I went down to Anaheim Ice to check out some of the young prospects in hopes of thinking about new trade possibilities, seeing as how GMs everywhere are committed to making sure no one hits the open market tomorrow. It was nothing more than two 25 minute scrimmages, where the prospects played 4-on-4. As such, some of my analysis will be skewed by seeing players in conditions that are better for forwards and worse for D. Overall, I was very pleased with what I saw. Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly aren't only improving as players, they are starting to develop a strong chemistry and keep track of each other on the ice. Schultz is coming a long well, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in training camp playing against NHL level forwards. The surprise of the day was free agent Kellan Lain out of Lake Superior State, more on him after the jump.
I'll talk about a few of the big names first. DSP's biggest problem was this habit of carrying to the middle a little too much. He looked like Bobby Ryan, trying to stick handle through two defenders, instead of putting the puck in the corner and going to get it. Other than that, his shot is still terrifyingly beautiful. He gets it away so quick. I wouldn't be surprised if he could crack the glass with a wrist shot. He loves the high traffic areas and finds his way to the front of the net.
Etem is as quick as ever. I'm surprised at how good he is at winning the puck. It's a definite possibility that he was only successful since he was playing against inferior D, but I like his tenacity. He and DSP play with an aggression that I love to watch. He was hitting a little too much iron. He needs to make sure those pucks get on net. Etem likes to score and he goes everywhere and anywhere to do it.
John Gibson is a giant. He takes up a lot of net, but he needs to focus on tightening up in the butterfly. A few pucks went through him, and that's unacceptable for a guy who will probably have to rely on positioning. His lateral movement could use a little work too. (I wish Francois Allaire was still our goaltending consultant.) It's still too soon to tell where Gibson will go, but he did make some great saves and showed good work with his pads. If he can tighten up his butterfly, and become a little more athletic, the Ducks will have something to look forward to in the future.
Iiro Tarkki was fairly impressive today, despite giving up 8 goals. He was left on his own a few times, but he was keeping the puck in front of him for the most part. He had good lateral movement, and made good use of the poke check - something I'm not used to seeing from a lot of Anaheim netminders over the years. It's too early to say anything definitive, but there's a chance the Syracuse fans will be a little happier next season.
Mat Clark and Justin Schultz also looked good, although Schultz more so than Clark. If Clark was jumping into the play at Syracuse as much as he did today, it's easy to see why the guy had a rough season. He's not great at getting back. His shot is solid, and he used his body to take away positioning, but it's hard to talk about how well a defender is doing when physicality is a big part of his game, and he can't hit anybody in the scrimmage. Clark needs to make better passes and win more battles. I was expecting more. Schultz, on the other hand, was making great passes, and moving the puck up, quick. I won't bore you with the skill details; Schultz is the real deal. What I do want to focus on is his control of the ice. He keeps his eye on everything and looked very comfortable directing his teammates to their defensive assignments when the puck was moving in their direction.
The new draft picks looked pretty good. Josh Manson has a decent first pass and gets around well for a big man. I saw him get off a good shot during warm ups, but don't remember him being very impactful throughout the scrimmage. I still think he might be a good late value. Max Friberg is tenacious, and I love it. He was dipping by defenders and going into corners to win puck battles. Nothing about his offense jumped out at me, but I did notice him on the ice and I think that's saying something. Karlsson and Cramarossa didn't play poorly either. I was pleased with Karlsson's ability to get behind the D. He seemed to frequently be pressing. Cramarossa went largely unnoticed, but I don't remember him doing very terrible either. I think that's a good quality in a young bottom 6 forward.
But the star, for me, was Kellan Lain. He was picked up as a free agent out of Lake Superior State. He's listed as 6'6", 210 lbs, and he looks it. For a big guy, he really doesn't have trouble getting around. He's a good north-south skater, and he works well in traffic. He was setting up teammates and creating his own scoring chances. I saw him make great power moves to get to the front of the net. His shooting and passing skills are probably only average, but when you see him use all that size effecitvely, he looks like a slightly less talented Dustin Penner. When I was watching him, I thought he'd look great digging out pucks for the twins and carrying the puck to the net so Perry can put back some rebounds. Whenever I see young college kids show up out of seemingly nowhere, I instantly think that David McNab has found another great prospect for the Ducks. Lain was all over the ice today and the coaches running the scrimmage seemed to never take him off. The old saying is you can't teach size. Lain has plenty of it, and enough skill to be useful on an NHL line. I'm going to be keeping my eye on him for the rest of camp and hope for the best.
I am withdrawing from hockey. (I have Dr. Drew on speed-dial.) Right around the time the shakes started, I arrived at Anaheim Ice to watch the Ducklings scrimmage. I'll admit that I wasn't too interested in seeing this year's draft picks. They haven't exactly been heralded the same way last year's picks were. First round pick, Rickard Rakell wasn't on the ice anyway. (Neither was my favorite Bond villian, Igor Bobkov.)
I was there to see how much Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly had improved since Training Camp. To me, they did not disappoint. Etem still has the speed, even when he wasn't pushing it full tilt, and what a beautiful shot. He had two unbelievable goals that popped the waterbottle. The crowed gasped and clapped each time. Even more impressive than Etem was Smith-Pelly. He was physical and fast. I loved the way he parked himself in front of the net and blocked out the sun from the goalie. He was always starting the rush and attacking the puck. You could tell the crowd was really hyped up by those two. Each time one of them touched the puck everyone seemed to lean forward in their seat, just waiting to see what they did next. Putting Etem and Smith-Pelly together was incredibly fun to watch, yet there was one player that was even more dynamic. This was my first formal introduction to Chris Wagner. The guy scored four goals. He was all over the ice. I really enjoyed watching him play and it will be interesting to see what he does during camp.
There is a wealth of talent in our system. If the Ducks are committed to developing players like Etem, Smith-Pelly, and Wagner, we could have a very strong second line when the Masterton guys call it a career. Mixing RPG with the new speed of WESP (I tried to get a cool acronym) could be a huge threat and something incredible to watch. The future is bright in Anaheim, and I can't wait to see more of it in Training Camp.