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Anaheim’s Top 10 Rookies
By Thomas Harrington
It’s time for one of my favorite things to write for DucksNPucks, Anaheim’s top 10 rookies. 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.
Additionally, they cannot have played more than six games in each of the two preceding seasons. So that means that Isac Lundestrom, Max Comtois, and Josh Mahura are all ineligible because of how much all three have played over the last two 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 hamper a young player’s career. Nicolas Kerdiles is an unfortunate example of this. He was a second-round pick but injuries really derailed his career and now he’s not even playing hockey anymore.
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 several years ago because even though he projected as a bottom-six player, he looked like he was pretty much NHL ready, so he was placed 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.
Also, just because a player doesn’t appear on this list doesn’t mean they won’t have a successful career in Anaheim. Josh Manson and Kiefer Sherwood both bypassed this list entirely. Manson has become a top-four defenseman, and while Sherwood hasn’t become a full-time NHL player, he did play in 50 NHL games in his rookie season. If I had known that Sherwood would play that many games, there’s no question he would have been on this list a couple of years ago.
Before I get to the top 10 prospects, here are the players who just missed the cut: Blake McLaughlin, Axel Andersson, and Antoine Morand. McLaughlin always seems to just miss this list. He had a strong sophomore season and built on what he did as a freshman, but it wasn’t quite enough to get him in the top 10. Andersson had a strong final season of juniors, but I’d like to see what he can do against professional competition and how he fits into Anaheim’s system before I place him in the top 10. Morand didn’t put up a ton of points in San Diego, but he was an effective checker for them, playing on virtually every line. If he can increase his offensive production this coming season, he could find himself back in the top 10 after being in it a couple years ago.
With Lundestom, Mahura, and Comtois no longer eligible for this list, there will be quite a bit of turnover among the top 10 from a year ago. Also, because some of these players have already started playing this season while others have not, this ranking is entirely based upon what was done last year. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parentheses and NR means not ranked the previous year. Now, on to the top 10.
10. (NR) Simon Benoit – An undrafted free agent signing, Benoit has been a steadying presence on San Diego’s blueline for the last two seasons. He’ll never be a dominant defenseman in the NHL, but I think we could see him in an Anaheim uniform at some point this year. He was actually called up last season but didn’t play in any NHL games.
9. (NR) Sam Coangelo – Anaheim’s 2nd round pick from 2020, Coangelo put up some great numbers in the USHL. Hopefully he’ll be able to duplicate that success in college. If he can do that for a year or two, he’ll be turning pro pretty soon.
8. (9) Jackson LaCombe – Anaheim’s second-round pick from 2019 was a high-risk high reward type of pick. He’s only been playing defense for a few years, but if he pans out, the Ducks will have an excellent puck mover on their back end. He moves up one spot after a solid freshman season, but if he continues to develop, he could shoot up this list real fast.
7. (NR) Henry Thrun – A fantastic freshman season at Harvard University propels Anaheim’s fourth-round pick from 2019 into their top 10, above even LaCombe. Thrun had some of the best offensive numbers among freshman blueliners in the NCAA, and is known as a steadying defensive presence on the ice.
6. (8) Benoit-Olivier Groulx – Anaheim’s second-round pick from 2018, Groulx will be turning pro this year. He’s put up some excellent numbers in the QMJHL, but it’s his defensive game that will likely get him to the NHL someday.
5. (5) Brayden Tracey – Injuries, inconsistencies, and a new team made a difficult season for Tracey, but Anaheim’s second first-round pick from 2019 still has a great shot. Hopefully a strong final season in the WHL can see him climb up higher on this ranking next summer.
4. (10) Lukas Dostal – A year ago, I called him Anaheim’s top goaltending prospect. Today, I’m saying that he’s one of Anaheim’s top four prospects. He put up some amazing numbers in the Liiga league last year and if he can duplicate something close to those results in San Diego this season, the Ducks will likely have another stud goaltender on their team in the near future.
3. (NR) Jacob Perreault – Anaheim’s second first-round pick from 2020, Perreault possesses possibly the best shot among Anaheim’s prospects. He has back to back 30 goal seasons in the OHL, and would have likely broken 40 last season if not for the pandemic. Hopefully, he can dominate the OHL for the next couple of years before turning pro.
2. (NR) Jamie Drysdale – Anaheim’s top pick from 2020, Drysdale instantly becomes their top defensive prospect. He probably needs at least a year in juniors before turning pro, but this right-handed shooting defenseman could be running the Ducks’ powerplay within a few years.
1. (1) Trevor Zegras – Anaheim’s top pick from 2019 remains their top prospect a year later. A strong freshman season and a dominant World Junior tournament show why the Ducks were so excited to draft him ninth overall. He’s turning pro this season, and it remains to be seen how much time he gets in the AHL and NHL. Personally, I think he’ll make his NHL debut, but spend most of the year with the Gulls and become a full-time NHL player in the 2021-2022 season.
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December 31st, 2020