The Ducks have 6 prospects playing in the World Junior Championships this year which is 2nd most only to the Florida Panthers who have 7. Considering some teams only have 1 or 2, combined with the fact that watching the NHL Ducks lose game after game makes this years World Juniors even more exciting for us Duck fans. Here is a breakdown of the 6 players we will be able to watch in this years tournament.
On the United States team we have 2 very important players in the Ducks future in Emerson Etem, and John Gibson. Etem was a first round draft pick for the Ducks in 2010, and is considered by many the best prospect in the Ducks system. Etem is a fun player to watch. He has a ton of speed, and has been a scoring machine at the junior level as he is 3rd in the WHL with 61 points in 34 games, and his 30 goals is good enough for 2nd best in the WHL. He will be relied on to provide offense for the US team, and will be a fun player to watch. It looks like there will be a couple of openings on the Ducks 2nd line next year and Etem might have a shot taking one of the spots so this will be a nice preview to see what he can do in big game situations. Gibson a 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft looks like he will start the series as the backup goalie to Stars prospect Jack Campbell, but as we have seen in past tournaments anything can happen and often times coaches will ride the hot hand and play the goalie who is playing best at the time. Statisticaly Gibson has been great this year going 14- 6 for the Kitchener Rangers with a 2.52 GAA and a .933 Save percentage. If you want to compare those stats to Campbell who is 12-7-3 with a 3.01 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Statisticaly Gibson has been better this year, but Campbell does have the experience of being there before and so far is set to start in-goal for the US. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Gibson will get, and it is definitely possible he could be getting most of the action towards the end of the tournament.
Playing for team Canada this year is a player that all Ducks fans already know Devante Smith-Pelly who played 26 games with the Ducks this season. Smith-Pelly who is already a physical player for the Ducks will be looked to over power the players on the opposition who will not be as big as the NHL players that Smith-Pelly is used to going up against. Smith-Pelly seemed to have been heating up a little bit right before he was sent to team Canada. Although he only had 5 points with the ducks 2 of his 3 goals came in his last 2 games, and he will be looked to provide offense for the Canadian team as he will have a bigger role with them than he did as a rookie on the Ducks.
There will be 3 Duck prospects playing for team Sweden this year. All 3 were taken in the 2011 draft where the Ducks took Rickard Rakell in the 1st round, William Karlsson in the 2nd round, and Max Friberg in the 5th round. Rakell is a 6’2″ 190 lb. hard-working 2-way player who has put up some decent points in the OHL this year with 37 points in 32 games. He will also be a key to swedens offense in this tournament, and will likely be relied on in all situations. Karlsson is a speedy player that also has a good 2-way game. This season in his first at the sweedish pro level he is putting up just under a point a game with 25 points in 28 games. Karlsson who is a little smaller than Rakell at 6′ 175 lbs. will also be a key player for Sweden in all situations. Friberg who is the shortest of the 3 at 5’10 is also the biggest at 195 lbs. Even though he is a little shorter he is strong and has a lot of speed. He is a hard checker and hard to play against and also brings a good 2-way game. He has had a somewhat limited role in his first year as a Swedish pro with only 3 points in 28 games, but for the Sweden U20 in international play he has had 13 points in 8 games so the offense is there, and he should also be an important player for the Swedish team.
Another thing that will make this tournament an interesting one for Ducks fans is that the Ducks currently have the 2nd worst record in the NHL and there is a chance the Ducks may have a top 3 pick in the Draft this year. So besides the 6 Ducks prospects we can also watch the 3 top ranked prospects play in the tournament and get a good look at another potential future Duck. Nail Yakupov, and Mikhail Grigorenko will be playing for team Russia, and Filip Forseberg will be playing with the 3 Duck prospects on team Sweden.