By Kyle Shohara
With Anaheim’s American Hockey League affiliate opening its training camp today, the Ducks reduced their roster from 57 to 34 skaters as the club continues its evaluations with opening night approaching. Among those reassigned to San Diego (which is holding camp at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE), were forwards Nicolas Kerdiles and Stefan Noesen, and defensemen Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore.
Making it through another round of cuts are two players Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says made big gains from this time last year – left wing Nick Ritchie (first round, 10th overall, 2014) and defenseman Josh Manson (sixth round, 160th overall, 2011). Ritchie has been given a long look in camp, appearing in all three of Anaheim’s preseason games thus far, while Manson has appeared in two of the three.
“Nick’s development from last year to this year has been pretty good, for [lack] of a better word,” said Boudreau. “He’s more involved. He feels more like a player whereas last year he was a little [raw]. He’s using his size, his speed and his strength to his advantage. It’s good for him.”
The 19-year-old rookie entered camp standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 232 pounds. A comparable player, at least in height and weight could be LA’s 6-foot-3, 235-pound power forward Milan Lucic, who skated against Ritchie in Anaheim’s 2-1 preseason victory against the Kings at Honda Center on Friday.
“It’s a pretty good feeling being here with the big club,” said Ritchie, who, last season, ranked fourth among OHL playoff leaders in scoring (13g/13a) despite playing six games fewer than those remaining in the top five. “I’m just staying focused and working hard every day. It’s gone pretty well.”
Ritchie says he hopes to take his game to another level with three preseason contests remaining. “I’m going to get even better as we go here,” he said. “I’ve played three preseason games and I thought I was pretty solid in all of them. Obviously not perfect, but I made some plays. I’m a big body, and I can play physical. I think I showed that in these games, and I’m going to keep it going.”
As for Manson, Boudreau says he’s seeing the evolution of a young man with the confidence of knowing he belongs in the NHL.
"Just that year of experience, 28 games with us last year,” Boudreau said. “Coming into camp this year with an aura of I know I can do this has made him a better player.”
Manson’s experience and leadership among the younger generation of Ducks earned him the ‘C’ in the two Futures Games vs. San Jose earlier this month. The 23-year-old knows not to ever feel too comfortable at this level.
“This league humbles you really fast,” Manson said. “You get too comfortable at one point, and the next thing you know the puck is in the back of your net.”
As for his own evaluation, Manson says he needs to continue making safe plays, smart reads and protecting the house.
“I’ve been playing well when the legs are there,” he said. “I have to keep making sure I’m making that first pass on the tape every time. Breaking out and being solid in the D-zone and let everything else take care of itself.”
Being one of nine defensemen remaining in a camp which started with 19 has Manson that much more determined to make the opening night roster.
“I’m excited. I want to make it as far as I can,” he said. “I want to compete for a roster spot. The farther you go in the camp, the better chance you have. I just want to make the most of my opportunities and do the best I can.”