NHL: Top 5 Anaheim Ducks Prospects
The Anaheim Ducks have one of the most enviable farm systems in professional hockey, and that's without counting Cam Fowler, who made the team coming out of his first training camp and has had a roster spot ever since.
Fowler was the final touch on several years of excellent drafting by the Anaheim organization. Though these years have seen a Ducks team that plays slightly south of consistent year to year, it has given the organization a chance to reload after its 2007 Stanley Cup championship.
A team that can afford to trade away prospects like Eric Tangradi and Jake Gardiner has some young talent to spare. Whether or not this is the year that talent will come to roost is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: The Ducks have a very bright future ahead of them.
With expectations high, here are five of Anaheim's most talented prospects.
5. Peter Holland
Peter Holland played in four games last season and scored a goal for the Ducks. With the Syracuse Crunch, he tallied 60 points in 71 games.
Aside from his statistical output, the makeup of the Anaheim Ducks might give him at least a shot at a roster spot. The Ducks signed Saku Koivu last month, but it was only to a one-year contract. While Koivu is their de facto second-line center, he's 37 and doesn't factor into the Ducks' distant future.
Depending on the play of Andrew Cogliano, look for Holland to make an impact either in training camp or midseason should Cogliano's play suffer.
4. Devante Smith-Pelly
Devante Smith-Pelly has shown that he can fit into Anaheim's offensive scheme, as he's a gritty but fast power forward who can make his presence felt in front of opposing goalies.
He played in 49 games for the Ducks last season, grabbing seven goals and 13 points. He could see a measure of promotion next season if Teemu Selanne and Jason Blake both decide to walk. If that doesn't happen, it would probably benefit him more, as he would have one more year to develop in his current role.
3. Justin Schultz
Whether or not Justin Schultz remains a Duck for much longer is yet to be seen, as his desire to play for the team that drafted him has been very much in doubt in recent months and the situation is coming to a head.
He has until June 24 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, and if the Ducks don't sign him, you can bet that he'll have other options.
Nevertheless, he remains a product of Anaheim's excellent drafting and possibly its poor management. He's without question the best defensive prospect Anaheim has to offer, and by all accounts, is ready for life at the NHL level.
2. Kyle Palmieri
Last year, Kyle Palmieri played 18 games for Anaheim and managed seven points. His production in Syracuse, however, was top notch, as he landed 33 goals and 58 points in only 51 games.
He's proven himself capable of NHL minutes, and with the possible departure of several Anaheim wingers this year, Palmieri could have a real chance to make the team this fall.
1. Emerson Etem
Emerson Etem literally has nothing left to prove at the junior level. With the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL he tallied an incredible 61 goals and 107 points in 65 games last season. If these numbers aren't catching the eyes of the Ducks' coaching staff, then nothing will.
His performance at training camp will obviously have an impact on whether or not he makes the team, yet it's hard to deny that he's done everything he can to make his presence felt in the WHL and as a top Anaheim Ducks prospect.
Again, his role next season will depend largely on the decisions surrounding Selanne, Blake and even free agent winger Niklas Hagman. If those players all walk, it'll leave some serious gaps on the wing that GM Bob Murray will have to fill.
If that's the case, look for Etem to be on his radar early.