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Ranking Anaheim’s Prospect Positions
By Thomas Harrington
Now that the individual prospect updates and profiles are complete, it’s time to rank the positional strength of Anaheim’s prospect system. Technically, starting this season, Isac Lundestrom, Max Comtois, and Josh Mahura will no longer qualify as rookies because of games played in the NHL, but I still count them as part of Anaheim’s prospect group.
For more information on the individual players listed below, feel free to look back at the prospect profiles, updates, and draft reviews that have been published throughout the summer and fall at DucksNPucks.com. Note: for players that can play multiple positions, they’ll be listed under the position that Anaheim’s website lists them as playing. Some of them may even be listed under different positions than they were a year ago. Even if I think they’re better in a different position, I’ll still go with what Anaheim lists them as in order to be consistent. Also, I’ll be listing players with the teams they are expected to be with this coming season, not with who they played for last year. However, given the ongoing pandemic, the current team they play for could change quickly.
Before the most recent draft, Anaheim had really focused on drafting centers. Not all of them have worked out, but that focus really strengthened the organization’s prospect depth down the middle. In fact, from 2015-2019, Anaheim took at least one center with one of their first two picks in the draft. The Ducks did take two centers in 2020, but not until their final picks of the draft. However, I still believe that Anaheim’s deepest prospect position is at center.
Anaheim has drafted seven defensemen over the last two drafts. I believe that focus has improved that group and that they are now Anaheim’s second-best prospect position, moving up from third a year ago. Anaheim’s left-wingers fall from second to third. It’s still a strong group, but the focus on defense is what has caused the left-wingers to drop a spot.
After being the weakest prospect position a year ago, Anaheim has really improved their depth at right-wing, and I believe it is now their fourth deepest position. Two of the Ducks’ first three picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft were right-wingers, and those two players are what really elevated this group. However, it’s still a small group of players, which is why they are still only fourth. Finally, dropping from fourth to fifth are Anaheim’s goaltenders. The Ducks haven’t drafted a goaltender since 2018 when they took two.
Over the last four drafts, Anaheim has drafted nine centers, and eight of them are still with the organization. Trevor Janicke is the only player in the NCAA, while Ethan Bowen is expected to go the college route in the 2021-2022 season after playing in the BCHL this year. Albin Sundsvik is playing professionally in Sweden in the SHL. The rest of Anaheim’s centers are playing professionally in North America: Trevor Zegras, Lundestrom, Chase De Leo, Jack Badini, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, and Antoine Morand.
I expect that we’ll see some of Zegras, Lundestrom, and De Leo in the NHL this season, but the rest should spend most of the year in the AHL. It will be the first professional season for Zegras, Badini, and Groulx.
Of Anaheim’s centers, Zegras is easily the best of the group. He’s got the potential to become a top-line center someday. Lundestrom is young but has played a fair amount in the NHL over the last couple of years. While he doesn’t have Zegras’ offensive upside, he’s a smart enough player that if he can increase his offensive production just a little bit, he’s going to become an effective checker in the NHL. Groulx and Morand are both second-round picks who I’m hoping can also carve out a career on a checking line someday, though Groulx has enough offensive upside that he could become a second-line center or winger someday.
De Leo is probably destined to spend most of his career in the AHL, but he can play in the NHL when called upon. Sundsvik is another player who doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside, but he’s been playing professionally for a couple of seasons in the SHL and could surprise someday. Janicke, Badini, and Bowen have a little further to go to reach the NHL, but they certainly all could someday.
The Ducks have drafted seven defensemen over the past two drafts, and they are playing all over the place. Drysdale will likely be in the OHL, but they aren’t scheduled to start their season until after the new year. He’s one that I feel could change where he plays depending on what happens with the OHL. Mathew Hill was supposed to be in the OHL this year, but he’s currently on loan to Denmark, and will likely return to the OHL once their season gets underway. Jackson Lacombe and Matt Berkovitz are in the NCAA this year. Henry Thrun was supposed to be as well, but because of the pandemic, he’ll likely spend the entire season in the USHL and hopefully return to college hockey next season.
The recently drafted Ian Moore will also be in the USHL and is planning to go the NCAA route starting in the 2021-2022 season. William Francis is sitting out this season because of injury but was also supposed to be in the NCAA. Hunter Drew is currently playing in Slovakia, but will likely return to North America once the AHL season gets underway. Thimo Nickl is playing in the Swedish junior hockey league J20 Nationell.
Axel Andersson is currently playing in the HockeyAllsvenskan and will hopefully return to North America to play in the AHL. Mahura and Simon Benoit are waiting for North American hockey to start. I expect Mahura to appear in both the NHL and AHL, while Benoit will probably spend most of the season in San Diego, though he has a chance to get some games with the Ducks.
Similar to Zegras, Drysdale is far and away the class of this group. He’s going to be a future powerplay quarterback, and hopefully a top-pairing player for years to come. Mahura has the most NHL experience of these players and could turn into a nice third or fourth defenseman who runs the second powerplay unit. A brilliant freshman season has made Thrun one of Anaheim’s best blueline prospects, while LaCombe is a prospect with just a ton of potential, but it remains to be seen if he can reach it. Benoit is an undrafted player who has really come into his own in San Diego and I think he’ll make it to the NHL one of these days.
Andersson isn’t the most exciting Anaheim prospect, but he’s a right-handed shot who is strong in all three zones. I’m hoping he can come in and be a dominant force in the AHL this season. Drew is a player with a number of tools but has yet to put it all together. He also has one of the hardest shots of any Anaheim prospect. Moore and Nickl strike me as very intriguing prospects, and I’m hoping both can have a similar season to what Thrun did in the year after he was drafted. Hill and Berkovitz have a long way to go to make it to the NHL, but I’m hoping they manage it eventually. Because of health issues, no Anaheim prospect has a bigger hill to climb than Francis, but it’s one that he seems eager to face.
Anaheim currently has six left-wingers in its system. The Ducks have taken one left-winger in each of the past four drafts. For the first time since Igor Bobkov was in Anaheim’s system, the Ducks drafted a Russian player: Artyom Galimov, who is currently playing in the KHL. Brayden Tracey is in the WHL and his season will hopefully start in early January. Blake McLaughlin is playing in the NCAA. Comtois, Jack Kopacka, and the recently signed Maxim Golod are all playing pro. Comtois will likely split time between the NHL and AHL, while Kopacka and Golod will most likely spend the entire year in the AHL and/or ECHL.
Comtois is easily the best player in this group, and I’m hoping he’s an NHL regular by season’s end. Tracey had a rough 2019-2020 season, but I’m hoping he has a bounce-back year. Galimov is one of the most intriguing prospects that Anaheim has. He was already 21 when Anaheim drafted him and is already in his second season in the KHL, a league that he will likely stay with for at least another year or two. If he does make it to Anaheim, it will be as an older prospect with a ton of pro experience.
McLaughlin has some nice offensive upside, but I think he’s going to need to improve in his junior and senior years of college if he wants to show that he can make it to the NHL. Kopacka is looking like he’ll primarily be an AHL player, but he’s still young enough to turn things around and make it to the NHL. Golod is an undrafted player starting his pro career and is starting out in the ECHL. For a player who gets a ton of assists, he shoots the puck a ton, something that could serve him well in professional hockey.
Anaheim only has four right-wingers in its system, but really rebuilt depth at this position at the draft. Jacob Perreault is scheduled to play in the OHL, but similar to Drysdale, I could see that changing depending on what happens with that league. Sam Coangelo and Jack Perbix will be in the NCAA this year. Finally, the recently signed Bryce Kindopp should be in the AHL and ECHL this season.
Even though he was just drafted, Perreault is the best of the group and has one of the best shots of any Anaheim prospect. He does need to work on his overall game, but his work in the offensive zone is incredibly strong. Perreault could someday turn into a 30+ goal scorer. Coangelo was also just drafted, and I believe he’s the second-best player in this group. While his offensive upside isn’t as high as Perreault’s, I do think that it’s still very good and he could become a power forward someday.
Perbix could become a solid checking line winger someday, and I’m hoping his offensive numbers improve this year. Kindopp is the wild card of this group. He’s an undrafted player who put up over 70 points in each of his last two seasons in the WHL. It looks like he’ll start the season in the ECHL, but if he tears that league up, he’ll probably be recalled to San Diego when their season gets started in February.
Anaheim currently has four goaltenders in its prospect system. Lukas Dostal has started out by playing this season in Liiga but has since left and come back to North America, where he will likely spend most of the year in the AHL. He may even make his NHL debut this year. Olle Eriksson Ek will likely be in the ECHL this season, but he has a chance at the AHL as well. Roman Durny is currently playing in Slovakia but was recently brought back to North America to play in the ECHL. Garrett Metcalf is the lone goaltending prospect not playing professional hockey this season; he’s playing in the NCAA instead.
Of the four goaltenders, Dostal is easily the top prospect and the one who I think has the best shot at becoming an NHL starter. Eriksson Ek has put some nice numbers in Europe, but he’s looking more like a future backup or AHL starter right now. Durny really struggled in his first season in North America and looks to be a minor league goaltender in the long term. Metcalf is a hard goaltender to figure out. At 24, he’s one of Anaheim’s oldest prospects and hasn’t put up great numbers in the NCAA. However, Metcalf has been on some really bad teams during his college career and I’d like to see what he can do with a better team in front of him. For now, he looks like he’s likely going to be a minor league goaltender, but I think he’s one to watch if the Ducks do end up signing him to an entry-level deal.
Anaheim did an excellent job of rebuilding its prospect depth at both defense and right-wing over the past year, especially at the 2020 NHL Draft. Even though the last couple of years have been difficult, the future does look bright for Anaheim. Hopefully, these players will help lead the Ducks back to the playoffs and to the Stanley Cup.
Next up will be Anaheim’s top 10 rookies.
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December 30th, 2020