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Prospect Update: Andy Welinski
By Thomas Harrington
After losing Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour, the San Diego Gulls were without their top two defensemen this past season. Andy Welinski stepped up and filled that role admirably. He also made his NHL debut, making this a very successful season for the young blueliner. Welinski was the final member of Anaheim’s 2011 draft class to make his NHL debut, making it the most successful draft class in Anaheim history. He was drafted along with Rickard Rakell, John Gibson, William Karlsson, Joseph Cramarossa, Max Friberg, and Josh Manson.
This was Welinski’s second season in the AHL, and he stepped up in a big way. He also played in seven NHL regular season and two playoff games. Welinski led San Diego’s defense in scoring with 10 goals, 24 assists, and 34 points in 51 games. His 34 points were tied for fifth on the team with Nicolas Kerdiles. Welinski has a booming slap shot and did most of his damage on the powerplay, leading the defense with seven powerplay goals, tied for second on the team with Kalle Kossila. Keaton Thompson was the only other San Diego defenseman to score a powerplay goal, finishing the season with two. Steve Oleksy was second in scoring on San Diego’s defense, finishing the season with 20 points. Despite missing several games because he was in the NHL, Welinski was far and away San Diego’s most offensively dangerous defenseman last year. His defense was also solid, but it was his offensive game that got him noticed and the reason he was named to the AHL All-Star Game. He was the lone San Diego player to receive that honor this past season.
Welinski made his NHL debut against Carolina on December 11th and recorded his first career assist and point in that game. He recorded his second career assist three days later against St. Louis. Welinski played a total of four games in December, before being returned to San Diego. He was then recalled at the end of April and got in three more games to close out the season. In the playoffs, Welinski played in three of the four games against the San Jose Sharks. He didn’t have a great series, but no one did for the Ducks.
A year ago, I said that I wanted Welinski to step up and fill the void left by Theodore and Montour. Well, he did that in a huge way, easily surpassing my hopes for him. I also said that I wanted him to hit the 30 point mark, a feat that he achieved as well. Finally, I also wanted him to make his NHL debut, and he not only did that, he also saw a decent amount of time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This coming season, I really have two sets of expectations for Welinski. When he’s in San Diego, to continue to be one of their top defensemen by continuing to put up points, especially on the powerplay. And when he’s in Anaheim, to just play as much as possible. With the recent signings of Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn, there won’t be a ton of open roster spots available, and what is available will likely be taken by either Marcus Pettersson or Jacob Larsson. But, whenever he can get some time in the NHL, that will be great for his development. It would also be great if he could score his first NHL goal. Given the amount of defensive depth in Anaheim, he’ll likely spend most of the season with the Gulls. If he does spend enough of the season in the AHL, I’d like to see him approach the 40 point mark. If he can do that, he’ll likely force his way into a full-time NHL job sooner rather than later.
Welinski proved that he can play in the NHL, but he’s not quite ready to be in the NHL on a full-time basis. I’m expecting him to play in more NHL games this season, with a chance at being permanently in the NHL in the 2019-2020 season. When he gets there, he’ll likely start as a bottom pairing player, but if he develops well enough, he could become a solid number four player who gets a decent amount of powerplay time.
Welinski was a restricted free agent this summer, but he was recently re-signed to a one-year two-way contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent again next summer. Assuming he puts up another solid season between Anaheim and San Diego, I expect him to get extended again a year from now. However, if he plays well enough with the Ducks, he’ll have a shot at a one-way deal. But in order for that to happen, he has to really step up his game this coming season.
The next prospect update will be on Jack Kopacka.
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August 1st, 2018