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2021 Anaheim Rookie Tournament Recap
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s rookies were in Arizona for the annual prospect tournament, where they played three games and finished with a record of 2-0-1. The Ducks have one of the better prospect pools in the NHL, so it was expected that they would have a good record.
For me, the record in these tournaments doesn’t matter, nor do the points. What matters is that these prospects get more experience, play well, and stay healthy. The lineup changed from game to game and it was fun seeing several of the recently drafted players. This was the first time I had a chance to see any of the 2021 class play. And the 2021 class really stood out in this tournament.
Anaheim Doubles Up San Jose
Anaheim’s prospects got off to a great start in game one. I expected the Ducks to play well in this game, as many of Anaheim’s top prospects took the ice against San Jose’s prospects. Trevor Zegras opened the scoring less than a minute into the contest; he and Sean Tschigerl teamed up on a two-on-one break to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. About halfway through the period, Sasha Pastujov picked up a loose puck in the slot and made it 2-0. Mason McTavish picked up the assist on that play. With the Ducks on the power play, Zegras made a cross-ice pass to McTavish, who one-timed the puck home to make it 3-0 before the first was over.
The Sharks got an early goal in the second, but Hunter Drew scored off a nice shot to restore the three-goal lead. Later in the second the Ducks were on the power play again, and Brayden Tracey set up Jacob Perreault who scored on a one-time blast to make it 5-1. Early in the third, it was 5-2, but Pastujov scored his second of the night to make it 6-2, scoring on the rebound after Tracey had taken the initial shot. A few minutes later, Zegras found Pastujov alone in front of the net. He tapped in his third of the night for the hat trick and made it 7-2.
The Sharks got two more goals to make it 7-4, but in the final 30 seconds, Perreault scored his second of the game, this one from the goal line to make it 8-4. Roman Durny played the first half of this game and Gage Alexander played the second half. Both played well, but Durny is the one who has professional experience, and it showed.
Anaheim Falls Short To Colorado
Anaheim’s rookies faced off against Colorado in the second game of the tournament. McTavish didn’t play in this one; he was a little banged up from the first game so was given the night off. Durny was back in net for the Ducks and played the entire game this time. In the first, Zegras was slashed in the back of the leg and missed the rest of the contest. According to the Ducks, he’s fine but was held out the rest of the game for precautionary reasons. Tschigerl opened the scoring for the Ducks, and almost made it 2-0 when he hit the post late in the first.
The second period was far and away Anaheim’s worst of the tournament. The Ducks gave up two shorthanded goals, and a third goal right after Colorado’s power play expired late in the period. In the third, Jack Badini made it a one-goal game, but Colorado went back on top by two later in the final period of regulation.
The Ducks pulled Durny, and Alex Limoges made it a one-goal game again. Durny was pulled again and Jamie Drsydale went to work. He skated the puck down into the zone and made a great pass to Perreault. Perreault took the pass, picked his spot, and rifled the puck home to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra session, Pastujov was whistled for tripping, and Colorado scored the winner on the man advantage.
Anaheim Edges Arizona With Buzzer Beater
In the final game of the tournament, Anaheim decided to leave out some of their prospects with more experience. So Zegras, McTavish, Drysdale, Axel Andersson, and Benoit-Olivier Groulx were all scratched, giving other players a chance to have a bigger role. Alexander got the start in this game.
The last game was a penalty-filled affair, as the Ducks had at least 10 power play opportunities, the Coyotes had four or five, and the teams skated at four-on-four at least three times. Owen Zellweger opened the scoring for Anaheim on the power play, but Arizona answered with a power play goal of their own. Maxim Golod scored Anaheim’s second power play goal of the period to make it 2-1.
In the second, Arizona tied the game again, this time on a shorthanded goal, the third that the Ducks had given up in two games. Anaheim did go on a power play, but Pastujov hit both posts and the game remained tied. A little later, the teams were skating four-on-four, and Limoges put the Ducks back on top. Durny replaced Alexander in net for the third period.
The Ducks took three penalties in a row to start the third period, but Arizona tied the game at even strength, the first even strength goal of the game. Later, with the teams skating four-on-four again, Bryce Kindopp scored to put Anaheim back on top. The Coyotes were pressuring and after a defensive breakdown by the Ducks, Arizona tied the game with just over a minute to go in regulation. The Coyotes then kept on the pressure, but Limoges made a great play to skate the puck down and get a good shot off with less than 15 seconds left. Limoges then fed the puck to the slot, and Logan Nijhoff scored the game-winner with a second left in regulation.
Wins and points are great, but again, it’s more about how the players and team played overall. And for the most part, things went very well for the Ducks. The biggest issue for the team was special teams play. While they did score two power play goals against San Jose and Arizona, they also gave up a total of three shorthanded goals in the tournament. However, given how many of these players hadn’t played together before, it’s not surprising to see special teams struggle at times.
The best part of the tournament is how the Ducks never gave up, and scored a total of four goals in the final minute of regulation across the three games, which included two while the goaltender was pulled against Colorado and a last-second game-winner against Arizona. It’s that kind of effort that really stands out in these tournaments.
There were a few players who really stood out in these three games. While Zegras, Drysdale, and Mctavish all played great, it was other prospects who I really noticed. Zellweger is a great skater and got better every game, culminating with a multi-point night against Arizona.
Badini is a player not known for his offense, but he scored a goal against Colorado, was one of the team’s top centers against Arizona, and was quite noticeable throughout the contest. Limoges is on an AHL-only contract, but similar to Simon Benoit, he’s been impressive. I have to think the Ducks are considering signing him to an entry-level deal.
Pastujov’s hat trick in the first game were his only goals, but he hit several posts in the other two games and looked dangerous throughout. Perreault was probably Anaheim’s best forward in these three games. He was creative throughout and had a spin-o-rama pass to Pastujov that would have been the highlight goal of the tournament if Pastujov hadn’t hit the post. In the first game alone, he had eight shots on net.
After Perreault, Zegras, and Pastujov, I think that Tschigerl was the most noticeable forward on the ice. The former fifth round pick scored in the second game and was involved in the action pretty much every time he took the ice. Drew is a defenseman but can play forward and was on the bottom six for much of this tournament. He didn’t look out of place and even chipped in with a goal.
Finally, after struggling in the AHL last year, Tracey had a very strong tournament. He had several assists in the first game, and while he didn’t score a goal in any of the three games, the puck was constantly finding him around the net and in the slot. If he can play like this with the Gulls this year, he’ll put up some points in San Diego.
Overall, it was a good tournament for the Ducks. The only real scare came in game two when Zegras was injured, but by all reports he’s fine and was held out for the rest of the tournament for precautionary reasons. McTavish only played in the first game and was then also held out for precautionary reasons, but both looked so good in the first game that I don’t think they needed to get much more game action in this tournament. It was the right call to give the others more experience and make sure these two are ready for the training camp and the preseason.
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September 20th, 2021