One of the most intriguing questions surrounding the Anaheim Ducks would-be 2012-13 season was what kind of a role and what kind of success their offensive farm system players would have.
The ultimate answer to that question has been put on hold thanks to a lockout that is now threatening to cancel the remainder of what would already be a significantly shortened NHL season.
However, these prospects are getting plenty of ice time with the Ducks AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals, and while you can't draw solid conclusions from how a player fares in the AHL, the stat sheet itself does offer us a chance at some interesting speculation.
Anaheim is counting on some strong development from these players and banking on their contribution in the near future. Using only the stat sheet, we'll take a look at how some of them are doing and see what their numbers tell us about the future of the Ducks at the NHL level.
Peter Holland has flown somewhat under the radar in Anaheim, but there's no question that with a 60-plus-point season in the AHL under his belt and now leading the Admirals in scoring, he's worth a look when it comes to replacing Saku Koivu.
Holland played a handful of games for the Ducks last year and was able to pot a goal on the only shot he took. However, Holland might be earning a closer look and some significant ice time at the NHL level when the lockout is over.
Emerson Etem is still Anaheim's most valuable offensive prospect, but he hasn't yet been able to translate his dominating success with the Medicine Hat Tigers to the AHL.
Even so, eight goals with Norfolk is nothing to sneeze at, and even limited production with the Admirals won't be enough to discourage Bruce Boudreau from at least giving him a decent shot when the time comes.
As a top candidate to take one of the vacant wing spots left by Niklas Hagman or Jason Blake (or possibly Teemu Selanne if the lockout forces him to retire), Kyle Palmieri might just be earning his keep.
While numbers aren't everything, if they matter at all, the Ducks coaching staff will be encouraged by Palmieri's 19 points in 27 games and team-leading 89 shots on goal. Add four power-play goals to that total, and you've got to credit Palmieri with an impressive run.
At least so far.
Sami Vatanen is Norfolk's highest-scoring defenseman with three goals and 17 points. He's perhaps the lesser known of the Ducks defensive prospects, though with Gardiner and Schultz no longer in the picture, he and Lindholm have become the most viable defensive prospects who are playing primarily in the AHL Anaheim has.
Vatanen probably won't get his shot without an injury to another defender, though if he does and his first stint in the AHL is any indication, he'll be a threat to contribute offensively.
At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Patrick Maroon is continuously putting up solid offensive numbers in the AHL, including a 74-point season last year. On a regular basis he has been one of the Ducks' most productive farm system players, though he has received little time at the NHL level and little speculation as to when he'll be ready for a bigger role.
His physical build and power forward style is conducive to the Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan grinding offense that has become so successful in Anaheim. As he continues to produce, he should be considered a dark horse to make the Ducks' starting lineup, if and when there's a training camp again.