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Prospect Update: Josh Mahura
By Thomas Harrington
Josh Mahura completed his fourth and final year of junior hockey this past season, playing for the Regina Pats. He was a teammate of fellow Anaheim prospect Sam Steel. He was a third round pick in 2016, and he’s developed very nicely since then.
Mahura played in 60 games for the Pats this past season and set career highs in every offensive category with 22 goals, 47 assists, 69 points and a +36 rating. His 69 points were good for fourth on the team and led all Regina defensemen. Among WHL defensemen, his 69 points were seventh in the league. Mahura’s offensive growth since being drafted is quite amazing. He missed most of his draft year with a torn MCL and had a lone assist in two games. The following season saw his point total jump to 53 points in 73 games, before averaging more than a point per game this past season. Overall, he played in 186 junior games and scored 41 goals and 131 points split between the Red Deer Rebels and the Pats. Unfortunately, Regina didn’t have a great playoff run, and bowed out in the first round in seven games. Mahura recorded five assists in the series loss to the Swift Current Broncos. Despite the first round playoff loss, Regina still made it to the Memorial Cup because they were the hosts of the tournament. In five games, Mahura scored two goals and seven points, tied for third in tournament scoring and tied for first among defensemen. Mahura was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team at the conclusion of the tournament.
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There was really only one blemish on Mahura’s season, and that was being the final cut for Team Canada the World Juniors. He was one of the final players to not make the roster, but when Canada defensemen Dante Fabbro got injured before the tournament, it looked like Mahura might have a shot. Mahura actually returned to the team and practiced with them before the tournament started. However, Fabbro ended up being healthy enough to play, and Mahura just missed his chance to play at the World Juniors. However, given the amount of talented defensemen that Canada has, being the final cut from their World Junior roster is still pretty impressive.
In terms of expectations, Mahura missed out on the first one that I had for him, and that was making Team Canada’s roster. But, as I said, just missing it and being the final cut is impressive in its own right. My second expectation for him was to see his offensive game continue to grow, and scoring 20 goals and averaging over a point per game more than did that. My third expectation for Mahura was to continue to grow his defensive game. While Mahura will likely never be a shut down defenseman, he has significantly improved his play in his own end over the last couple of seasons. My final hope for Mahura was to stay healthy, and for the second season in a row, he did just that. Despite just missing out on the World Juniors, it’s safe to say that Mahura met the expectations that I laid out for him a year ago.
This coming season, Mahura will leave the junior ranks behind and begin his pro hockey career. Given the amount of young defensemen on Anaheim’s depth chart, he’ll almost assuredly start the season in the AHL and probably stay with the Gulls for the entire year. Sometimes, it takes a while for players to adjust to the professional ranks. Even if he does adjust quickly, playing a full season of minor league hockey can be quite beneficial to a player’s development, especially if the team doesn’t need the prospect right away. However, if he can have a great camp and strong start to the season, he’s got a chance to make his NHL debut this coming season, but I think we’re at least a year away from that happening. He likely won’t have a shot at a full time roster position for two years. The reason why I think he’ll have to wait so long is because of the other young defensemen in San Diego battling for a roster spot in Anaheim: Marcus Pettersson, Andy Welinski, Jaycob Megna, and Jacob Larsson. All four of those players have NHL experience, and I believe are more likely to be in the NHL at the start this season. However, I do think that Mahura has a higher offensive ceiling than any of them, and if he can round out his defensive game, he could end up being the best of them.
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As a new player in the pro ranks, I’m keeping my expectations modest for Mahura this coming season. As always, my biggest hope for him is his health. He’s already missed a season of development, and he’s about to join a much more physical league. If he can stay healthy, that will go a long way to making sure he makes the NHL someday. Second, while he won’t be one of San Diego’s top defensemen, I’d like him to play in most, if not all, of San Diego’s games this season and see time on their second powerplay unit, and possibly the top unit if he plays well enough. Third, I’d like to see his defensive game continue to grow. If he can get some powerplay time he’ll put up some points this season, but what will be more important for his development will be his ability to stop and contain professional competition.
Mahura’s evolution through the junior ranks has continued to impress me. While I don’t think he’ll ever be a top defenseman in the NHL, I do think he can be a great number three option, and will have the ability to run Anaheim’s top powerplay unit. However, the pro ranks are a different animal from juniors, and it will be interesting to see how he matures and develops this coming season.
Mahura is signed to a three-year entry-level contract and it will begin this fall. He’ll be a restricted free agent in three years’ time. How he develops will impact what kind of contract he gets, but I’m betting the Ducks will want to give him a two or three year deal instead of giving him a long-term deal.
The next prospect update will be on Brent Gates, Jr.
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July 12th, 2018