While researching our past GMs, I came to a realization that a few of the current Ducks prospects are getting to that point where “prospect” is a very loose title to hang around their neck. The feathers have grown in and they are ready to fly the coup. If they survive out in the wild either with the club that raised them or another is up to them.
Andy Welinski - 2011 - Round 3 - 83rd overall
It may not seem fair to lump Welinski in with this group given he spent four full years at college post-draft and thus has only played one full season of pro hockey. But he was drafted in 2011. The same draft the Ducks took Rickard Rakell, John Gibson, William Karlsson, Josh Manson, and Joseph Cramarossa. All of those players (with the exception of Crammer) have over 100 games NHL experience.
Given he was a rookie with the Gulls last year it is a tad harsh to call him out, but having been drafted over 5 years ago, he is dangerously close to losing the prospect tag. He either needs to make the NHL squad this year (not likely given our depth) or be shipped out for forward help.
As a rookie, he put together a 6 goal, 23 assist season with a +4 rating playing larger minutes in the second half when Montour and Shea Theodore were permanently recalled. Without the incoming Marcus Petersson and Jacob Larsson, losing him would be a blow to the Gulls if both the Swedes don’t end up in San Diego. And with Josh Mahura arriving next year he would become expendable.
Nic Kerdiles - 2012 - Round 2 - 36th overall
Nic has recently seen time with the Ducks and might have seen it sooner had he not been beset by injuries throughout his development. Having played two full pro years after a previous two years at college it is now or never for the Orange County native.
He has a combined 72 points in 129 games in the AHL with 15 points in 27 games last season. His recent call up was due to being red-hot during the Calder Cup run with 4 goals and 4 assists in 8 playoff games .
For draft class comparison, Hampus Lindholm & Frederik Andersen were taken in the same year. Kevin Roy, Andrew O’Brien, Brian Cooper and Jaycob Megna were all taken after him. The Ducks already gave up on O’Brien last year; dealing him to Nashville for Max Gortz in a straight change-of-scenery swap. Scoring goals is Kerdiles’ game and goal scoring wingers are what Anaheim need right now. But unless he can start out and stick with the big club to start the season, his time in the Ducks system might be quickly running out.
Kevin Roy - 2012 - Round 4 - 97th overall
Roy’s size may have hurt his draft rankings, but doing the full four years at college likely hurt his development as well. His numbers at Northeastern were all above a point per game except for his final year. Perhaps he should have turned pro after junior year. As a rookie on the Gulls last year he put up 46 points in 67 games (3rd in team scoring) and a further 5 points in 10 games in the playoffs. That kind of start indicates he is probably not long for graduating from the AHL. Whether or not he builds on that this year will be important, however. I am not going to lump him in with the “this year he must make the team” group given his size and the fact he was a 4th rounder, but if he isn't getting at least an injury cover or end-of-year call up by season’s end - his time with the Ducks may start to run short also.
Brian Cooper - 2012 - Round 5 - 127th overall
Another college prospect - Cooper started the year with the Grizzlies being on the bubble of the Gulls defensive depth. When injuries and recalls prompted a call up, he looked to stay in San Diego. Despite being the odd-man out for much of the earlier parts of the season he finished strong, getting 2nd pairing minutes and ending the year with 10 points in 37 games and a +5 rating. He played all 10 of the Gulls games in the playoffs getting 2 assists and finishing -2. At this point, Cooper is likely looking to graduate sideways from “Prospect” to “Journeyman AHLer”. He can contribute and only get better with the Gulls but I don’t think he gets a crack at the NHL, at least not with the Ducks.
Sidenote: Cooper isn't even under contract as of right now - so the whole above paragraph is probably moot.
Jaycob Megna - 2012 - Round 7 - 210th overall
That brings us to the last Duckling drafted in 2012, 24 year old Jaycob Megna. If you have been an avid reader of my “MOTF” pieces you would know that I am very high on this kid, possibly annoyingly so (sorry). With that out of the way, you have to know that it pains me to put him in this piece. Despite being a 7th rounder, he was taken in the same year as all but one of the above players so deserves to be here.
He is also 24; a year older than Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour. In the 7th-rounder-exceeding-expectations class comparison - Ondrej Kase is 21 and was taken in the draft 2 years later.
The reality is if Megna were on another NHL club he would be making the opening night roster; as a 2nd pairing partner on some of them! Hell, he could be paired with Shea Theodore in Vegas and make their defense look a lot better than it does right now. After all, leading the AHL with a +33 rating has to prove he is ready for a decent shot at the NHL.
The other reason I am high on him is the changing nature of the game. Defensemen are getting smaller to accommodate for speed and transition but forwards are still staying relatively the same size. Power forwards are still utilized to great effect and you cant always rely on your smaller blueliners to clear the front of the net; particularly in the playoffs. Megna can do that while also being smart and able to transition plays with the best of the more offensive d-men.
But, given that he had a taste of the NHL at the end of last year, it is due time for him to move up. Whether or not there is space or not on the Ducks roster is the question. It does make more sense to have the younger Petersson and Larsson develop and get used to the North American rink in the AHL with bigger minutes rather than toil as a 3rd pairing on sporadic ice time with the Ducks. At least for a year.
Megna can stay with the big club as a reserve or 3rd pairing then get possibly traded or graduate when the Kevin Bieska contract is finally up at years end (hooray!).
Kalle Kossila - Undrafted Collegiate Free Agent
I almost forgot about Kossila, but given that he was born in the same year as Roy and a lot of the players on this list, he should probably be mentioned too. Another “full 4 years” college graduate and another “rookie with the Gulls last year”, Kossila did get a recall late last season soon after his highlight-reel lacrosse style goal on Star Wars night.
48 points in 65 games with the Gulls (good for 2nd on the team) and 6 in the postseason further illustrates why the Ducks opted to sign the smaller winger to a 2 year deal after his final year at St. Cloud State.
He has much less expectation given he was undrafted, but as this is the final year of his contract he will need to follow up that impressive rookie campaign with something even better. If he is paired with incoming countrymen Julius Nattinen - there is a good possibility he does that.
As it stands, he likely sits 3rd or 4th on the Ducks forward recall depth chart. Like Roy, I think the Ducks will be more patient with him than the others on this list. But again, he needs to perform this year to get that contract extension.
Kevin Boyle - Undrafted Collegiate Free Agent
Goaltenders take longer to develop so Boyle probably doesn't belong here, but he is 25. This is more of a warning shot that, despite getting a one year extension recently, Boyle probably needs to make the Gulls on a more permanent basis this year; if not steal the net entirely.
With Angus Redmond now breathing down his neck and just the one year deal left to prove himself further, Boyle is another prospect in the hot seat.
Perhaps I am being too over zealous or harsh. After all, teams like Detroit have benefited from being extremely patient with prospects. I should also reiterate that a lot of these players attended the full four years at university.
All in all, it is also pretty clear that a lot of those mentioned are very close or are already at the NHL level. With the rate the Ducks are drafting quality prospects across every round lately, the incubation periods are going to need to get shorter for these players.
Keep an eye on these guys this season; they are likely either going to be moving up or moving out.
Notes: Players left off the above list due to already (in my opinion) losing the prospect tag. Sam Carrick, Max Gortz (forfeited given he loses a year in Sweden now & also not under contract) and Andre Petersson (has not been seen since he left for Europe, also not under contract) .