About a year ago, Anaheim signed the University of Minnesota Duluth's highest scorer. This week, they signed the team's highest scorer over 6 ft. tall. The Ducks gave Bulldogs forward Rob Bordson a two-year entry level contract, which will pay him a prorated 900K for this season and 825K next season with an AHL salary of 67.5K per year.
So who is Rob Bordson?
Before this year, the highlight of Bordson's career was probably his final year at Marshall School in Duluth, where he led the team in scoring and was an All-Tournament Team pick at the Minnesota High School State Tournament. That may seem like a minor accomplishment to those not acquainted with Minnesota hockey, but in a state where the tournament is played where the NHLers play-- and to full crowds, no less --and Mr. Hockey (the player declared best high school senior) often becomes a First Rounder in the Draft, there is nothing minor about a strong senior year.
After a productive season in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders, Bordson committed to return home to Duluth and play for the Bulldogs. His first year for UMD was mostly successful, centering an all-freshmen line with Cody Danberg and Kyle Schmidt and producing one goal and six assists in his 27 outings. UMD head coach Scott Sandelin felt that Bordson had to work on two things to acclimate to the NCAA game: size and confidence. For his sophomore season, he came in a little bigger, but ultimately fell short of the coaching staff's expectations. They gave him until the end of January, only 15 games, before he was forced to watch the rest of the season from the press box.
And it was a good season to watch. The Bulldogs became the first-ever WCHA team to win the conference championship after participating in a play-in game. They then orchestrated a last minute comeback in the Regionals of the NCAA tournament. It was a good season to watch, though probably better for those who actually played in it.
Bordson would hit the weight room hard last summer and begin his junior year listed 20 lbs heavier than his freshman weight. The product on the ice was a player who had found his confidence and would spend much of the year leading the team in assists. When MIke Connolly and Jack Connolly played together, Bordson played left wing on the second line, usually centered by Travis Oleksuk. It was a successful combination, and Bordson drew half of his 12 goals at even strength. But the kid really showed his chops and playmaking ability on the man advantage, where he and UMD's plethora of small forwards put together one of the most dangerous power plays in the country.
And that's where Bordson is most valuable. In open space with great finishers, he's a skilled playmaker. His talent otherwise, at least at this weight and confidence level, is largely untested, but as a player who has recently recommitted himself to improving his game, you can't assume he's done improving.
Out of Stock - Bordson replenishes the cupboard in terms of skill forwards. Assuming Anaheim has an AHL franchise next year, Bordson could be key in setting up an offensive system that caters to other skill forwards and playmakers like Deschamps, Macenauer or even Bonino. He has some value in terms of minor league depth even if he never makes the major leagues.
Continued Confidence - Bordson is coming off a big season where he seems to have finally found his game. If he continues to improve, the Ducks may have found a quality asset for the price of a free agent contract.
Big Bet - The Ducks aren't deep in terms of playmakers, but Bordson isn't necessarily the best fit for a camp spot. Erik Christensen was arguably sent packing for his inability to find the right mix of physicality and production for Randy Carlyle. This team has gotten faster and looser since then, but asking Bordson to follow Carlyle's Road of Playmaker Perdition (which has already claimed the souls of Christensen and Shannon) may be a recipe for disaster for a player who has only had one year at this weight and perhaps one more in the AHL.
Final Five Frustration - Bordson played well leading up to the Final Five, but he and the entire UMD team were shut down by the Fighting Sioux in the Play-In game. That includes the power play, which was locked out to the tune of 0/5 with a shorthanded goal surrendered. There is some question as to whether or not Bordson can be a difference maker against stiff competition, even at the NCAA level, and how desperately he needs his forwards to be great finishers who are physically capable of staying on the puck.