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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, Josh Mahura no longer qualifies as a rookie because of how many games he has played in the NHL, but I still count him as part of Anaheim’s prospect group.
For more information on every individual player listed below, feel free to look back at the prospect profiles, updates, and draft reviews that have been published throughout the summer and fall. 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 leagues and teams that they are expected to be with this coming season, not with who they played for last year.
Anaheim has really focused on improving young centers and defensemen over the past few years. Both through the draft and trades, there has seemingly been a focus on these two positions. Also, when it comes to defensemen, there has been a focus on right-handed shooting defensemen, especially at the 2020 NHL Draft. As a result, those are Anaheim’s two deepest prospect positions, with centers once again being first and defensemen being second.
The Ducks have drafted a couple of high-end right wingers over the last couple of years, raising them from fourth to third. Anaheim’s prospect goaltenders, on the strength of what two of them did in the AHL last year, rise from fifth to fourth. Finally, the Ducks’ left wingers fall from third to fifth. Unfortunately, Anaheim’s top left wing prospect struggled this past season, and Max Comtois graduated to the NHL.
Over the past four drafts, Anaheim has selected eight centers, and all of them are still with the organization. One of them, Isac Lundestrom, has already graduated to the NHL. Trevor Janicke will be in the NCAA, while Ethan Bowen will either be in the NCAA or back in the BCHL. Recent draft pick Josh Lopina will also be in the NCAA, while Kyle Kukkonen will be in the USHL this coming season before heading to the NCAA for the 2022-2023 season.
Albin Sundsvik will be returning to the SHL, while the recently drafted Mason McTavish will likely be back in the OHL this year. Jack Badini should be in the AHL, though he could see some time in the ECHL. Benoit-Olivier Groulx will also be in the AHL, but could make his NHL debut this season. Finally, I expect Trevor Zegras to spend the entire season in the NHL.
Zegras is still the best of this group and the most NHL ready. McTavish is now Anaheim’s second best center prospect, and could turn into a better goal scorer than Zegras. Groulx had a great rookie season in the AHL, and has become one of Anaheim’s best center prospects. Janicke, Sundsvik, and Badini don’t have huge offensive ceilings, but all three have the potential to become a third or fourth line center someday.
Lopina was an overage pick and had a solid freshman season for UMass. If he can follow that up with a couple of great college seasons, he could become a second or third line center in the future. Kukkonen is another player with some decent offensive upside, but I think the next couple of years will really show us what kind of future he has. Bowen was a seventh round pick who has the deck stacked against him, but hopefully he’ll get to the NHL someday, even if it’s as a fourth line center or a team’s 13th forward.
The Ducks have five defensemen in the NCAA next season: William Francis, Matt Berkovitz, Jackson LaCombe, Henry Thrun, and Ian Moore. Francis will be returning to hockey after not playing last year because of health issues and Thrun will be returning to college and playing in the USHL last season. Simon Benoit, Hunter Drew, Josh Mahura, and Axel Andersson should all spend most of the year in the AHL, though I expect both Mahura and Benoit to see time in the NHL. Thimo Nickl will be in the HockeyAllsvenskan and SHL, while the recently drafted Tyson Hinds and Owen Zellweger will be in juniors; Hinds will be in the QMJHL and Zellweger in the WHL. Finally, Jamie Drysdale should be in the NHL this coming season.
Drysdale is the best prospect in this group, and could become a top pairing defenseman in the future. Both Mahura and Benoit also have NHL experience, but neither projects as a top pairing player. Mahura has more offensive upside while Benoit is more known for his thunderous hits, and both could become a team’s fourth or fifth defenseman. Both Thrun and LaCombe have a chance to become top four defensemen someday, with Thrun being the better overall player and LaCombe having more offensive upside.
Andersson, Nickl, and Moore, are all right-handed shooting defensemen with offensive upside. The hope is that one of them will develop into a top four defenseman who can quarterback a power play. The recently drafted Zellweger will hopefully develop into a team’s second defenseman.
Drew can play both forward and defense, and that versatility could help him get to the NHL, though likely as a bottom pairing player or fourth line winger. He actually played forward at the recent rookie tournament and is listed at forward on the training camp roster, but Anaheim’s roster page still lists him as a defenseman. Hinds is a player who has a strong overall game and could also turn into a top four defenseman in the future. Francis and Berkovitz are both longshots at this point, but could someday make the NHL as a sixth or seventh defenseman.
3. Right Wingers
The Ducks will have two right wing prospects in the NCAA this coming season: Jack Perbix and Sam Colangelo. The recently drafted Sasha Pastujov was originally expected to be in the NCAA as well, but after being drafted, the decision was made that he’d be in the OHL instead. Jacob Perreault and Bryce Kindopp will be in the AHL.
Perreault is Anaheim’s top right wing prospect. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Zegras or Drysdale, but could still become a very good player someday. Kindopp had a good rookie season in the AHL and looks like he could become a checking winger someday.
Pastujov has a ton of offensive upside and his switch to the OHL will make him one of the more interesting prospects to watch this coming season. Colangelo doesn’t quite have the offensive upside of Perreault or Pastujov, but if he pans out he could be a future power forward. Perbix is another player who could become a checking winger in the future.
The Ducks will have three goaltenders in the minors this season: Lukas Dostal, Olle Eriksson Ek, and Roman Durny. Dostal and Eriksson Ek will likely spend most of the season in the AHL, while Durny will probably see most of his playing time in the ECHL. The recently drafted Gage Alexander will be in the WHL.
Dostal is the top prospect of this group, and he was great in his first season in the AHL. He could make his NHL debut as soon as this season, and he could be Anaheim’s future starter. Eriksson Ek was the surprise backup for the Gulls last season and played very well for them. He has a ways to go, but he could end up as an NHL backup someday.
Right now, Durny is looking like he will be a minor league goaltender, but his numbers did improve significantly last season. If he can improve that much again, he could be in the NHL sooner than I expect. Alexander is 6’ 6”, making him Anaheim’s tallest prospect. Goaltenders are notoriously hard to predict, so he’ll be an interesting one to watch over the next few years.
5. Left Wingers
The Ducks will have two left wing prospects in the AHL: Brayden Tracey and Maxim Golod, both of whom played for the Gulls last season. Artyom Galimov will be in the KHL for another season, while the recently drafted Sean Tschigerl will be in the WHL. Blake McLaughlin will be returning to the NCAA for his senior year.
Tracey is still Anaheim’s top left wing prospect, but he struggled in his brief time with the Gulls last season and wasn’t quite ready for the AHL. Hopefully, he can have a bounce back year, put up some points with the Gulls, and show that he can be a top six winger in the NHL someday. Galimov is probably the most intriguing prospect of the bunch. He won the KHL Rookie of the Year award and he’ll be in his third KHL season. He has a ton of talent, and if he can develop more consistency, he could become a steal down the line.
Golod is another player with a high level of skill who needs to work on his consistency. He had a good but not great first year of professional hockey in the AHL and ECHL. McLaughlin has been a very good college player, but it remains to be seen how his game translates to the pro level. Hopefully he’ll turn into a middle six winger someday. Tschigerl is a bit of a risky player, but when he makes the play, it’s very noticeable. He’s another player who could turn into a middle six winger, if he can do a better job of picking his spot to take a risk.
With a few poor years in the NHL, the Ducks have had a few years of high picks and have used those picks to really stock up on centers and defensemen. Combined with almost completely rebuilding their right wing prospects, Anaheim could have some very good players coming into the NHL over the next few years. While not every single one will work out, there could also be surprises. While nothing is a guarantee, Anaheim’s future does look bright based on their last few years of drafting.
Next up will be Anaheim’s top 10 rookies.
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September 27th, 2021