Anaheim Needs ‘Young Ducklings’ to Step Up

Hockey fans rejoice with World Cup of Hockey and rookie camps underway. Plus, training camps are weeks away which means NHL teams have their rosters set for the 2016-17 season.

The Anaheim Ducks fans are not as thrilled with their favorite team’s incomplete roster that lacks sufficient scoring depth to contend in the Western Conference. On top of that, this team will certainly see its puck possession numbers drop with Randy Carlyle returning as Anaheim’s bench boss.

The roster boasts depth on the blueline but is short staffed up front. This makes the rookie camp as important as ever for rookie forwards such as Nick Ritchie, Nick Sorensen, Stefan Noesen and Max Jones to impress the coaching and hockey operations staff to crack the Ducks roster.

As of right now, the Ducks head into the new season still without the “left-shooting left winger” general manager Bob Murray said his team desperately needed to buck the losing trend. Many believed the Ducks would either part with one of their young defenseman – Cam Fowler or Sami Vatanen – to acquire that impact scorer. But Fowler remains a Duck and Vatanen signed a four-year contract extension in June.

Murray could surprise everyone and announce a trade tomorrow; but in the meantime, the Ducks, a budget team, will go the cheap route and look to their young ducklings to step up.

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Nick Ritchie

It’s been a revolving door on the Ducks top line for a left winger to play alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Nick Ritchie could develop into that left winger. He’s also a left shooter to boot! However, he struggled to keep up with the speed of the NHL in his first season with the big boys.

With the Ducks, Ritchie registered two goals and four points in 33 games played. In the AHL last season, he netted 16 goals and 20 points in 38 games playing with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. He was a point-per-game in the Calder Cup playoffs (five goals and eight points in nine games).

Ritchie is your prototypical power forward sitting at 6 foot 2 and weighing 232 pounds. He’s tough to move off the puck, possesses smooth hands, and has a rocket of a shot. While the former 10th overall pick underwhelmed in his first games with the Ducks, he has another chance to prove he can keep pace.  He’s only 20-years-old and has the makeup to be a consistent scorer in Anaheim.

Stefan Noesen

The Ducks believe in Stefan Noesen as they signed him to a one-year contract in July. Noesen was acquired in a trade with Ottawa in July 2013 for Bobby Ryan with Jakob Silfverberg also part of the package sent to Anaheim. He was seen as a top prospect but has been sidelined with major injuries in his first two seasons as a professional.

Noesen appeared in one game with the Ducks last season and did not register a point. With San Diego, he registered 22 assists and 32 points in 65 games played. In the AHL playoffs, he scored two goals and seven points in nine games. The Ducks believe he can contribute as they signed him to a one-year contract in July.

Noesen was once compared to current Duck right winger Corey Perry. His big frame (6 foot 1, 205 pounds) and skating, provides a challenge for opposing defensemen. As he regains his strength, he could slot in and bring feistiness and high-energy to the Ducks third or fourth line.

Nick Sorensen

Nick Sorensen has impressed in the Ducks rookie camp so far. The former 45th overall pick has used his speed to drive play, his size (6 foot 2, 185 pounds) to protect the puck and get inside positioning against defenders.

Nick Sorensen missed several games due to injuries in 2012-13 (Source: Quebec Remparts)
Nick Sorensen missed several games due to injuries in 2012-13 (Source: Quebec Remparts)

He’s a solid two-way player with a strong work ethic but has seen his development hindered by injuries. He collected 23 points (10 goals and 12 assists) in 37 games with Linkoping of Swedish Hockey League last season.

Sorensen possesses the offensive abilities to immediately chip in offensively if given the chance with the Ducks. He’s primarily a playmaker but also has an accurate shot and doesn’t shy away from driving to the net.

Max Jones

Another possible solution to solve the Ducks left-wing conundrum could be Max Jones. He’s big (6 foot 3, 205 pounds), skates well, creates offense, shoots left and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.

In his first rookie camp, Jones has stood out with his dynamic and explosive play. He led London Knights to the Memorial Cup championship last season putting up 52 points (28 goals and 24 assists) with a plus-30 rating in 63 games played.

According to scouts, the Ducks  24th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft plays the game with a tenacious edge. The combination of his relentless play, a wicked shot, and strong skating makes for a dangerous forward. His top-end talent could propel him into the Ducks lineup as soon as possible.

Anaheim also added forwards Antoine Vermette and Mason Raymond in the offseason and both will likely contribute, but aren’t impact players. The Ducks good young crop could grab a roster spot and provide the supporting talent this team needs to get back to contention.