If you don't know Hockey's Future, then you're missing a valuable source in evaluating up and coming NHL talent. Recently, they released their list of the top 10 organizations in the NHL in terms of the talent pool in the cupboard. It was good news and bad news for the Ducks as they were ranked 8th, but 5 of the top 8 teams were from the Western Conference and will be major competition for playoff positions going forward. This ranking is largely based on the offensive talent in the system, especially some of our prospects in major junior hockey. Speaking of major junior, Hockey's Future also evaluated the Ducks' talent at that level.
I'm not here to do a post evaluating the potential of each player; that's what Arthur does when in his Armchair Scout posts. Rather, I want to look at how some of these prospects might fit in with the squad next season. After the jump, I'll look at the players that Hockey's future has labeled the top 5 prospects in our organization as well as a few other players from the list of junior prospects that were evaluated. Overall, I'll cover 7 players and the scenarios that would be necessary for them to make the roster this season.Emerson Etem: He's the one most recently signed to an entry level deal, so he gets evaluated first. Etem might be the only person in the entire organization who is hoping that Teemu Selanne retires. Honestly, he's probably the only player in the cupboard that can match Selanne's speed. If Selanne retires, then the knee jerk reaction might be to put the Selanne-esque player with Saku Koivu, but that would be a mistake considering how fantastic that Ryan-Koivu-Sexton line was a season and a half ago. Etem would fit well on a third line with Brandon McMillan and another winger, maybe our next player on the list
Devante Smith-Pelly: Besides Kyle Palmieri,I think DSP is the player who has the best chance of making the team next year. His skill set lends itself to being that productive third liner who can also be an energy player. Carlyle is going to love the way this kid gets in on the forecheck. I think Devante got the best look of all the first year players at last year's camp. He might even be the player to round out that third line with McMillan and Etem. I do think that DSP will be competing with Beleskey to be that checking forward who provides a little offense, but I don't think a full season in Syracuse after Devo is done in the OHL would be a bad idea either. He might even make Beleskey expendable, depending on how well he plays at this year's camp.
Peter Holland: Peter is pretty much in the same boat as Etem. It's probably going to take someone retiring or getting moved to make room for him on the roster. Personally, I see him as 5th on the organization's list of centers behind Getzlaf, Koivu, McMillan and Bonino. While, Bonino hasn't shown the offensive potential that Holland has, he has shown some capability at the NHL level. Holland has some ability, but I can't see him getting time in Anaheim unless he just blows us all away in the preseason and we can't deny him a spot. Even then, does he get the second line and Koivu gets bumped down to the third line? Where does that leave McMillan, who can play the wing, but has such a strong 2-way game at a position that is reserved for the most defensively responsible forward? How did I get away with writing such a loooooong question? All of those are things that need to be considered when looking at Holland's chances to have our team's name on his chest. You know, because we don't really have a logo.
Kyle Palmieri: Kyle might seem the more natural replacement for a retiring Selanne, but I just don't think he's as fast as Etem. Moreover, I'm already on the Dan Sexton bandwagon when it comes to undersized right wingers. Still, Palmieri is going to get a long look at camp. The best thing he has going for him is that he's actually played in the NHL and managed to find the back of the net...once. I don't see Palmieri leap frogging anybody to get a permanent spot on the roster. He's not a viable replacement for Selanne, but he could be a replacement for Blake, if we move him to clear some cap space. He will offer offensive options for the Ducks, and will probably be the top option out of Syracuse. Personally, I think we should let him stay in Syracuse while we figure out what to do with Dan Sexton.
Sami Vatanen: I think it's time to get Vatanen to the United States. Not because the organization desperately needs his offensive talents. I'd rank him third on our depth chart of offensive D, behind Fowler and Schultz. Honestly, I think we need to see if Vatanen can play on the wing. When I see him in those blue Finnish uniforms, he looks like a smurf. It's one thing to be undersized on the wing, it's completely different to be 5'9" in skates and get trapped on the ice against Joe Thornton. Imagine if Shane Doan had hit Vatanen instead of Fowler. I'm not saying the kid can't take a hit. I'm sure he gets hit by grown men from time to time in the Finnish Elite League. I'm saying that the ice is smaller here, and it's harder to get out of the way, no matter how well you skate. There's no denying the offensive talent, and if the Ducks ever sign him he could be a good player for us. It's going to take a miracle for him to find his way to the Anaheim blue line this year. There are too many needs to take a chance on a small offensive defenseman when you already have 7 guys signed for next year.
Igor Bobkov: If there was one player on this list I would 100% not want to see in a Ducks sweater next year, it would be Bobkov. However, depending on the Hiller situation and what gets done in the offseason, there's a chance he could get a cup of coffee this year. Goalies tend to develop a little slower, but Bobkov has shown some flashes of big game greatness. He's huge, and you'd think he could block 90% of the net by just standing in it. Still, the Ducks should let him develop as one of the top options in Syracuse. Murray should get an NHL goalie with experience if Hiller can't play. Bobkov needs time to develop and the organization shouldn't explore options that bring him up too early. He's the best goaltending prospect we have, maybe the only one.
Scott Valentine: I think I'll rank Scott Valentine third on the most-likely-to-make-the-NHL-next-season list. Valentine had a 48 number swing in the +/- category and nearly doubled his point total from 19 to 36. Hockey's Future also notes that the physical side of his game has really started to develop. The Ducks are really in the air for that 6th defender, and I've said before that it's probably not a bad idea to start giving a young guy a chance to crack the line up and develop in the NHL. There's a chance that Valentine could skip over guys like Mat Clark and Mark Mitera and find his way into that spot. Of course, the Ducks would need to find a home for Andy Sutton to make that happen. You never know what can happen, and Valentine might be able to work his way onto this roster.