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Prospect Update: Jack Kopacka
By Thomas Harrington
Jack Kopacka completed his final and most successful season of junior hockey, suiting up for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds. He’ll turn pro this coming season, and will hopefully have a big impact in San Diego.
Kopacka set career highs in every major offensive category, scoring 31 goals, 32 assists, and 63 points in 66 games. Kopacka was even better in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals, eight assists, and 21 points in 24 games, helping the Greyhounds reach the OHL Finals, where they lost to the Hamilton Bulldogs in six games. His 31 goals and 63 points were both fifth on the Greyhounds, his 21 playoff points were also fifth, but his 13 playoff goals were tied for second on the team. In terms of special teams scoring, Kopacka scored seven goals and 19 points on the powerplay, while also chipping in two goals and three points while the Greyhounds were shorthanded.
While never a top scorer at the junior levels, Kopacka did have a very successful junior career, scoring 81 goals and 156 points in 202 games. He increased his goal and point totals in every season of his junior career, and, more importantly, significantly increased his level play every year in the playoffs. He scored two goals in 12 playoff games in his first postseason run, then five goals in 11 games in his second, before scoring 13 goals in 24 playoff games this past season.
Last year, the only expectation I had was for Kopacka was for his offensive output to continue increase. Specifically, I had hoped for 35 goals and 60 points. Well, he didn’t hit the goal mark, but he did exceed the point mark I had set, so I’d say that he met my expectations for his final year of junior hockey.
This coming season, Kopacka will embark on his professional career. He actually already made his professional debut in the 2016-2017 season, playing in three playoff games for the San Diego Gulls, where he went scoreless. Since it’ll be his first full season against professional competition, I won’t set high expectations for this season. The big thing that I want from him is to get better as the season goes on. San Diego had a number of rookies who started out strong this past season but faded as the year went along. I’d like to see Kopacka not follow that trend, and instead to see his play improve.
Kopacka is still a little ways away from the NHL. The Ducks have notoriously been weak on the left side, so there could be room for Kopacka in the near future. However, the Ducks have a number of other left wing prospects, including Max Jones, who are more NHL ready than Kopacka is, allowing him to develop over time in the AHL. I don’t think we’ll see him with the Ducks until the 2019-2020 season at the earliest, but he may not make his NHL debut until the season after.
Kopacka is already signed to his three-year entry-level contract, and it’ll begin this year. He’ll be a restricted free agent when it ends, and as long as he progresses over the next few years in the AHL, I expect the Ducks to re-sign him in three years time. Given how he progressed in the OHL, I believe that he’ll be able to improve in every season he spends in the AHL as well.
The next prospect update will be on Mitch Hults.
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August 6th, 2018