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Graduated Prospect: Josh Mahura
By Thomas Harrington
Technically, Josh Mahura was not a rookie this past season because he had played in 41 NHL games over the previous three seasons. However, I still counted him among Anaheim’s defensive prospects since he hadn’t established himself in the NHL and played in significantly more AHL games in those three seasons. However, that all changed this past season.
Mahura played in a career high 38 games and scored three goals and seven points. He missed some time with injury and was a healthy scratch a number of times, but most important was the fact that he didn’t play a single game in the AHL. When Anaheim’s blueline was fully healthy (and before Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson were traded away at the trade deadline), he and Simon Benoit split duties on the team’s bottom pair, often lining up next to Kevin Shattenkirk. Benoit brought more of a physical presence while Mahura brought more of an offensive presence.
Mahura’s play was inconsistent throughout the season, but he did finish the season with two points in his final three games and scored two of his three goals in the final month of the season. Despite being primarily used on the bottom pair, he did play more than 17 minutes six times and eclipsed the 21 minute mark once. He saw very little time on the powerplay or the penalty kill and played primarily at even strength.
I had one expectation for Mahura this past season and he more than exceeded it: to play in more NHL games than AHL games. While he played in less than half of Anaheim’s games, it was an important step for him to spend the entire year with the Ducks. He may be destined to be a bottom pairing or even seventh defenseman, but this season showed that he’s more than an AHL player.
This coming season, Anaheim will potentially have several open spots on their blueline. With Lindholm and Manson traded at the deadline and Andrej Sustr likely leaving as a free agent, only Cam Fowler, Shattenkirk, Jamie Drysdale, and Mahura are signed for next year, and only Fowler beyond that. Urho Vaakanainen and Benoit are restricted free agents and I expect him to be re-signed, but that still leaves only six NHL defensemen on the roster. Unless Pat Verbeek completely revamps the defense this summer via trade and free agency, Mahura should have plenty of ice time this coming season.
Mahura has one year left on his current contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer. If he wants to stay with Anaheim long term, I think this is a very important year for him. If he can play in 70 or 80 games, I expect him to be re-signed. However, if he has another year of missing over half of the team’s games, I could see Anaheim not qualifying him next summer and letting him leave as a free agent. There’s also a chance that the Ducks could choose to use him in a trade this summer or next. The return for him wouldn’t be high, but if a team is looking for young defensemen, he could be part of a larger package.
The next graduated prospect will be on Benoit.
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June 18th, 2022