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Prospect Update: Josh Mahura
By Thomas Harrington
A third-round pick from 2016, Josh Mahura just completed his first professional season and made his NHL debut in November.
Mahura started the season in San Diego, making his professional debut on October 6th. He recorded his first career assist in his third game, and had his first multi-point game in his fourth. In November, he scored his first career goal with the Gulls on the powerplay. Overall, Mahura played in 40 games for San Diego and scored one goal and 19 points. He played on all three pairings for the Gulls and saw a lot of time on the team’s powerplay unit. He wasn’t San Diego’s top offensive defenseman, but he was one of their better ones, an impressive feat for a rookie.
Early in the season, Anaheim was once again dealing with several issues on the blueline. In mid-November, Mahura was called up to the Ducks and made his NHL debut against Colorado. In his second game, he recorded his first career assist. Through November and December, Mahura was back and forth between San Diego and Anaheim. On December 20th against Boston, he scored his first career NHL goal. Overall, he played in 17 games for the Ducks and scored one goal and five points. Most nights, he played between 12 and 16 minutes, though he did surpass the 18-minute mark twice.
Mahura was in San Diego for their playoff run, but unfortunately, he struggled in the postseason. He played in all four games against San Jose and went scoreless. He was used primarily on the team’s second pairing in that series. In game one against Bakersfield, Mahura was injured and missed the rest of the series. He didn’t return to the lineup until game two against Chicago in the third round. He played in the next three games, but he was really struggling on the ice by game five. He was a healthy scratch for game six, the final game of the series. Overall, Mahura played in nine playoff games and was pointless. While his lack of offensive production is concerning, his overall defensive play and decision making took a noticeable downturn against Chicago. While I don’t think it was ever confirmed, I’m fairly confident that the injury he suffered against Bakersfield had a big effect on his play in the conference finals. As long as he’s fully recovered from that injury for next season, I’m confident that his play will rebound to what it was in the regular season.
Mahura Exceeds Expectations
In terms of the expectations that I had for Mahura last summer, he exceeded them this past season. I expected him to spend the entire season with the Gulls and figured he had an outside shot at getting a game or two with the Ducks. Well, he played in 17 NHL games, significantly more than I expected him to get. With the Gulls, he was never their best defenseman, but he played solid hockey through most of the season and showed why he’s one of Anaheim’s top defensive prospects. I also wanted him to stay healthy, and other than his injury in the playoffs, he was healthy for the entire season, one of the primary reasons for his strong play in both San Diego and Anaheim.
This coming year, Mahura will likely spend most of the season in San Diego again, but he could get more games in Anaheim. However, with how many defensemen have left Anaheim and San Diego via free agency, if he has a great training camp in the fall, he could end up being in Anaheim’s top six to start the season. If he can do that, and then continue to play well, he could stay with the Ducks for the entire season.
I have two sets of expectations for Mahura this coming season. When he’s with the Gulls, I want him to take a big step forward and be one of their offensive leaders from the blueline. With Trevor Murphy, Andy Welinski, and Jaycob Megna gone, Mahura will be counted on a lot more for the Gulls’ defensive core. He needs to score a few more goals, and crack the 20 point mark, if not 30. When he’s in Anaheim, I’d like to see him continue to develop his overall game against NHL competition. He’ll likely continue to see time on the team’s bottom pair, but I’d also like to see him utilized more on Anaheim’s powerplay.
Other than his struggles against Chicago in the playoffs, Mahura’s development has been very consistent over the last couple of seasons. While he won’t ever be a top-pairing player, he has the potential to be a solid third or fourth defenseman who can chip in offensively, especially on the powerplay. He sees the ice well, is a good passer, and has an accurate shot.
Mahura has two years left on his entry-level contract and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. If he can continue to develop over the next couple of seasons and show that he belongs in the NHL, he’ll have earned himself a one-way contract, likely a bridge deal. However, if he’s still bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL in two years time, the Ducks will likely give him another two-way deal, giving him another chance to prove himself.
The next prospect update will be on Deven Sideroff.
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July 16th, 2019