One of the problems that come with success in the National Hockey League is that it inevitably depletes the prospect talent pool. The draft systems is structured to make sure that the best teams get less premium young talent and teams on the cusp of a championship often use future assets to pick up the “last pieces of the puzzle” in trades.
The 2006-07 champion Anaheim Ducks have not been immune to this phenomenon and while the cupboard is not completely bare, it could hardly be described as overflowing either.
Here, in the first of a 30-part series that will examine the best young talent in the systems of all 30 NHL teams, are the sportstwit.com choices for the Top 5 prospects, from a fantasy potential perspective, in the Anaheim Ducks' system:
1. Bobby Ryan, RW– Ryan, a prototypical power forward in the Todd Bertuzzi mode, seems finally ready to assume a top six forward role with the Ducks in 2007-08. Ryan produced a dominant performance for the Portland Pirates, during the AHL playoffs, with 20 points in 16 games. The indication from Anaheim is that the coaching staff and management are finally willing to let Ryan learn on the job and get the opportunity he needs to produce in 2008-09.
2. Jake Gardiner, D – The 17th pick overall in the 2008 entry draft, the Minnesota high school star was described by many as the fastest skater in the draft. He completed a recent transition from forward to defense. The big question about the 18-year old is his overall hockey sense, although scouts say he is smart with the puck and plays an unselfish game. He may be several years away as he is planning to attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall, but he could be a good one if the head catches up with the legs.
3. Brian Salcido, D– The 22-year old finished second in scoring among American Hockey League defensemen with 11 goals and 42 assists in 71 games. A smooth skater who never seems to panic under pressure, Salcido will be a regular in Anaheim by 2009-10 and could get a top six job this season if the rumored Mathieu Schneider trade happens.
4.Matt Beleskey, LW– Considering the 19-year old Beleskey was only a 4thround pick in 2006, his development has been nothing short of spectacular. Career numbers in goals (41) and points (90) has caused many in the Ducks' organization to reevaluate his offensive ceiling. Probably still a year away and somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that he might be competing with super prospect Bobby Ryan for minutes, Beleskey is still one to watch.
5. Nicolas Deschamps, C– The Ducks' were thrilled to see Deschamps fall to number 35 in the draft considering many analysts (including the Red Line Report and McKeen's) had him ranked in the top 20. The Delson, Quebec native plays a solid all-around game and led all QMJHL rookies in points with 67 last season. Many scouts think he has the offensive upside needed to become a very good, all-around NHL center.
Read other articles in the series: