Ducks: Forwards of the future?

ANAHEIM -- Heading into training camp, it was no secret the Ducks needed a fourth-line center and possibly another rugged wing. Now that management has trimmed the roster to 16 forwards, there remains a strong possibility a rookie will earn at least one of those opportunities, while a couple others are just a phone call away at the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse.

Here’s a closer look at the remaining rookie forwards on the roster:

Name: Maxime Macenauer

Pos.: Center

Age: 22

Drafted: Third round (63rd overall) by the Ducks in '08

Background: Macenauer nearly made the team out of training camp last season, but his development tapered off in the final week and he spent the season in Syracuse, scoring 13 goals and 32 points in 79 games. Macenauer came into this camp in even better shape, sat out a few days because of a strained groin but has steadily impressed with each passing day. Coach Randy Carlyle likes Macenauer’s physical play and his potential as a penalty killer.

Carlyle quote: “We’ve put him in some real tough situations. We knew that, with his strengths, he would be a guy challenging [for a roster spot]. It’s just that he has to maintain that for more than one week, two weeks, three weeks … he has to continue to show us he can do it."

Name: Devante Smith-Pelly

Pos.: Right wing

Age: 19

Drafted: Second round (42nd overall) by the Ducks in ’10

Background: Smith-Pelly is still eligible to be returned to juniors, but if he keeps doing all the little things, he could stick around for the season opener in Finland next month. He’s a big-bodied forward who likes to throw his weight around and smart enough to get away with it. Carlyle had a chance to watch Smith-Pelly play for the Canadian major junior title last May at the Memorial Cup and has been even more impressed during training camp.

Carlyle quote: "Did he do some things in junior that I didn’t like? Yea, there were some things, but I contend who’s prepared themselves to try and make the NHL? That’s a big step for a young guy to take that responsibility and it’s showing, not only in his conditioning level but his commitment day in and day out to come to work.”

Name: Andrew Gordon

Pos.: Right wing

Age: 25

Drafted: Seventh round (197th overall) by the Washington Capitals in ‘04

Background: Though technically still a rookie, Gordon already made a few highlight reels with his first NHL goal last season. It wasn't so much the effort that drew the attention, but rather the kiss on the cheek of linemate Marcus Johansson following the goal. Gordon is another player, like Macenauer and Smith-Pelly, who seems cut out for a third or fourth-line role in the NHL. It hasn’t hurt Gordon’s chances that he also has a team-high three goals in the preseason, including the final tally in a 3-1 victory Sunday night against the Kings.

Carlyle Quote: “I wouldn’t say you’d expect Gordon to be a 30-goal scorer, but I think you can expect he’ll show that workmanlike attitude. He’s going to play hard, he’s going to go in and block shots, he’s going to do whatever it takes to survive.”

Two others who have a good chance of returning to the Ducks this season:

Name: Kyle Palmieri

Pos.: Center

Age: 20

Drafted: First round (26th overall) by the Ducks in ’09

Background: Palmieri probably had the best shot of making the team of any rookie forward heading into camp, but he fell well short of expectations until Sunday’s game against the Kings, when he broke a 0-0 tie during the second period of the 3-1 victory by Anaheim. Palmieri, who was among those returned to Syracuse on Monday, also has NHL experience under his belt, playing 10 games for the Ducks last season.

Carlyle quote: “We felt his camp wasn’t anywhere near our expectations until the last game in L.A, and I told him so. ... We felt that he had shown us only in the one game what we were really looking for.”

Name: Peter Holland

Pos.: Center

Age: 20

Drafted: First round (15th overall) by the Ducks in ’09

Background: With a backlog of good young centers on the team, Holland’s return to Syracuse on Monday had as much to do with numbers as his ability. He has made great strides in his game almost from the day the Ducks drafted him two years ago, producing three goals and three assists in his first three AHL games at the end of last season (after his junior season ended). He showed just the right combination of physical force and scoring touch during his first extended NHL preseason look.

Carlyle quote: “It’s not if he’s going to play in the NHL, it’s going to be when. ... He has got to understand that if he’s good from the top of our circles in the defensive zone to the top of the circles in the offensive zone, then he’s going to play in the NHL a lot quicker. He has got to be neat and tidy and effective and trustworthy ... do that 99.9 percent of the time and make the right decisions. That was a huge positive as far as where he was a year ago."