Though the core of the Anaheim Ducks' roster is made up of players who led the team to its first Stanley Cup in 2007, there are jobs to be had as well -- and the Ducks think they have some young talent that can step into them.
"The year after you win it, I never realized how tough it was," Anaheim's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Bob Murray said. "Last year was a long, tough year and nothing we did turned out right. We didn't get enough kids in, but this year, the kids are going to have every opportunity to knock some people off."
The Ducks bolstered their farm system at the Entry Draft in June with 10 picks, including first-rounder Jake Gardiner, to go along with a promising farm system.
"We got some guys who could play," Murray said of this year's selections. "Once you got down past the first six guys, there were a lot of guys who could play. It was a deep, deep draft, and we wanted as many as we could get, because they were good players."
The Ducks are also changing AHL affiliates from Portland, Maine, to Iowa, a move that should make call-ups easier.
"There's no easy way from Portland to Anaheim," Murray said of the reason for the switch. "Des Moines is closer."
Here's a look at the state of Anaheim's player development entering the 2008-09 season.CENTERSEric Tangradi --
Tangradi, the Ducks' second pick (No. 42) in 2007, blossomed in his second season with Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 24 goals and putting up 60 points in 56 games. At 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, the Philadelphia native has loads of potential.
"He was a sleeper," Murray said. "He's a big, strong kid who has good hands for a big, big man. He had a good year, but he was slowed a little. Belleville went so far (in the playoffs) and he kept trying to play on a bum knee. He's fine now. We expect big things from him. He may take a little longer to figure it out, but he has a chance to be a real good one -- a top-six power forward."Maxime Macenauer --
The Ducks took Macenauer more on promise than performance. He missed most of his draft year with injuries, but they grabbed him in the third round (No. 63 overall) in 2007, even though he had just one goal and four points.
"He was a kid who in his draft year only played 14 games, so his numbers weren't real good," Murray said. "He's a big, strong skill player. He missed a whole year, so he's one behind. He's going to be a surprise to everyone."
Macenauer, listed at 6-foot, 191 pounds, had a solid season for Rouyn-Nouranda in the Quebec League in 2007-08, putting up 23 goals and 60 points in 67 games.
"He has great instincts and the puck just seems to follow him," Murray said. "We're really happy with him." WINGSBobby Ryan --
The Ducks have been patient with Ryan, who was picked No. 2 overall in the 2005 Entry Draft, right after Sidney Crosby. It looks like their patience is about to be rewarded. In his first pro season, Ryan had five goals and 10 points with the Ducks and had 21 goals and 49 points in 48 regular-season games at Portland. But he took his game to another level in the AHL playoffs, putting up eight goals and 20 points in 16 games.
"His playoffs were outstanding this year," Murray said. "He turned the corner and carried the team on his back. He's ready to play in the NHL. He's had a little growing up to do, but he's gotten there now."
At 6-1 and 221 pounds, Ryan has the build of a top-flight power forward. Murray feels he has the skills to match.
"For a big boy, he's got great hands. He'll score goals. On the power play, he's outstanding. Those are all huge things in today's game," Murray added. "He's still a little gangly, but power forwards can take some time. He still hasn't grown into his body. He's taken a little more time, but guys like that often do. Bobby is huge to our future."Logan MacMillan --
It was a tough season for MacMillan, the son of former NHL forward Bobby MacMillan and the Ducks' first-round pick (No. 19) in 2007.
"He got smoked from behind in an exhibition game last year and had a serious concussion," Murray said. "He never really got going until the end of the year."
The concussion set him back a bit, but he's been symptom-free for a long time now. He's a really good two-way, hard-nosed hockey player who can play in all areas of the ice. The time he missed, he has to catch up on, but we really like him. - Ducks' Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Bob Murray on prospect Logan MacMillan
MacMillan, who turned 19 on July 5, was limited to 46 games with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and put up just 15 goals and 41 points. He was better in the playoffs, with three goals and 13 points in 15 games.
"He lost his confidence a little bit and he was struggling to score," Murray said. "But by the end of the year, he was playing hard again and playing well, the way he was the year before. The concussion set him back a bit, but he's been symptom-free for a long time now. He's a really good two-way, hard-nosed hockey player who can play in all areas of the ice. The time he missed, he has to catch up on, but we really like him." Matt Beleskey --
Beleskey, Anaheim's fourth-round pick (No. 112) in 2006, has gotten better every year at Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League. He capped off his junior career by scoring 41 goals and 90 points in 62 regular-season games, then added 12 goals and 33 points in 21 playoff games.
"Captain of Belleville -- another character kid," Murray said of the 6-foot, 207-pounder. "He had an outstanding year. Where there's a will, there's a way for this kid. He wants it bad, and he plays that way. He plays for keeps every night. He's our type of player. He's hard-nosed, a gritty kind of guy who's not afraid to do whatever it takes to score a goal."
At 20, Beleskey is ready to turn pro, but he may need some surgery first.
"He has a shoulder problem that he battled all year and may have to be fixed," Murray said. "That may slow him down a little, but we're very happy with him." DEFENSE
Mark Mitera --
|Ducks' Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Bob Murray, is excited about the future of Mark Mitera. Mitera was the team's top pick at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. |
Murray is enthused about the future of the Ducks' top pick (No. 19) in the 2006 Entry Draft.
"He had an outstanding year at Michigan," Murray said. "Michigan lost a couple of its big guys to the pros, and Mark got a chance to step forward. He's always been behind the Jack Johnsons of the world, but he stepped up and had an outstanding year. We think he'll be the captain there next year. He's a good young man and he's going to be a strong, strong defenseman for years to come in the NHL. One more year and he'll turn pro."
Murray isn't a big scorer -- his two goals and 23 points were his best offensive totals in three seasons with the Wolverines. But Mitera is a shutdown defenseman coming from an elite NCAA program -- and his character is a big plus, according to Murray.
"You can't teach character,” Murray said. "You've got to have it and this kid has it."Brendan Mikkelson --
Don't be surprised to see Mikkelson, who turned 21 the day after this year's Entry Draft, in a Ducks uniform this fall. The former second-round pick (No. 31) in 2005 is just about ready to play in Anaheim after a season in the AHL, according to Murray
"He had a slow start in Portland, and then he came on like gangbusters," Murray said. "He was very, very good in the playoff run for Portland. He'll fight for a job in Anaheim this year."
Mikkelson had six goals and 16 points in 66 games for Portland, then added two goals and six points in the playoffs.
"We need an influx of youth, and we think he'll give somebody a run for their money and take a spot," Murray said. "We have high expectations for him." Brian Salcido --
Like Mikkelson, Salcido is almost ready for the NHL. The native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., had an excellent season in Portland with 11 goals and 53 points, up from seven goals and 27 points in 2006-07, his first season as a pro. He has a chance to play near home this season.
"He's a different type than Mitera and Mikkelson," Murray said of the fifth-round pick (No. 141) in 2005. "He's the home-run hitter, the offensive guy. He makes plays, he sets up big goals. He's high-risk, high-reward. He goes for it. He's going to get a look this year. He's knocking at the door."Jake Gardiner --
The Ducks won't see Gardiner, their No. 1 pick (No. 17) for at least a year or two, as he'll play at Wisconsin. But they're content to wait for the 18-year-old to develop.
Gardiner led Minnetonka (Minn.) High School to a state championship game appearance with 20 goals and 48 points. With just 178 pounds on a six-foot frame, he needs to fill out and get stronger, but the Ducks think they've got a player who can anchor their back line for years to come.
"On the back end, you'd better be able to skate now," Murray said. "You've got to get the puck and get it out of your own zone, and this kid can skate. He's the type that when he glides, he still picks up speed. There's only a few that have done that over time. He's still going fast when he's gliding. He can skate."GOALIESJean-Philippe Levasseur --
With Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller
forming an excellent 1-2 combination in Anaheim, the Ducks can afford to give Levasseur, a seventh-round pick (No. 197) in 2005, plenty of time to develop.
"He needs a little more time, but we really like him," Murray said. "Goalies take time, and we're not in any hurry. We're going to give him all the time he needs to get everything right -- his style and the technical aspects of his game -- correct.
"He's a strong kid and likes to play lots of minutes. We'll just take our time with him. There's no rush."
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist