The Ducks have 25 players still left on their training camp roster, and can only have 23 by noon. Randy Carlyle has said (nearly outright) that left wing Logan MacMillan will be one of the cuts. But who will be the other?
Most likely the Ducks will keep the other 14 forwards and 7 of the 8 defensemen currently on the roster. However, Carlyle acknowledged Tuesday that keeping all 8 defensemen and 13 forwards was also a possibility.
“I would say in the league, if you asked any coach or general manager that you can never have enough of, which position do you think 90 percent of them would say?” the coach asked rhetorically.
Both 14 and 7, or 13 and 8, are viable options because cap space is not an issue this season, unlike each of the past two training camps. Here’s a shakedown of the players on the bubble:
1. Brendan Mikkelson. The Ducks’ second-round selection in the 2005 draft has never made an opening-day NHL roster, but is making a case as a puck-moving defenseman with some versatility (he skated at forward last Friday in San Jose). He’s had an up-and-down camp, and the Ducks might prefer him to develop that versatility in the minors. Since he’s a 22-year-old who signed his entry-level contract in November 2006, Mikkelson (also a left-handed golfer) should be exempt from waivers until this November, in which case there’s no risk in sending him back.
2. Luca Sbisa. The 19-year-old defenseman has two options: Staying in Anaheim or going back to juniors. The Ducks are taking a risk either way. Sbisa skates like an NHL defenseman, has the size (6-2, 190) to match, and even Scott Niedermayer has praised his positioning on the ice. But he’s made some risky passes in the preseason, has held onto the puck too long at times, and the Ducks might not be willing to wait out Sbisa’s learning curve. On the other hand Niedermayer might retire, and this could be the only full season in which Sbisa gets to learn under one of the game’s all-time greats. Also, GM Bob Murray has said he won’t keep Sbisa around if he doesn’t play in the top five.
3. Sheldon Brookbank. The 28-year-old journeyman (three teams in four NHL seasons) isn’t much more than a serviceable defensive defenseman who’s willing to fight. That might be enough for the Ducks, who had three capable pugilists on the blue line last year: Francois Beauchemin, Chris Pronger and Steve Montador, and this year would be looking at mostly Nick Boynton (although James Wisniewski had nine fighting majors in 2007-08, he cut back quite a bit last season). Brookbank would have to clear waivers before going to the minors.
4. Andrew Ebbett. It’s hard to imagine the Ducks cutting a forward who couldn’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, and keeping eight defensemen. But Ebbett hasn’t made a strong case to stick, outside of his familiarity with the Ducks’ system, and a willingness to shift from his natural center position. He had eight goals and 24 assists in 48 games last season, and just three points in 13 playoff games, despite having a pretty good right wing in Teemu Selanne. In five preseason games Ebbett has had just one assist, albeit with some lesser-skilled linemates. If Ducks coaches and management like what they saw from Brendan Mikkelson at forward, it’s tough to justify having a 5-9 skill guy sitting on the bench.
Now it’s your turn…