Part 23 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#8: Anaheim Ducks
Top Fws: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan
Top Ds: Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler
Top G: Jonas Hiller
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. D Cam Fowler (20)
2. D Luca Sbisa (22)
3. F Devante Smith-Pelly (20)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Kyle Palmieri (21)
2. F Emerson Etem (20)
3. F Peter Holland (21)
4. D Sami Vatanen (21)
5. G John Gibson (19)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: B
The Anaheim Ducks have key core pieces at every position. Getzlaf is a top-line center, Perry and Ryan are top-line wingmen (although Ryan has generated plenty of trade rumours). Hiller is a number 1 goalie when he isn't facing bouts of vertigo. Fowler and Sbisa are the future of the franchise on the backend. This core is also surrounded with experienced veteran talents, such as ageless Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin, and a solid defense in terms of depth.
The team's forwards remains very top-heavy at the NHL level. The team lacks proven scoring talent on the wings after the big three of Perry, Ryan and Selanne. Koivu and Cogliano are the 2nd/3rd line pivots, but Koivu is aging and Cogliano doesn't bring enough offense to fill the scoring void behind the top line. The depth players up front lack size, aggression and intimidation beyond Devante Smith-Pelly.
The Ducks, despite the loss of top prospect Justin Schultz, have built a solid group of prospects, each projected to fill a different role at the NHL level. Overall, the pool has depth at every position behind the big name prospects such as Etem, Holland, Palmieri, Gibson, Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. The pool is well-rounded with offensive scorers (such as Max Friberg), defensive specialists (such as Andy Welinski), and two-way players (such as Rickard Rakell).
You'd have to nitpick pretty hard to find any weaknesses in Anaheim's development system. They lack a bluechip talent on the left wing, although they have some intriguing pieces there in Friberg and newcomer Nicolas Kerdiles. The defense is a little thin, given the departure of one of the best prospects in all of hockey. In net, beyond Igor Bobkov and Gibson, the team could use a few more pro-caliber prospects.
The Ducks had arguably the worst puck luck in the league last season. On paper, they were a team with some real high-end scorers, puckmoving defensemen, and an All-Star goalie. But when you're an offensive team and your best players fail to score, you get the 2011-12 Anaheim Ducks. The entire group took a step back and while the team got a little better as the year went on, the team only finished 25th in the NHL, a disappointment for a team that had playoff aspirations to start the season.
There is reason for optimism in Disneyland however. The Ducks, despite regularly drafting in the mid-teens (or even later) have built an impressive prospect pool. While none of the players have "Nail Yakupov" projections or hype, it's a deep group that should churn out more than just a few NHLers, and for a team that already suffers from depth issues (and the loss of some key veterans such as Scott Niedermayer) the youth movement can only be considered a blessing.
GM Bob Murray has built his team with the belief that they can contend in the near future if not right now. They'll likely be among the bubble teams in the West next season. After that, it's anyone's guess.