going 20-10 with a 2.81 GAA and a .926 save percentage.
8. Devante Smith-Pelly, RW- If you have been watching the Ducks this season you already know about Smith-Pelly. Should be a good bottom 6 forward for the Ducks. Great speed, hits anything that moves. His offense is a bit limited, but that won’t be a role he will be asked to play on the 3rd and 4th line.
9. William Karlsson, C-
10. Max Friberg, LW-
11. Igor Bobkov, G
12. Christopher Wagner, RW
13. Mat Clark, D
14. Andy Welinski , D
15. Joseph Cramarrosa, C
16. Patrick Maroon, LW
17. Kevin Lind, D
18. Rick Schofield, LW
19. Tim Heed, D
20. Luca Caputi, LW