It was speculated, it was rumored, and it happened.
In order to hold onto Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen, albeit possibly temporarily, the Ducks had to sacrifice Shea Theodore to the Vegas Golden Knights so that they would take the terrible idea that was the Clayton Stoner contract.
This leaves some questions as to who is next to fill those new hole(s) on the blue line?
As it stands we have:
Lindholm - Manson
Fowler - Montour
Vatanen - Bieska
If Vatanen gets traded that leaves 5 D-men which will obviously not work. This means we will likely see some fresh blood from the Gulls, overseas, or through free-agency/trade.
Let’s just cover in-house.
Jacob Larsson - 2015 27th overall pick; Frolunda HC
The front runner is likely Larsson. He made the club out of camp last year but couldn't stay in the line-up once injuries/signings brought regulars back in. He shoots left, like Theodore but is more defensively responsible. It remains to be seen if he is ready to handle a full year of NHL duty or the day-to-day rigors of the pro-game; but he is definitely one of the more obvious options.
Jaycob Megna - 2012 210th overall (7th round) pick; San Diego Gulls
In my personal opinion, Menga is the more likely replacement. He already proved himself in his call-ups late last year and his insane +/- is true testament to his game. No-nonsense shutdown defense. Like Theodore he also shoots left. He has been battle tested in the A playing over 60 games the past two seasons and finishing with 5 goals, 22 assists and 27 points along with his league leading +33. He may not be the same type of player that Theodore is offensively but with Fowler, Lindholm, and Vatanen already able to drive offense, a more balanced and defensively responsible player is not such a bad idea.
Marcus Pettersson - 2014 38th overall (2nd round) pick; Skelleftea
The forgotten Swede, Pettersson put up 9 points in 41 games and was a -3 in the SHL last season. For comparison, Larsson put up 5 points and was a -7 in 29 games. He is a year older than Larsson and given his stats, one would think he would also challenge for a roster spot. However, he is not NHL/AHL tested. Again, like Theodore, he shoots left.
Bonus note: This pick was originally Toronto’s but was acquired in the Peter Holland trade. He was also taken in the same year and round as Montour.
Andy Welinski - 2011 83rd overall (3rd round) pick; San Diego Gulls
Heir apparent to the Theodore/Montour throne in San Diego - Welinski took over the Powerplay and puck moving responsibilities once both were recalled at about the 3⁄4 mark of last season. The University of Minnesota-Duluth stalwart put up 29 points in 63 games and was a +4 in his first year as a pro. He added 3 points in 10 games and was a -3 in the Gulls playoff drive. Given it was his rookie year with the Gulls last season, it is still baby-steps for the 24 year old. However, given his progress, I don’t see him being too far down the depth chart if he is needed for an injury recall. He won’t be ready for full-time NHL duty until he has one more year in the A under his belt.
Josh Mahura - 2016 85th overall (3rd round) pick; Regina Pats
Put up 20 points in 34 games with the Pats after a mid-season trade, he had put up 33 points in 39 games with the Rebels before that which brought his season total to 53 points in 73 games. The 19 year old has already shown a lot of promise as a puck moving, offensive minded blueliner. He finished with a +18 with the Pats. Theodore came from the same league and was putting up similar numbers in his post-draft year.
Keaton Thompson - 2013 87th overall (3rd round) pick; San Diego Gulls/Utah Grizzlies
Thompson was always going to be a project pick - he had more than a few knocks to his game at the time of his draft. But since joining the Gulls mid-season last year he has progressed in development exponentially (thanks Dallas Eakins). He finished the year with 16 points in 52 games with the Gulls. He also put up 3 points in 10 games in the playoffs and was -2. If he continues to get better under Eakins tutelage he could blossom into an average 3rd pairing blue liner. Oh, and he also shoots left.
Brian Cooper - 2012 127th overall (5th round) pick; San Diego Gulls
The 23 year old left shooting defender was taken in the same year as Lindholm; he spent the next four years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and arrived at the Gulls for his rookie season last year. Like Welinski - he took on a larger role once Montour and Theodore were recalled and relished in it. He ended the year with 10 points in 37 games with the Gulls and was a +5. He put up a further 2 points and was a -2 in 10 games in the playoffs. Again, like Thompson, it was only his first year pro last year so it remains to be seen what he can do, but initial results are positive.
Still Kicking Around In the Wilderness Somewhere
Steven Ruggeiro - 2015 178th (6th round) pick; Providence College / Youngstown Phantoms
Not under contract - is set to play for Lake Superior State this year; don’t know a heck of a lot about him.
Matt Berkovitz - 2014 123rd (5th round) pick; Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) / Army (U.S Military Academy) NCAA
Put up decent numbers in the USHL the last four years but again, don’t know a heck of a lot about him. Not under contract.