Back by popular demand, I bring you the commencement of '30 Teams in 30 Days.'
And even though they may not have Charlie Conway or "The Bash Brothers," the Anaheim Ducks do have several terrific OHL prospects.
John Gibson - Kitchener Rangers
It certainly was an interesting year for Gibson. There's no question that he had a better year internationally than he did in the OHL. That's not to say that he had a poor year in the O. In fact, when he played he was fantastic. It's that he didn't play a ton. He missed time due to an assortment of injuries/ailments (concussion, groin/hip, pneumonia, tonsillectomy). Where as internationally, he captured a gold medal at the U-20's and a bronze medal at the World Championships. He was absolutely brilliant at both events. I can honestly say that Gibson might be the best goaltender that I've ever seen in the OHL (only Mike Murphy is in that conversation with him). He's so calm and focused in the net. Rarely gives up soft goals. Gets himself in perfect position and doesn't have an excess of movement in the crease. He makes difficult saves look easy because of how well he reads and reacts to plays. Gibson can also make the highlight reel save, and is great post to post. Just an incredibly well rounded and polished netminder. My only concern are the injuries. I think some red flags have to go up when you see a young netminder injured as much as Gibson. Staying healthy is the only obstacle in his way, otherwise I don't see any way that Gibson doesn't become a starting NHL netminder. Heck, based on what I saw at the World Championships, I'd say he's pretty much ready to play in the NHL right now.
Rickard Rakell - Plymouth Whalers
Prior to cracking the NHL (post lockout), I actually felt like Rakell was only having a so-so season. That's not to say that he was bad, it's just that I didn't see a lot of progression from last year. When he returned from the NHL in February, he was significantly better and was making more of a consistent impact on the score sheet. He was great in the playoffs for Plymouth and was maybe their most consistent scoring threat. Given the fact that his offensive game didn't progress a ton this year, I think we have a good grasp on the type of player Rakell is going to be at the NHL level. His defensive game and skill away from the puck are still terrific. He's a hard worker and projects as a solid forechecker at the next level. And while he handles the puck well, especially at top speed, I don't see the offensive hockey sense or shot capabilities to suggest that he'll be a big time scorer. There's certainly nothing wrong with that considering Rakell should still be a solid 3rd line center who can play in a lot of different situations. Hopefully the Ducks do not rush him and allow him to play in the AHL next year, where he can try to gain some confidence in his offensive game at the pro level.
Stefan Noesen - Plymouth Whalers
Recently acquired in the massive Bobby Ryan deal, Noesen is a very solid prospect. While his offensive numbers dipped this year, I wouldn't be incredibly alarmed. I thought he still had a good year. The thing I really like about Noesen is that the past two seasons, he's saved his best hockey for the playoffs. He shows up when it counts. When he's at his best, Noesen is an aggressive puck carrying forward who creates a lot of offense by trying to go hard to the net, both with and without the puck. He's very much a north/south type of player. That said, he's also got a fair amount of skill and can make defenseman miss. That's what makes him so effective, because he can run through you or deke around you. His play without the puck is also very solid (sort of a per-requiste for playing under Mike Vellucci). He's an aggressive forechecker and has grown to become a more physical player as his OHL career has gone on. Next year he'll be in the AHL (likely) where he'll hopefully get a chance to play on a scoring line. I think he's a fairly pro ready prospect so I expect him to put up decent results right away. He could definitely develop into a quality 2nd line scoring option in Anaheim and was a terrific get for the Ducks.
Joseph Cramarossa - Belleville Bulls
The Ducks definitely made the right decision to send Cramarossa back for his overage season. He had his best year in the OHL, one that saw great progression over a disappointing 2011-2012 season. His confidence with the puck greatly increased this year. Simply a dump and chase type of player before, Cramarossa took more chances off the rush this year and looked to create offense in a variety of different ways. He's still most effective in puck retrieval, but it's nice to have that added element to his offensive game. His ability to create chances for his linemmates and overall vision with the puck has long been an underrated quality to Cramarossa's game. He's able to make things happen coming off the boards or from behind the net. On top of these improvements offensively, Cramarossa remains a solid player in all three zones, a good penalty killer, a solid body checker, and one of the fastest skaters in the OHL. If you had asked me previous to this year, I would have said Cramarossa was a longshot at a having an NHL career. But after the improvements he made this season, I think he's got a solid chance of contributing on a 3rd/4th line for Anaheim. He could have a long NHL career in the same vein as a guy like Greg Campbell. It'll be interesting to see how he does in the AHL next year. I could see him having a pretty quiet first season offensively, but improving from there as he gets more ice time.
Charles Sarault - Sarnia Sting
The Ducks made a terrific signing with Sarault, the OHL's 2nd leading scorer this year. He brings a ton of energy to any line he's on, and is a terrific puck possession player. He's got great agility and is able to keep plays alive along the wall very well, despite not being the biggest guy. He also makes any player he plays with better because of how well he sees the ice; truly a dynamic playmaker. If his AHL start is any indication, he may not have any trouble adjusting to the AHL offensively and should make an instant impact in Norfolk. Moving forward, the Ducks might have found themselves a David Descharnais esque guy. I could see him developing into a quality 2nd line playmaking option.