By Kyle Shohara
It’s that time of the year again, when Ducks rookies and prospects converge upon THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE for the club’s annual rookie camp. The camp roster is impressive, and it includes former first-rounders Nick Ritchie (10th overall in 2014), Shea Theodore (26th overall in 2013), Rickard Rakell (30th overall in 2011) and 2013 acquisition Stefan Noesen (21st overall in 2011).
It’s no surprise that the Ducks were selected as The Hockey News’ No. 1 team in Future Watch 2014, which grades the prospects and player development of all 30 NHL teams. Of the top 100 prospects named in Future Watch 2014, the Ducks have three in the top 30 and four overall. Two of the four – Rakell and Theodore – are here for rookie camp. Anaheim held the No. 2 spot in Future Watch 2013, and is the only NHL team to be ranked among the top three clubs in each of the last two Future Watches.
Among rookie camp participants is center William Karlsson, who made his professional debut with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League last season. Karlsson was drafted in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft, and was a point-per-game player for the Admirals. The 21-year-old earned nine points (2g/7a) and a plus-5 rating in nine games with the Admirals during the regular season, and then tacked on three points (1g/2a) in eight Calder Cup Playoff games.
This marks the first rookie camp of his young career, and he says he’s looking forward to this weekend’s two Futures Games against the San Jose Sharks. “I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m done with all the practices. I can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Karlsson was ranked among NHL.com’s Top 60 prospects, and Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was recently quoted as saying he believes the young Swede is NHL-ready.
“I just need to play my own game,” he said. “I need go out there and show it to the coaches and staff that I want to be here.”
Fellow countryman Rakell brings the most professional experience to rookie camp. In 2013-14, Rakell ranked third on Norfolk in points (37), second in assists (23) and power-play goals (8), and tied for third in goals (14). The 21-year-old also posted an AHL season-high nine-game point streak (3g/9a), December 19 – January 10. Rakell made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in 2014, earning two points (1g/1a) in four games.
“Everybody wants to play on the team,” he said. “Everyone is going to have to put in some hard work to get there, but it’s fun to be back on the ice.” Rakell says having two rookie games right off the bat will benefit this squad. “It’s good for us. We just want to get on the ice and play hockey. We’re all excited.”
Fans will get their first look at 2014 first-round pick Nick Ritchie in action, as the big winger is expected to dress in both Futures Game contests. Last season, Ritchie (6-foot-2, 226 pounds) led Peterborough (Ontario Hockey League) in goals (39) and points (74), and added 10 points (5g/5a) in 11 postseason games, helping the Petes to a first-round upset win over the Kingston Frontenacs in seven games. Ritchie became the third player in Petes franchise history to score five goals in a game during his career-high six-point performance on Feb. 7, 2014.
Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden described Ritchie as a “premier power forward” of the 2014 NHL Draft class, one who “brings size, skating and skill.”
Ritchie says his expectations haven’t changed since the day he was drafted by the Ducks. “I’m coming in trying to earn a spot on this team,” he said. “Obviously it’s not a guarantee, but [I want to show] the staff that I’m good enough to play here. Hopefully that’s what I’m going to do.”
A strong performance in these upcoming Futures Games could go a long way toward his ultimate goal of making the team. “A lot of guys have been waiting to play a game,” he said. “It’s going to be great to play. We’re treating it seriously. We really want to win these games.”
The two Futures Games against the San Jose Sharks will be held on Saturday, September 13 at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE (6 p.m.), and Sunday, September 14 at Honda Center (5 p.m.).
Tickets to both games are $5 (free parking) and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and the Honda Center Box Office. Both Futures Games are being sold to the public as general admission seating. Doors for both games will open one hour prior to start time.
Sunday's contest at Honda Center will feature an autograph session with the Ducks rookies following the game.