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Graduated Prospect: Jaycob Megna
By Thomas Harrington
San Diego’s captain, Jaycob Megna, is a big defenseman whose overall game has improved dramatically over five seasons in the AHL.
Megna was among the very final cuts that Anaheim made to begin the 2018-2019 season and started the season in San Diego. Megna has never been known for his offensive skills and started the season out with no points in his first six games of the season. Even though he rarely scored, Megna was almost always on San Diego’s top defensive pairing, as his job was to shut down the opposition’s offensive weapons. Still, he did score and even had a two-assist game in January. Megna was called up to Anaheim at the end of January, stayed with the Ducks until their season ended, and came back to the Gulls for a few games to finish off the regular season. Overall, Megna played in 38 AHL games and scored two goals and 13 points.
Megna was one of the four final call-ups from San Diego that Anaheim used after the trade deadline. After spending the first half of the season in the AHL, it was starting to look like he wouldn’t get a chance with the Ducks this season. But, once he was called up, he quickly found a home for himself with the Ducks. Megna usually played on Anaheim’s third defensive pairing and played anywhere from 12 to 17 minutes a night. Megna scored his first career goal against St. Louis in March; he also picked up an assist in that game, giving him his first career multi-point game in the NHL. Overall, he played 28 NHL games and scored one goal and four points. Megna only averaged 14:32 a night, but he led all Anaheim rookies with two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game, showing that Bob Murray trusted Megna.
In the playoffs, Megna played in all 16 games for the Gulls and recorded two assists. However, Megna’s contributions to the team aren’t measured in the number of points he put up, but rather his strong defensive play, as he was one of their top shutdown defensemen. In game six against Chicago, he did hit a post, and if that had gone in, he would have tied the game up at 2-2, leading possibly to a different outcome in that game and series.
In terms of expectations, Megna did exactly what I expected him to do this season: play a lot of hockey in both the NHL and AHL. The one thing I didn’t expect was him being one of the four call-ups after the trade deadline. In that regard, he exceeded my expectations for him this season. The points he had in Anaheim were just a nice bonus, the goal especially.
Right now, Anaheim’s defense next season is very much up in the air. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and probably Brendan Guhle will be the team’s top four, but the bottom pair is incredibly open. Based on how the season ended, I think that Megna is one of the internal favorites to be on that pair, assuming he’s re-signed this summer. Even if he doesn’t get a full-time spot on the team’s bottom pair, he could end up as the Ducks’ seventh defenseman.
Megna will never be a top pairing defender, and may not even be a top four defensemen, but he showed this season that he can be a bottom pairing defender in the NHL. He’s not a great skater, and his offensive instincts are lacking, but he has improved both of those aspects of his game. He’s more known for his physical and defensive play, and while there are concerns about him being able to keep up with the fastest NHL skaters, I think that he’s shown his smart positioning should be enough against most opponents.
As a group six free agent, Megna will be eligible to sign with any team he wants to this summer, and there’s no guarantee that the Ducks will bring him back. However, given that he captained San Diego, was one of the Gulls’ best defensemen in the playoffs, and played so much at the end of Anaheim’s season, I think that it’s likely that Murray wants him back. It will likely be on a two-way contract, it could even be on an AHL only deal, but I think the Ducks will bring Megna back if he wants to return.
The next graduated prospect will be Andy Welinski.
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June 11th, 2019