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Anaheim’s Top 10 Prospects
By Thomas Harrington
With the prospect profiles and updates complete, along with the strengths and weakness of the Ducks’ farm system, it’s time to list the players who I believe are Anaheim’s top 10 prospects. As I’ve done previously, I will only be including players who are eligible to win the Calder Memorial Trophy this season. To be eligible to win this award, a player has to have played less than 25 games in any single season and they cannot have played more than six games in each of the two preceding seasons.
I used three sets of criteria to create this list. The first is: what is the player’s ceiling? Are they a top-six scorer or a grinder? Can they play 30 minutes a night and shut down the opposition or are they destined to be a seventh defenseman? The second question I ask is: how likely are they to reach that potential? A player may have the potential to be a top-six forward, but will they actually make it that far, or be relegated to the AHL or European leagues for most of their career? Players with bad injury histories most often fall into this category, as injuries can really derail a young player’s career. Look no further than the recently traded Nicolas Kerdiles. Finally, I look at how close I think they are to reaching their potential and making it to the NHL soon. As an example, I had Chris Wagner in the top 10 a few years ago because even though he projected as a bottom six player, he looked like he was pretty much NHL ready, putting him ahead of some other prospects who had a higher ceiling. He was so close to being an NHL player, I felt safe putting him in the top 10, and given that he’s had a relatively successful NHL career in a bottom six role, I think that ranking worked out.
Before I get to the top 10 prospects, here are the players who just missed the cut: Kalle Kossila, Giovanni Fiore, Andy Welinski, Blake McLaughlin, and Benoit-Olivier Groulx. Kossila has had a strong career in the AHL, but unless he really impresses this year, he’ll likely primarily be an AHL player going forward. Fiore had a great rookie season with the Gulls, but I’d like to see what he does for an encore in his second season. If he can improve on last season, there’s a good chance he makes it on this list next year. He could also pull a Josh Manson, where he just bypasses this list entirely and finds himself in the NHL sooner than I expect. Welinski was great in San Diego last year, and really only just misses because of a surprise performance by another player who made the top 10. I do expect him to get more time in the NHL this season. McLaughlin has a high offensive upside, but he’s several years away from making the NHL, and it remains to be seen how he pans out. Groulx is a solid center, but I’d like to see his numbers improve in the QMJHL before he makes this list.
Finally, gone from last year’s top 10 are three players: Kerdiles, Deven Sideroff, and Kossila. It’s unfortunate to see Sideroff and Kossila both fall out of the top 10, but a couple of prospects had really strong seasons last year, forcing their way onto this list.
Now, on to the top 10. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parentheses and NR means not ranked the previous year.
10. (NR) Antoine Morand – With back-to-back 70+ point seasons in the QMJHL, as well as a Memorial Cup Championship, Morand has become one of the better centers in Anaheim’s farm system. He’s entering his final season of junior hockey, and I’m excited to see what he can do. He should be a big part of San Diego in the 2019-2020 season.
9. (7) Kevin Roy – Roy had another solid season, while also making his NHL debut and scoring his first six NHL goals. However, as a 25-year-old, he didn’t do enough to distinguish himself from some of the younger prospects in the system. That being said, I fully expect him to get a decent amount of time in Anaheim this season.
8. (3) Max Jones – This is a big drop for Jones, but a combination of injuries, inconsistent play, and a few other players having great seasons caused him to drop this far. That being said, I still think he has a bright future ahead of him, if only because of his physical maturity, but other players were simply better than he was last season. Even with this drop, I still think he makes his NHL debut this season. I’m hoping he has a great season and proves me wrong with this ranking.
7. (8) Josh Mahura – Mahura had a fantastic season for Regina, finishing with well over a point per game. The reason why he didn’t move up more than one spot is because of the big jumps other players had. I also want to see how he handles his first taste of pro hockey. I’m excited to see what he can do in San Diego this season.
6. (9) Maxime Comtois – Comtois had one of the best seasons of junior hockey of any Anaheim prospect, which is saying something considering some of the players that the Ducks have in juniors. He scored over 40 goals and 80 points, taking the spot as the team’s top left wing prospect, ahead of Jones. He’s got one more year of juniors, and he’s got a chance at becoming one of Anaheim’s top five prospects if he scores enough points.
5. (NR) Marcus Pettersson – Spending several years in Sweden after being drafted really paid off for Pettersson. He had a bit of a slow start in San Diego but became more dependable as the season went on. Once he was called up to Anaheim, he played in 22 games and there was no looking back. While he’s probably at best a fourth or fifth defenseman, he’s incredibly close to being a full-time NHL player. It wouldn’t surprise me if he leads Anaheim rookies in games played this season, though he’s got some competition for that final blueline position.
4. (5) Troy Terry – Last season, Terry finished his college career, played at the Olympics, and made his NHL debut. The only thing that might keep him out of the NHL to start the year is the fact that Anaheim current has four right wingers already on their roster, but I’m hoping he’ll be good enough to force his way onto the team. I’m hoping he leads Anaheim’s rookie forwards in games played and points.
3. (2) Jacob Larsson – Larsson takes a step back because he didn’t get in any NHL games last year, but I still view him as Anaheim’s top defensive prospect. As the season went on, he became one of San Diego’s top defenders. Expect a battle between him and Pettersson for playing time in Anaheim this year. While he isn’t as offensively gifted as Shea Theodore or Brandon Montour, he’s incredibly solid in all three zones and doesn’t make many mistakes with or without the puck.
2. (NR) Isac Lundestrom – The biggest concern with Lundestrom is that his offensive ceiling isn’t as high as some of Anaheim’s other prospects, but he more than makes up for that with virtually every other area of his game. He’s already been playing in the SHL for the past two seasons and should be NHL ready before several older prospects. He’s a dark horse candidate to make his NHL debut this year, and he may even get a few games before going back to the SHL, similar to what Larsson did a couple years ago. I think there’s a very real chance he’s a permanent member of the Ducks in the 2019-2020 season.
1. (1) Sam Steel – He’s been a dominant force in juniors since the Ducks drafted him back in 2016. He’ll turn pro this year, and Anaheim and San Diego fans will likely both get a look at him throughout this season. He may not be quite ready for the grind of an 82 game season in the NHL, but he’s got amazing hands and I’m excited to see what he can do going forward. He’s got the highest offensive ceiling of any Anaheim prospect and really showed it at the Memorial Cup Tournament. He may not be a franchise center, but right now, he looks like Anaheim’s future top center.
Up next will be the prospects most likely to get time in the NHL this season, and you can expect a number of the above players to be on that list.
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September 10th, 2018