Much has been made of the high-end Ducks prospects looking to make an impact this season; whether it be those with a relatively high draft pedigree (Sam Steel, Isaac Lundestrom or Maxime Comtois) or those who have already carved out an early career of success on the world stage (Troy Terry) but there is one name that has taken everybody by surprise.
That name is Kiefer Sherwood.
So who is Kiefer Sherwood?
Born in Columbus, Ohio to Roger and Yuko Sherwood, Kiefer grew up playing in suburban New Albany. He spent much of his development in the Columbus Blue Jackets junior system - playing 2 seasons for their under-16 team and one for the under-18s - from there he got a 4 game look with the USDP before moving onto the in-state Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.
During his draft year he was ranked 202nd among North American skaters and ultimately went undrafted in 2013. He received draft consideration again in 2014, but again was not taken. After committing to the (again) in-state University of Miami he and his younger brother Kole were invited to the Blue Jackets prospect camp - the Jackets wanted to take his brother in the 2015 draft but did not have a late round pick to do so. He has since been signed by the Jackets and - like his brother - is starting his pro-career this season; but unlike Kiefer - Kole has already been cut from the training camp roster and will start the season with the Cleveland Monsters.
Speaking of the Monsters - that was my first real impression of him. I was in the departure lounge at Melbourne International Airport listening to the Gulls game (cheers Air France for the Wifi tap) - the Gulls had not been playing an overly great game and desperately needed these points to stay in contention, and were heading back home to face a 9 game stretch that included facing the division leading Roadrunners 3 times to close it. They couldn't hold a 3-2 lead and headed to OT in Cleveland. Then Kiefer Sherwood found himself in the right place at the right time - taking a pass from Kalle Kossila and putting it past the sprawling Monsters goaltender for the winner. In his first professional game. In his home-town building. I immediately labelled him Captain Clutch but as we have seen in camp - there is a lot more to the 23 year old.
Kyle Shohara wrote an excellent piece on him this week - which, among a few interesting morsels, brought to the light the fact that a certain Ducks legend may have been responsible for getting Sherwood into hockey in the first place.
Much like Kariya he also has all of the hard-work ethic and intelligence that comes with being a good hockey player. Former coaches such as Andrew Cassels have raved about him - preaching his skating and desire to put the extra work in to succeed.
We saw in the preseason how well he uses his speed and his skating to both an offensive and defensive advantage. If the Ducks are looking to implement a better transition game with emphasis on turnovers to generate scoring opportunities - Sherwood is a very good option to have.
So in this - the 25th year anniversary of the Ducks franchise and the very same one that Paul Kariya finally has his jersey retired; is it fate or coincidence that we see a player for whom Kariya was his ultimate inspiration get to create a new dream and potentially inspire a new generation of hockey fans?
Watch this space.