By Kyle Shohara
As a steady stream of rain pelted the roof of THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE on Tuesday morning, Ducks Rookie Camp soldiered on with an open practice session that lasted roughly an hour. With only one more on-ice session scheduled before Friday, the intensity and focus reached new heights as the rookies and prospects prepare for Ducks Training Camp.
Two Futures Games held over the weekend in San Jose gave these players a chance to face real competition after a summer of training and conditioning. Nick Ritchie, who was chosen 10th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, earned a hat trick in the second game, a 5-2 victory for Anaheim. Ritchie will soon embark on his second NHL training camp, and says the two rookie games helped prepare himself and his teammates as they compete for roster spots on the big club.
“A couple of days from now, we’ll be in the real thing,” Ritchie said. “It’s going to be a good time. I’m hoping to come in, play hard and fight for a spot on the team like everyone else.”
It’s worth noting Ritchie is still only 19 years of age, but stands 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 232 pounds. Of the 62 players attending training camp, only bruising veteran Brian McGrattan (235 lbs.) weighs more than Ritchie.
Like Ritchie, fellow rookie Nic Kerdiles is looking to make a lasting impression on the Ducks brass in both camps. Selected in the second round (36th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, Kerdiles is coming off his first full AHL season in 2014-15 in which he recorded nine goals and 26 points with 43 penalty minutes in 51 games with Norfolk. The season prior, Kerdiles helped lead the Wisconsin Badgers to the Big Ten title with three points in the championship game.
“I’m hoping to make a bigger impact than I did last time,” Kerdiles said, referencing last year’s training camp. “You want to show them you’re at that level, too. Those guys are the best in the world, and you just want to make an impression.”
As an elder statesman on a roster which includes players still in their teens, 23-year-old Josh Manson captained the Ducks in their two games in the Bay Area. They don’t come any more humble than Manson, who says he takes pride in being a leader of this group.
“It’s nice to know they have the confidence in me,” Manson said, of the coaching staff. “I wore it with pride. This is a great organization. Any time that letter is on the jersey, it’s a good feeling.”
Manson also led by example, recording a goal and two assists in Sunday’s 5-2 victory. Now with main camp just days away, the 6-3, 215-pound defenseman is ready to leave his mark.
“You work all summer to get to this point, to try to make the team,” he said. “It’s a great time of the year. It gets the blood going. It’s exciting.”
Rookie camp concludes Wednesday, Sept. 16 with an open practice session scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE. The Ducks will begin their 2015 Training Camp on Friday, Sept. 18 at Anaheim Ice with practices running from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. (three groups using both NHL and Olympic rinks). Anaheim’s training camp is highlighted by three scrimmages that will be held Saturday through Monday beginning at 12 p.m. on the NHL rink of Anaheim Ice. All scrimmages and practices at Anaheim Ice will be open to the public and free of charge.