Heralded Gibson Highlights Ducks' Top 10 Prospects

Saturday, 08.30.2014 / 1:15 PM

By Adam Kimelman | NHL.com

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been part of the Anaheim Ducks organization since they were first-round picks in 2003. They emerged as NHL stars during the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07.

They continue to serve as examples for the Ducks; not just with how they play, but the patient path they took to reach their current level of stardom. If the slow approach worked for those two superstars, it can work for other young players.

"We're an organization that does not rush our young players," Ducks director of player development Todd Marchant said. "We give them time to develop, time to mature. … I look at Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, their first year they got sent to Portland [American Hockey League] and went down for 15 games and that was the last time they went back down. … Very few players actually go in and make the team and never play a game in the minors. I think [AHL time] is very valuable to their development."

Here's a look at Anaheim's top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. John Gibson, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 39), 2011 draft

Last season: 45 GP, 21-17-4, 2.34 GAA, .919 save percentage, 5 SO, Norfolk, AHL

Gibson, 21, lived up to the hype when he got his chance with the Ducks, with an 18-save shutout against the Vancouver Canucks in his first NHL game. Then he had a 28-save shutout in his first Stanley Cup Playoff start. With Jonas Hiller leaving for the Calgary Flames, Gibson (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) will start training camp as the No. 1 goaltender, a role he seems ready for.

"John rises to the occasion," Marchant said. "The bigger the game, the better he plays. I think confidence is a huge part of that. He's not a cocky kid, but he's a confident kid. You can just see it in his demeanor and the way he handles himself. In practice how he doesn't want anyone to beat him. The best goalies, that's what they do, that's the way they are."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Nicolas Kerdiles, LW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 36), 2012 draft

Last season: 28 GP, 15-23-38, Wisconsin, BIG TEN

After two outstanding seasons at the University of Wisconsin, Kerdiles (6-1, 200) signed with the Ducks in April and could compete for an NHL spot this season. Marchant believes the 16 combined regular-season and playoff games Kerdiles, 21, got into with Norfolk of the American Hockey League late last season will help that cause.

"For anybody, especially a kid that's played college, that first step in his development in getting his feet wet in the American Hockey League was huge," Marchant said. "Last year at the end of the season he got a chance to play some regular-season games and we got to the second round of the playoffs; that kind of experience is invaluable. Now … Nic has to be able to build upon what he's been able to accomplish to this point. He's a big, strong kid. He plays a power-forward game now. He can play center, he can play wing. He does a lot of things well. Now it's just a question of how much time is it going to take him; could take him some time in the American Hockey League to round out his game. He's definitely a person that's on the rise, and in the last couple years he's really taken a huge step in his development."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

3. Stefan Noesen, LW

How acquired: Trade (Ottawa Senators), July 5, 2013

Last season: 2 GP, 0-0-0, Norfolk, AHL

Noesen (6-1, 201), acquired as part of the Bobby Ryan trade with the Ottawa Senators, tore two knee ligaments during a practice in October. He didn't play again until Norfolk's final four AHL playoff games. However, Marchant believes it was far from a lost year for the 21-year-old forward.

"An injury like this when you're young can help a player," he said. "It allows them to develop mentally. What it was like for him to get up every day, knowing he wasn't going to step on the ice, but he was going to have to go to rehab and he was going to work hard off the ice so he could get back on the ice in the time frame that was allotted for him. He matured a lot as a person this year. He really developed a good work ethic off the ice, and that really helped him on the ice."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Rickard Rakell, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 30), 2011 draft

Last season: 46 GP, 14-23-37, Norfolk, AHL

The final pick of the first round three years ago already has gotten a taste of the NHL, including 18 regular-season games and four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Now the goal for Rakell (6-1, 192) is to go from part-time employment to full-time NHL work at age 21.

"[Rakell] is a highly skilled centerman," Marchant said. "For him it's more little parts of the game that he needs to continue to develop, being better on faceoffs. Especially at the National Hockey League level, you know that faceoffs are important. Little things like that. His offensive skill, his vision, his strength on the puck are NHL-caliber. Hopefully for him and for us, he's going to play in the National Hockey League next year."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

5. Nick Ritchie, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 10), 2014 draft

Last season: 61 GP, 39-35-74, Peterborough, OHL

While the Ducks' philosophy is to take a patient approach with their younger players, exceptions can be made. And from what the Ducks have seen of Ritchie, 18, he could be the exception to the rule.

"He's got an NHL shot right now," Marchant said. "There's no question in my mind. That big body (6-2, 226), he skates very well for a big man. We didn't really get a chance to see the real physical side of him at the development camp, because that's not what it's about, but I know it's there. We told him at the end of his exit meeting, we expect him to come in and fight for a spot with the Anaheim Ducks. Whether it's going to happen or not, who knows, but that's the mentally you have to have, that you're going to earn a spot on the Anaheim Ducks. As [general manager] Bob Murray has always said, if you're good enough to play, we'll make room for you, we'll find a spot for you. Nick is one of those guys."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

6. Shea Theodore, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 26), 2013 draft

Last season: 70 GP, 22-57-79, Seattle, WHL

Theodore (6-1, 183) led all Western Hockey League defensemen in points last season and was second in goals, but it was the eight regular-season and playoff games the 19-year-old played in the AHL late last season that opened eyes. Marchant sees a lot of current Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler in Theodore right now.

"He [Theodore] really had a chance to learn how you have to defend [in the AHL]," Marchant said. "He definitely got better in the six weeks he was down in Norfolk. He got much bigger and stronger from last season. His offensive skills speak for themselves, but in this game in this day and age, you have to be able to defend too. He definitely has gotten better at that. … Cam was that type of player when he first got to us. We were able to turn his game into what it is today."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Nick Sorensen, RW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 45), 2013 draft

Last season: 44 GP, 31-30-61, Quebec, QMJHL

At 19 and with three years of experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Sorensen ( 6-1, 182) is too young to play in the AHL but has little to gain from another season of junior hockey. That's why the Ducks have loaned him to Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League this season.

"We want him to play against men," Marchant said. "We feel he's accomplished all he can in the junior ranks. He's from Sweden, so that part of it made it a little easier. … We need to have him have a good, healthy season. The last couple years have been plagued by injuries that have hampered him through his development. We're looking for him to have a big year for Skelleftea."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

8. William Karlsson, C

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 53), 2011 draft

Last season: 55 GP, 15-22-37, HV 71, SWE

The Swedish Hockey League rookie of the year in 2012-13, Karlsson (6-0, 180) followed that with a solid second season. The 21-year-old was even better in a late-season stint with Norfolk, with nine points in nine regular-season games.

"Will is one of the smartest players that we have in the organization," Marchant said. "The way he thinks the game, the way he sees the game. Will played against the men and we saw how he's able to battle them down low, saw it in Norfolk when he came over. He had no problem batting down low in the defensive zone or in the offensive zone. He's got great offensive skills, great vision; just a good two-way player. Another player, like Rakell, who should be fighting for one of those center spots [in Anaheim].

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

9. Miro Aaltonen, C

How acquired: 6th round (No. 177), 2013 draft

Last season: 60 GP, 13-16-29, Blues, FIN

Last season was Aaltonen's first as a full-time player in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, capped by a point-per-game run through seven games in the Finnish league playoffs. Marchant said the plan is for the 21-year-old to continue to build on that this season, with a reward being a trip to North America at the end of the season.

"He's not a very big player (5-10, 172), but he's a strong player," Marchant said. "He's not afraid, goes to the dirty areas. He sees the ice well, has a good little shot. And he's a good two-way player. He does not cheat when he's on the ice. Hopefully we can build on what he did in the playoffs for Espoo and have a big year."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

10. Igor Bobkov, G

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 76), 2009 draft

Last season: 29 GP, 17-8-4, 2.04 GAA, .921 save percentage, Utah, ECHL

Due to a glut of high-end goaltending prospects, the 23-year-old had to go to the ECHL to find playing time. He did everything the Ducks asked and was able to get into 10 AHL games last season. With Gibson and Frederik Andersen the goaltending tandem in Anaheim, Bobkov will split time with veteran Jason LaBarbera in the AHL this season.

"He's got something you can't teach and that's size (6-5, 235)," Marchant said. "There's not a lot of space to shoot at. Igor was stuck in a numbers game [last season]. We'll have him obviously in Norfolk as one of our goalies [this season]. We expect Igor to play some big minutes for them. … Hopefully he can continue his development as a player in our organization."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

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