ANAHEIM – Drawing the task of playing defense alongside partner Cam Fowler in this Ducks training camp, Andy Welinski is trying his best to not let his mind roam into what that might mean.
“They tell us to not look into stuff like that,” Welinski said Sunday to being put alongside last year’s All-Star blue-liner. “I think – whether there’s anything to it or not – on a personal level, it’s obviously fun to play with a player like that.
“He’s obviously very respected. He tells me stuff that I can work on. He’s obviously an established player and I can read off a lot of the stuff that he does and I can learn from that, even without him saying stuff. It’s obviously awesome.”
The thinking from the former Minnesota-Duluth captain and four-year Bulldogs standout is to not make too much of his current assignment. But the presence of Welinski with the Ducks’ current No. 1 defenseman is a reflection of the potential battle for a place in the defense corps.
With impact defenders Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen on the mend from offseason shoulder surgeries and likely out the first month of the regular season, the Ducks will take a long look at some of their young talent on the back end and see if one in particular steps forward to claim a roster spot.
And that has made for some interesting pairings in the first few days of camp at Anaheim Ice. Not only is Welinski with Fowler, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle and assistant coach Trent Yawney have Josh Mahura with Kevin Bieksa and Marcus Pettersson with Josh Manson.
Brandon Montour could start his first full NHL season playing with returning veteran Francois Beauchemin. Jacob Larsson, the Ducks’ first-round pick in 2015, is paired with Keaton Thompson. Opening night should have Fowler, Manson, Montour, Bieksa and Beauchemin as locks, with Carlyle on the lookout for No. 6.
“Some guys from the American Hockey League had good years and were solid for Dallas Eakins,” Carlyle said. “We had a rookie tournament that three or four guys separated themselves in my mind. So those are the people I’m looking at and saying if they have a chance to play for us, then they’re going to get an extended look.”
Pettersson is one of those that showed well at the recent Prospect Showcase in San Jose. Now he’s looking to parlay that into a strong camp in his first season in North America.
“Obviously, we got a couple of injuries on the defensive side,” said Pettersson, who’s played for…