With the draft taken care of and the Free Agent Frenzy dust clearing there was only one thing left to see before the Summer gets into full on, empty void of nothingness mode: Prospect Development Camp.
On Tuesday the kids arrived (I feel confident in calling them kids now, considering none of them were born in the same decade as I was) and were put through closed door practices on Wednesday and Thursday. The Ducks website has a recap of Day 1, a feature on Ducks' Fifth Rounder Matt Berkovitz and a number of interviews with the Ducklings (embedded below).
On Friday morning the roster was split into two teams for a scrimmage of two 30 minute running time periods open to the public. Being the Fourth of July, I had the day off and was able to take a peek at the future of the franchise, here are some notes on what we have to look forward to:
It would be foolish of me to start with anyone else, and not just because his family was sitting two rows in front of me. The Irvine native was far and away the best player on the ice, doing just about everything one could ask of him. On his first few shifts he was trying to dangle through everybody, when that didn't produce much he worked with his linemates, Antoine Laganiere and College invitee Christian Hilbrich (a HUGE kid, 6-7, 220 from Cornell), and really found a nice groove.
His chemistry with center, Antoine Laganiere was really impressive. I wouldn't be surprised to see the two of them matched up when training camp starts and/or in Norfolk this season, but the way Kerdiles was playing, it's clear that his goal is to make an impression in Anaheim rather than Norfolk in the fall. He scored on a tic-tac-toe play with Laganiere in the first half and on a pure snipe in the second. He even through a couple of solid checks before the day was done.
Honestly, he was so good that it got a bit distracting. Seemingly every time I saw something worth noting, I checked the number of who did it and it just kept coming up 50. During the second half, I had to make a concerted effort to focus on other players, since Kerdiles was just exploding off the ice.
While he was the most impressive of the bunch, it should be noted that he was one of ten players with AHL experience at the camp, including Igor Bobkov, who I imagine was really only there as a fourth goalie (not listed on the roster). Also, Laganiere was not listed on the roster, so maybe he was not officially a part of the proceedings as some of the younger guys were and their experience gave them a bit of a leg up.
The 10th overall pick from this year's draft looks a lot bigger in street clothes than he does in hockey gear. Nothing against the guy, but I was just expecting to be able to pick him out immediately and it took a couple of shifts. After that I made a point of focusing just on him whenever he was on the ice. To me, it seemed like he needed a little while to get warmed up. Through most of the first half he was kind of hovering around the slot and below the goal line, but not really asserting himself into situations much. Maybe that sounds worse than it was. He made himself available in good areas, but wasn't overpowering anyone with his size the way I had expected based on reports.
Almost all of my second half notes are on Ritchie. He saw a lot more of the puck and got his feet moving a lot more. His skating is good for a guy of his size, especially once he gets going. Toward the end of the scrimmage he was doing really well with the puck down low in the offensive zone. Instead of being the guy lurking for a goal, he was playing distributor and showing off his vision of the ice with some really nice passes as he escaped pressure to guys in prime scoring areas.
It was almost like he was waiting for guys to get him the puck early on, got fed up with it and sort of took control of the situation himself. Like he was saying "OK, guys this is what I want you to do." He even referenced it to the Ducks camera crew after the game (link and embedded video below) saying that it started out a bit like shinny but then everyone started to play a little harder, which seems to play into his type of game.
The 2013 first round defenseman was also a standout early on. His skating and passing were immaculate and he seems to be a really smart player, using the tools he has. Shooting, isn't necessarily one of them at this point. In the first half he had two shifts were he made really good plays passing and joining the rush through the neutral zone, but both ended with less than ideal shot attempts. One was a flat out whiff, the other shot right into a block about five feet in front of him. So, shooting is something he needs to work on, but isn't necessarily a huge detriment, when just about every single pass he made was On. The. Money.
When I say that he seems to be smart in using his skills, I'm mostly calling back to one play where he was one on one with Ritchie. This was later on when Ritchie had found his game and he got the puck at the blueline, drove into the center of the ice, protecting the puck from Theodore and just as he was about to drop the shoulder, cut into the crease and bowl Theodore over ... poke. The puck was off his stick and going the other way. It was a perfectly timed stick play, following a calm recovery on a neutral zone turnover where he was the only player back for his team. Very nice.
Unlike Ritchie, Pettersson's body type is just as evident on the ice as it is on paper, dude is a beanpole at 6-4, 167. I loved his skating, especially in space through the neutral zone. He had no worries about leading the rush, and almost made a signature move of carrying the puck up the wing to the top of the circles, dropping it to a trailing forward and circling back to his point position. He had a couple of bobbles of the puck when it was solidly in possession in the offensive zone, but that skating was just .... MWAH! (trying to figure out how to write the hand motion where you kiss your fingers and then throw them to the sky, but not as graphic as Louis CK)
- Ondrej Kase (seventh rounder in 2014) is a shifty little guy with some nice hands. He had a penalty shot on the only penalty of the game (no PPs were given, just a penalty shot for each offense) and went full on Frans Neilsen Backhand Shelf. Also late in the game he did a little keepy-uppie juggling move in the flow of play.
- Josh Manson looked a solid defensive defenseman. He wasn't doing anything flashy like Theodore or Pettersson hopping into the play or even crushing guys, just playing sound positionally and making good use of his stick in passing/shooting lanes. Also according to Bob Murray at the open house a couple weeks back, former Norfolk Head Coach and current defensive assistant coach Trent Yawney loves him.
- Along the same lines, Brandon Montour (second rounder from this year's draft) seemed to be out on the ice a lot, but making no mistakes. Good enough to notice, but not screaming "look at me!" Until he scored a goal off of a point shot through traffic with Ritchie in front (no idea if it was tipped or not, but the rest of the guys seemed to congratulate Montour).
- Matt Bailey also had a few good moments where he skated the puck through defenders down low to get some good scoring chances.
The Ducks have a summary of the scrimmage on their official site with quotes from Kerdiles, Ritchie and Todd Marchant. And finally, here are those interview videos as promised above: