Prospect Update: Julius Nattinen

Photo: San Diego Gulls

By Thomas Harrington

Julius Nattinen completed his first year of professional hockey this past season, spending the entire season with San Diego.

Like most of San Diego’s rookies this past season, Nattinen’s first season with the Gulls wasn’t stellar. He played in 55 games and scored four goals and 12 points, the sixth-highest scoring rookie on San Diego’s roster. Nattinen didn’t have a great start to the season, going scoreless in his first several games. However, he scored a goal in each of the last two games of October, his first two goals and points of the season. He scored two more goals in November, and had a two-point night late in the month, to finish off his goal scoring for the season. Nattinen’s third goal of the season was a powerplay goal, and he also scored a shootout goal in October; that powerplay goal was the extent of his special teams scoring. He only had one other shootout attempt. After November, he only recorded assists through the rest of the season.

After the year turned, he only had three assists to finish off the season. Nattinen’s offensive struggles mirrored his final year of juniors, when he had a decent first half of the season, but really struggled after the new year and went large stretches of games between goals. His offensive slump led him to being scratched more often as the season progressed, and he only played in one game in April, when the Gulls were desperately trying to make the playoffs.

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Like most of San Diego’s rookies this past season, my expectations for Nattinen weren’t sky high. I wanted to see him establish himself as the Gulls’ third line center, spend some time on the penalty kill, and just play strong defensive hockey. Also, when needed, to step into San Diego’s top six group because of injury or callup. Unfortunately, he didn’t meet those expectations. While Nattinen’s defensive play wasn’t bad, he didn’t really establish himself as I’d hoped he would. He was a healthy scratch over a dozen times and his play trailed off as the season progressed. It’s a troubling sign that this has now happened two years in a row, but hopefully, as he gets older and more physically mature, he’ll do a better job of keeping his play up through the course of the entire season. When the Gulls were fighting for their playoff lives in the final games of the season, Nattinen was on the bench instead of on the ice.

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This coming year, I’m hoping to see Nattinen put his struggles of the past two years behind him and show why the Ducks made him a second round pick three years ago. The biggest mark against him over the last two years has been a poor second half. So, first, I’d like to see him get better as the season goes on. Second, he needs to take a big step forward in his offensive production. He doesn’t need to score 20 goals, but I’d like to see him at or near 10.

With Nicolas Kerdiles and Corey Tropp gone, it would be great if Nattinen could step up and help fill the offensive void left by their departures. Finally, I’d like to see him play more often this season, both in terms of games and minutes. Given that the AHL doesn’t publish ice time for players, it’s hard to say how much he actually played in every game. However, Nattinen was usually used in a bottom six role, and he seemed to receive less ice time per game as last season went on. If he can play in the top six and get more time on the special teams, it will be a great sign that he’s progressing and putting his struggles of the last couple seasons behind him.

Nattinen has two years left on his entry-level deal and he will be a restricted free agent when it’s over. These next two years will be incredibly important for his next contract. If he stumbles through the second half of both seasons, I think that it’s unlikely the Ducks re-sign him. However, if he can progress over the next couple of seasons, he could probably get a short two-way deal out of the Ducks.

The next prospect update will be on Angus Redmond.

Related Articles:

Ducks Transaction Tracker

Kerdiles Ready To Move On

Prospect Profile: Kiefer Sherwood

Prospect Profile: Chase De Leo

Prospect Update: Josh Mahura

Prospect Update: Brent Gates, Jr.

Prospect Update: Alex Dostie

Prospect Update: Olle Eriksson Ek

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July 23rd, 2018


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