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Anaheim Rookie Tournament Recap
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s rookies had a spectacular tournament in Vegas, going 3-0 and scoring 21 goals in those three games. There were several standout performances from all over the lineup, and no one really had a bad tournament.
Anaheim Dethrones Los Angeles 8-3
The first game of the tournament saw Anaheim’s prospects take on Los Angeles. The Ducks dressed what I consider to be the strongest lineup they could have. Virtually every top prospect was on the ice, with the exception of Max Jones who missed the entire tournament with an injury. Of Anaheim’s top 10 prospects, eight of them played in this game. Only Jones and Kevin Roy did not, and Roy was not even a member of the rookie camp, primarily because of how many pro seasons he has had in the AHL. After a back and forth opening period that saw the Kings go up 1-0 with 6.9 seconds left, the Ducks could have wilted. Instead, they came out strong in the second period and had the lead just minutes into the middle frame, and they never looked back. The top line was made up of Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois, and Troy Terry. While that group only scored one goal, they were dominant throughout the contest and had several dangerous opportunities. At one point, Comtois set up Jacob Larsson on a fast rush up ice and he nailed the post. While Anaheim’s top line was dominant in play, it was their second line that provided a ton of the offense. Isac Lundestrom scored twice and Jack Kopacka scored while spinning to the ice. Deven Sideroff, Josh Mahura, Hunter Drew, and junior invite Simon Benoit scored the other goals in the 8-3 win. Drew, in particular, stood out to me. Well before the goal was scored, I was impressed with his play on the ice, and that goal was a nice reward for a solid outing from the sixth round draft pick. In net, Olle Eriksson Ek was fantastic, stopping multiple breakaways in the second period when the game was still close. If not for some of his big saves, this could have been a very different game. Overall, it was a fun game to watch, and Anaheim’s top prospects all had excellent nights.
Anaheim Downs Colorado 5-2
For the second game of the tournament, Anaheim took on Colorado’s rookies. For this game, Anaheim did not dress as strong a lineup as they did in the first game. Steel, Terry, and Larsson all sat this one out. Given how strong a game they all had against Los Angeles, it was probably the right call to rest them. All three will likely see time in the NHL this year, no need to risk injury in this game. Instead, Julius Nattinen, Tyler Soy, and Kyle Olson dressed at forward, while half of Anaheim’s defense were invites to the tournament and not part of Anaheim’s farm system. The only defensemen that Anaheim dressed who are part of their system were Drew, Mahura, and Marcus Pettersson. With a weaker lineup to work with, I thought that the Ducks would struggle more in this game. Given that they won by a score of 5-2, they technically did struggle more, but they still played very well. Lundestrom, Kopacka, and Kiefer Sherwood served as the top line for this game. The Ducks got on the board first, as Soy found Comtois alone in front of the net and he scored his second goal in two games. The Avs scored the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead. Kopacka scored his second of the tournament to tie the game, from some beautiful passing from Sherwood and Lundestrom. Sherwood then scored to put the Ducks on top for good. Nattinen scored his first of the tournament to make it 4-2. He didn’t have a good rookie season in San Diego and will be hoping for a better sophomore campaign. Hopefully that goal is a sign of things to come. Finally, Lundestrom scored into the empty net on a great hustle play to end the game, giving him three goals to lead the Ducks in goals scored.
Anaheim Doubles Up Arizona 8-4
For the final game, Anaheim took on Arizona’s rookies; Steel, Terry, and Larsson were all back in the lineup while Lundestrom and Pettersson were given the night off. Steel, Terry, and Comtois were back together again, and they had another dominant performance, but Olson ended up being the star of the final game. He scored a hat-trick and ended up finishing tied for second in goals with three in the tournament. Comtois scored twice, giving him a total of four, tops on the team. The other goals were scored by Nattinen, Steel, and Alex Dostie. Roman Durny made 44 saves to get the win.
Anaheim showed off what could be a line in the NHL in the next few years: Steel, Terry, and Comtois. They were easily Anaheim’s three best forwards in the tournament and seemed to read off of each other really well. Their passing was nearly perfect and each had multiple chances to score every game. Lundestrom also had a strong tournament. For a player more known for his defensive play than his offense, his three goals certainly made a statement in the tournament. On defense, Pettersson and Larsson looked the most NHL ready, while Mahura showed off his offensive skill set. To me, Drew and Olson were the two big surprises. Drew was quietly very good all over the ice, and Olson ended up having the best single-game performance with his hat-trick in the final game. All three goalies played well, each one getting a win in their game. We should see a number of these players in the NHL over the next few years. While expectations should be tempered because it’s just a rookie tournament, it was a great way to kick off this season and a reason to get excited about the Ducks, both for this season and the future.
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September 12th, 2018