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Prospect Update: Jack Kopacka
By Thomas Harrington
Jack Kopacka just completed his first year of professional hockey, spending the entire season with the San Diego Gulls.
Kopacka had actually made his AHL debut in the Calder Cup Playoffs in the 2016-2017 season. He played in three playoff games and went scoreless. This past season, Kopacka had a strong start to his first full season in the AHL. He scored his first goal in his first game of the season and followed that up with an assist in his second game. Unfortunately, Kopacka was cut by a skate in the third game of the season and didn’t return to the ice until late January. Kopacka did score a couple of goals in his first three games back from injury, but his scoring slowed down dramatically after that. He finished the season with six goals and 14 points in 32 games. He was used pretty much equally across San Diego’s top three lines but played a little more on the team’s second unit. In the playoffs, Kopacka played in six games and was scratched in 12. Overall he scored one goal and three points. One of the reasons why Kopacka was scratched was because of how much time he had missed earlier in the season. He was never able to really find his groove through the rest of the season, and other players had taken his place in the lineup.
I didn’t have high expectations for Kopacka for this past year. Over the last couple of seasons, Anaheim has had a number of rookies have a strong start in their first AHL season and then fade as the season went along. I wanted Kopacka to buck that trend. Unfortunately, his injury really hampered him after a strong start to the season. However, his injury was a freak accident, so even though he didn’t meet my expectations from last summer, it certainly wasn’t his fault.
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This coming season, Kopacka should be back in San Diego. As long as he stays healthy, Kopacka should get a lot of time in San Diego’s top six and hopefully develop into an AHL scorer. He played a decent amount with Sam Steel last year. With Steel likely in Anaheim for most of this season, I’m hoping that he gets time with Isac Lundestrom. It would be great to see the two of them build some chemistry. Alternatively, maybe he lines up next to Antoine Morand and helps him out in his rookie season.
I have two expectations for Kopacka this season. First, stay healthy. Being cut by a skate and missing half a season is just bad luck. This season, I’m hoping that his luck turns around and he is able to stay healthy. Second, to set a new career-high in goals and points. He doesn’t need to lead San Diego in scoring, but I’d like to see him be one of the Gulls’ offensive leaders.
Kopacka is still a ways away from making it to the NHL. He has an outside chance of it this year, but between Max Jones and Max Comtois, to go along with Rickard Rakell, Devin Shore, and Nick Ritchie, the Ducks should be pretty set at left wing. If he develops into one of the Gulls’ top forwards this season, I think he’ll have a shot at making it to the NHL for the 2020-2021 season. However, if he develops slower than that, then he’ll likely have to wait until the 2021-2022 season to get a chance in Anaheim.
Kopacka has two years left on his entry-level contract and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s up. He had a solid but unspectacular rookie season for the Gulls. Assuming he progresses over the next couple of years, he should get an extension when it’s up. Likely on a two-way deal for just one or two years.
The next prospect update will be on Angus Redmond.
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August 13th, 2019