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Ducks 2023 Rookie Tournament Preview
By Thomas Harrington
This weekend, the Anaheim Ducks’ prospects will travel to Las Vegas for the 2023 Rookie Faceoff, where they will be joined by prospects from the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and their host, the Vegas Golden Knights. The Ducks will play in three games: game one against Vegas on Friday, game two against Colorado on Sunday, and game three against Los Angeles on Monday. The Ducks will not play against San Jose or Arizona.
The Ducks will have a total of 25 players participating in the tournament: 13 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. By bringing so few players, almost every player should play in at least two games, with several playing in all three. Anaheim will have one player selected from the 2019 draft, no players from the 2020 draft, four players from the 2021 draft, six players from the 2022 draft, eight of the nine players from the 2023 draft, one free agent, three players acquired via trade, and two invitees making up the roster.
Jackson LaCombe will be the lone representative from Anaheim’s 2019 draft class. This will be his first rookie tournament, as NCAA players are not able to participate because of when school starts. This will be his first full professional season, and he’ll be looking to make a strong impression at this tournament. I could see LaCombe playing in two or three games. He is one of two Anaheim prospects with NHL experience at this tournament. The 2020 draft class is not represented as they have either graduated, like Jamie Drysdale, on the older side like Jacob Perreault, still in college like Sam Colangelo, in Europe like Albin Sundsvik, or traded like Thimo Nickl.
Forward Sasha Pastujov, defensemen Tyson Hinds and Olen Zellweger, and goaltender Gage Alexander will represent Anaheim’s 2021 draft class. Mason McTavish, Josh Lopina, Sean Tschigerl, and Kyle Kukkonen are the players missing. McTavish has graduated to the NHL, Lopina has a year of professional hockey in the AHL, Tschigerl is no longer a member of the Ducks, and Kukkonen is already at college. All four of Pastujov, Hinds, Zellweger, and Alexander will be playing professional hockey this year, likely primarily in San Diego. I think Pastujov is likely to play in all three games, while I think Hinds and Zellweger will each get two or three games. Alexander will start at least one game.
Forwards Nathan Gaucher, Connor Hvidston, and Ben King and defensemen Tristan Luneau, Pavel Mintyukov, and Noah Warren make up Anaheim’s 2022 draft class. Michael Callow and Vyacheslav Buteyets are the only two players missing from this draft class. Callow is already at Harvard, and Buteyets’ season has already started in the VHL. I think Gaucher, Hvidston, and King are all locks to play in all three games. With the injury to Isac Lundestrom, Gaucher playing in all three games feels even more likely as the Ducks will want to see what kind of player he is and if he has a chance at the NHL this year. I think Luneau and Mintyukov are also both likely to play in all three games, while I think Warren will probably play in two games.
Forwards Leo Carlsson, Nico Myatovic, Carey Terrance, Coulson Pitre, and Yegor Sidorov and defensemen Konnor Smith, Rodwin Dionicio, and Vojtech Port represent Anaheim’s most recently drafted class. Only goaltender Damian Clara is missing; he’ll be playing in Europe this season. I think Carlsson, Myatovic, Terrance, Pitre, and Sidorov will all play in all three games. If any sit out a game, I think actually it could be Carlsson, especially if he’s having a dominant tournament after two games. At that point, there’s no reason to risk injury. I think one of Smith, Dionicio, and Port will play in all three games, with the other two playing in two games. None of them represent Anaheim’s top defensive prospects, and while it’s important to make sure they get some games in, I think the focus will be on Anaheim’s other defensive prospects.
Forward Jaxsen Wiebe is Anaheim’s lone free agent signing participating in the tournament. This will be his first professional season, and a strong showing here will hopefully help set him up for success with San Diego. I expect him to play in at least two, if not all three, games.
Forwards Judd Caulfield and Nikita Nesterenko and goaltender Calle Clang were all acquired via trade. Caulfield was acquired from Pittsburgh; he played in a few AHL games last year, but this will be his first full professional season, and I think he’ll likely play in all three games. Nesterenko was acquired from Minnesota and made his NHL debut last season with the Ducks. He’s another player I expect to play in all three games. Clang was also acquired from Pittsburgh and made his AHL debut last season. I think he’ll start at least one game, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts a second or splits time in another game to get him a little more playing time.
The camp invites are forward Davis Codd and goaltender Tomas Suchanek. Codd played for the Saginaw Spirit last year in the OHL and is entering his overage season. He’s been their alternate captain for the last couple of years and will be again this year. With only 13 forwards on the roster, most of them will play in all three games, but I think Codd will be one of the few that only plays in one or two games. Suchanek played for the Tri-City Americans last year in the WHL and will be returning for his third season with them. I’m not sure if he’ll start a game, but I expect him to at least split a game with either Alexander or Clang so he can get some playing time.
The other teams will also be bringing a number of high profile prospects to the tournament. Against Vegas, the Ducks could face notable prospects like Brendan Brisson, Daniil Chayka, and Matyas Sapovaliv. The Avalanche could use notable prospects like Calum Ritchie, Oskar Olausson, and Matthew Stienburg. Finally, Los Angeles could use prospects like Samuel Helenius, Alex Laferriere, and Francesco Pinelli.
Rookie tournaments are generally a lot of fun. Hopefully Anaheim’s prospects do well, but more importantly, hopefully no one on any of these six teams suffers any kind of injury. This tournament is designed to give each team a glimpse of their future, but it’s also to give these kids an idea of what it will take to make it in the NHL.
Here is the Ducks Rookie game schedule:
Friday, Sept. 15 vs. Vegas (Dollar Loan Center, 7pm PT)
Sunday, Sept. 17 vs. Colorado (City National Arena, Rink 1, 1pm PT)
Monday, Sept. 18 vs LA (City National Arena, Rink 2, 12:30pm PT)
All the Ducks rookie games will be streamed on AnaheimDucks.com
The Ducks will hold their 2023 Rookie Camp today at 10:45 a.m. at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine. The camp will be open to the public and is free of charge.
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September 14th, 2023