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Prospect Update: Isac Lundestrom
By Thomas Harrington
A first-round pick from last summer, center Isac Lundestrom played in three different leagues last season, as well as at the World Junior Tournament.
Lundestrom wasn’t expected to play in Anaheim last season, but he had a fantastic training camp. Combine that with Anaheim having its usual spate of early season injuries, and Lundestrom found himself making his NHL debut far sooner than many expected. When he was drafted, it was clear that, while Lundestrom didn’t have the ceiling of some of his other first-round peers, he would still be playing in the NHL sooner rather than later. He didn’t play in the first two games of the season, but Lundestrom made his NHL debut in Anaheim’s third game of the season against Detroit and went scoreless. He recorded his first career assist in his third game against Dallas. Overall, Lundestrom played in 15 NHL games through mid-November, recorded two assists, and didn’t look too out of place.
When the Ducks finally got healthy, Lundestrom was assigned to San Diego. He made his AHL debut in mid-November against Bakersfield and recorded two assists in that game. Overall, he played in 12 games with the Gulls and recorded six assists. After spending a month in the AHL, Lundestrom played for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships. He played in five games at the tournament and scored one goal and four points. In the four-game round-robin tournament, Sweden won three games and lost once in overtime. Unfortunately, Sweden lost to Switzerland 2-0 in the quarterfinals and failed to medal in the tournament.
After the World Junior Tournament, Lundestrom went back to the SHL to finish the season. The SHL is Sweden’s top hockey league and arguably the third best league in the world. Lundestrom played in 17 games and scored two goals and nine points. He played in 10 playoff games in the SHL and scored two goals and eight points. Once his team Lulea was eliminated, he came back stateside to play for the Gulls during their playoff run. Lundestrom joined the Gulls in the second round against Bakersfield. He was scoreless in the first game, but he scored one goal and three points in his second game of the series. Unfortunately, Lundestrom was injured later in the series and didn’t return to the lineup until the third round against Chicago. In game five, with San Diego’s goalie pulled, Lundestrom passed the puck back and scored into his own net. It was a rough moment for him, but hopefully, it’s one that he can learn from going forward. Overall, Lundestrom played in seven Calder Cup Playoff games and scored one goal and three points.
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I have two different sets of expectations for Lundestrom this year. He should be in North America the entire season, either with the Ducks or Gulls. When he’s in San Diego, I’d like to see Lundestrom solidify himself in the team’s top six and get time on both the powerplay and penalty kill. With Ryan Kesler likely out for the entire season, there is at least one open center spot in Anaheim, but I think that will probably go to Sam Steel. Still, if Steel hits a rough patch or someone else gets injured, Lundestrom could make his way to the NHL this season, and I expect him to at some point. When he’s in Anaheim, he’s going to play less, but I’d like him to show that he has a future as a third or fourth-line center with the Ducks and get some penalty kill time as well. Regardless of where he plays, Lundestrom needs to increase his offensive production. Between the regular season and playoffs in the NHL and AHL last year, he played in 34 games and scored only one goal. He’s not going to be a 30 or 40 goal scorer, but he should be able to hit 20 goals once he’s established himself in the NHL. This season, he doesn’t need to hit that 20 goal mark in Anaheim, but he does need to start filling the back of the net with some regularity.
Lundestrom has two years left on his entry-level contract, and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. When his contract is up, Anaheim will certainly sign him to an extension. Unless he really becomes one of Anaheim’s top centers over the next two years, it probably won’t be a long-term one, but assuming he progresses as hoped, I could see Anaheim trying to extend him for three or four years.
The next prospect update will be on Max Comtois.
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August 30th, 2019