The Anaheim Ducks are loaded with talent in their farm system, and coming up on a season (either this year or next) where they’ll need some help on the offensive side of the puck.
With vacancies left by the departed Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman and the movement of Saku Koivu to the third line, the Ducks need to incorporate at least one center and winger into their lineup. During free agency they addressed their lack of size by signing defenseman Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, yet left their offense almost completely unattended to. It stands to reason that at this point the Ducks won’t be using free agency to address their needs offensively, and will rather tap into their rich farm system and hope that someone can step up and be a contributor at the NHL level.
So who will that player be?
The Ducks top prospects on the wing would have to be Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem. Etem, who has been turning out triple-digit point totals in the WHL is thought to at least be capable of making the team coming out of training camp, and will be expected to get at least some measure of playing time during the regular season.
Palmieri on the other hand has already spent a modest amount of time at the NHL level last season, compiling seven points in 18 games. Were he to play a full season, he would be on pace for a 30 point performance, which would more than make up for Blake and Hagman’s combined contributions from a year ago
At this point, because of his experience at the NHL and AHL levels, Palmieri has to be considered the front runner to both make the team, and come out with more ice time and a bigger offensive role. Etem is extremely talented, and will be in the mix sooner then later, but he’ll probably need one more year before he’s really ready to come in and make a difference.
It’s worth noting however, that if Teemu Selanne moves to the third line with Koivu, there will be two spots open on the second line. Could we see both of Anaheim’s top prospects on the ice next season? Only time will tell.