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Anaheim Prospects We Might See In The NHL
By Thomas Harrington
When Anaheim made the San Diego Gulls their AHL affiliate, it became easier than ever for Bob Murray and the Ducks to call up players when needed. It could be for an injury fill-in, for a sick player, or because they are producing at such a rate in the AHL that they deserve the call-up.
Regardless of reason, expect to see a number of San Diego players make their way to Anaheim at some point this season. Dozens of players have gone back and forth between Anaheim and San Diego ever since this affiliation started. Even with the pandemic having a huge impact on last season, 11 players played for both the Ducks and Gulls. Four of those 11 players were Anaheim prospects: Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Simon Benoit, and Josh Mahura. Here are the prospects who I think we’ll see in the NHL this coming season.
I will only be including players signed to NHL contracts. No college players will be included, so don’t expect to see Blake McLaughlin, Jackson LaCombe, or Henry Thrun on this list. Most players from the 2020 and 2021 drafts will also not be included because Anaheim rarely has prospects head to Anaheim so soon after being drafted. So players like Olen Zellweger and Sasha Pastujov won’t be included.
I’ll start by going through the goaltenders, defensemen, and forwards and giving the prospects most likely to play in Anaheim. I’ll then go over the dark horse candidates, and wrap it up by looking at players who could make their NHL debut after their college and junior seasons are over.
As has been the case for several seasons, John Gibson will be Anaheim’s starter this year. However, he’ll have a new backup as Ryan Miller has decided to hang up the skates. Anthony Stolarz is expected to assume that role. He’s been the third goaltender in Anaheim’s system for the past couple of years and now he’s expected to step up into the backup role.
Assuming no other goaltender is brought in, Lukas Dostal is now Anaheim’s number three goaltender, and I fully believe that he’ll make his NHL debut at some point this season. Whether because of injury to one of Gibson or Stolarz or some other reason, the Ducks should call up Dostal and give him a taste of what the NHL is like.
Most of Anaheim’s defense is currently set. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jacob Larsson are all on one-way deals. However, both Lindholm and Manson are in the final year of their contracts. If one of them is traded by the deadline, that opens up a spot for one of Anaheim’s young players to take.
I fully expect Drysdale to be with Anaheim for the entire year. Mahura and Benoit should also get playing time with the Ducks. Of them, I think Mahura will likely get more NHL games, but Benoit has continued to surprise and impress since joining the Gulls three seasons ago. I really think those are the only three prospects who are likely to see NHL time this season, since the Gulls have a number of veterans who could also be called up, like Brendan Guhle, Trevor Carrick, Greg Pateryn, Brogan Rafferty, and Kodie Curran.
At forward, the Ducks have Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, Sonny Milano, Derek Grant, Troy Terry, Nicolas Deslauriers, Max Comtois, Max Jones, and Alexander Volkov on one-way contracts, while Sam Steel and Isac Lundestrom are both on two-way deals but both are expected to be in the NHL for the entire season.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for forward prospects, but I expect Zegras to spend the entire season with the Ducks. He’s too good for the AHL and I believe he should be in the NHL to continue to develop his game. The forward prospect who I believe will make his NHL debut is Benoit-Olivier Groulx. He had an incredibly impressive rookie season with San Diego, and while I don’t think he’s ready to be in the NHL on a full time basis, I do believe he’ll get at least a few games’ worth of NHL action at some point this season. If he has an impressive training camp, that could happen sooner rather than later.
Dark Horses We Could See
With the obvious choices out of the way, here are my dark horse candidates to play in the NHL this year. Olle Eriksson Ek is likely Anaheim’s fourth goaltender, and while I don’t think he makes his NHL debut this season, he has an outside shot if things go poorly in Anaheim.
On defense, Axel Andersson could get a shot. He’s a right-handed shooting defenseman who has some offensive upside. If Manson is traded, I think the odds of him making his NHL debut increases. Andersson spent most of last season playing overseas, and I’m excited to see what he does in a full season with the Gulls.
There are four forwards who I consider dark horses to make the NHL this season: Jacob Perreault, Brayden Tracey, Bryce Kindopp, and Mason McTavish. Perreault had a good first year in San Diego, he had a strong rookie tournament, and he possesses one of the best shots out of all of Anaheim’s prospects. If he has a good start to the season or a great training camp, he could be a surprise addition to Anaheim’s lineup.
Tracey is a former first round pick but really struggled last season. However, if he can come into San Diego and dominate with the Gulls, he could find himself in Anaheim’s lineup at some point. Kindopp was impressive in his rookie season in San Diego. He and Groulx played together a lot on the team’s third line, and it would be interesting if Anaheim decided to bring them up together given the chemistry that has formed between the two.
McTavish is expected to be in juniors this year, but if he can have an incredible training camp, I could see the Ducks giving him a few NHL games. If he continues to impress, then the choice becomes is it worth burning the first year of his entry-level deal, or should he go back to the OHL? Personally, I think he’ll be in the OHL for most of the season, but I could see the Ducks giving him a few NHL games so he knows what to work on when he heads back to juniors.
Who Could Join Anaheim Later On
Finally, the players who could join Anaheim once their current seasons end. The Ducks have drafted a number of college players over the last several years. McLaughlin is a senior and the Ducks will be looking to sign him when his season is over. I think he’ll likely head to the AHL, but if he can dominate at the University of Minnesota he could end up in Anaheim.
Defensemen LaCombe and Thrun are both thought of very highly. I could see either one signing a pro deal once their season ends, and if the Ducks feel comfortable enough, they could make their way to Anaheim after that. If Lindholm is traded by the deadline, I do think the likelihood of one of them making their NHL debut this season increases. Of the two, I think LaCombe is more likely to sign his entry-level deal after this season given that Thrun was in the USHL last season.
Finally, if McTavish doesn’t make the NHL out of training camp, once the OHL’s season is over, and assuming the Peterborough Petes are not competing for the Memorial Cup, he could join the Ducks. Unlike the college prospects who could head to the AHL, if McTavish turns pro, he’ll be in the NHL because of his junior eligibility preventing him from playing in the minors.
These last few seasons have been rough for Anaheim. Many expect this coming season to be another rough one as well. Hopefully, things can start to turn around for the Ducks, and their young players will be at the forefront of it.
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September 29th, 2021