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Ducks Rookie Tournament Preview
By Thomas Harrington
This weekend, the Anaheim Ducks prospects will travel to San Jose for the 2022 Rookie Faceoff, where they will be joined by prospects from the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, and their host, the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks will play in three games: game one against San Jose on Friday at 7 PM PT, game two against Arizona on Saturday at 4:30 PM PT, and game three against Vegas on Monday at 12:30 PM PT. The Ducks will not play Los Angeles or Colorado.
The Ducks will have a total of 24 players participating in the tournament: 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies. By bringing so few players, almost every player is guaranteed to play in all three games, and I’ll be surprised if almost everyone doesn’t play in at least two. Anaheim will have one player selected in the 2018 draft, one player from the 2019 draft, one player from the 2020 draft, six players from the 2021 draft, six players from the 2022 draft, three free agents, one player acquired via trade, and four invitees will make up the roster.
Blake McLaughlin will be the lone representative from Anaheim’s 2018 draft class. This will be his first rookie tournament, as NCAA players are not able to participate because of when school starts. This will be his first full professional season and he’ll be looking to make a strong impression at this tournament. Brayden Tracey will be Anaheim’s lone representative from the 2019 draft. This will be Tracey’s second full season with San Diego, and though he was inconsistent at times last year, there were times when he was the Gulls’ most dangerous forward. A strong showing at this tournament will hopefully be the springboard for a great season from him. Jacob Perreault will be the only representative from Anaheim’s 2019 draft class. Despite only being 20, this will be Perreault’s third full season with the Gulls. Similar to Tracey, Perreault had his ups and downs last year, but there were stretches where he was dominating the AHL. I expect all three of these players to play in every game of the tournament and hopefully show they are ready for the season.
Forwards Josh Lopina, Mason McTavish, Sasha Pastujov, and Sean Tschigerl, defensemen Tyson Hinds and Olen Zellweger, and goaltender Gage Alexander will represent Anaheim’s 2021 draft class. Only Kyle Kukkonen will be missing out because he’s already at Michigan Tech. McTavish should be in the NHL this year, and as a result, I could actually see him playing only a game or two in the tournament. If he just lights it up in the first game, the Ducks may choose to rest him rather than risk injury. Lopina will be in San Diego this year; I think he’ll probably get in three games, and I think Pastujov, Tschigerl, Hinds, and Zellweger all will as well, before they head back to juniors after training camp starts. However, similar to McTavish, I could see Zellweger and/or Pastujov sitting for a game if they are really lighting it up. I expect Alexander to start two of the three games.
Forwards Nathan Gaucher, Connor Hvidston, and Ben King, and defensemen Tristan Luneau, Pavel Mintyukov, and Noah Warren will represent Anaheim’s 2022 draft class. Michael Callow and Vyacheslav Buteyets are the only two players missing from Anaheim’s most recent draft class. Callow is already at Harvard, and Buteyets’ season has already started in the VHL. I think all six prospects from this draft class will play in all three games. I think the Ducks will want to get a long look at their new players and get a better idea of how they fit into their system.
Max Golod, Logan Nijhoff, and Pavol Regenda represent Anaheim’s three free agent signings. Golod and Regenda are both signed to deals with Anaheim, while Nijhoff is on an AHL-only deal with the Gulls. Regenda has spent his career in Slovakia, and I think he has a legitimate shot to make his NHL debut this year. Similar to the 2022 drafted players, I think he’ll play in all three games so the Ducks can get a look at their new prospects. Nijhoff only got three games with the Gulls last year and this will be his first full season with San Diego. Golod has split time between the AHL and ECHL over the past two seasons. I think both will probably play in two games, and either could get a third if they play well in the first couple of games or if the Ducks suffer any injuries or decide to rest other players.
Drew Helleson was acquired from Colorado as part of the Josh Manson trade. He signed his entry-level deal and joined the Gulls to finish out the season. A lot is expected out of him and I think he’ll play in at least two, if not all three, games.
The four camp invitees are forward Julien Beland, defensemen Charles Cote and Luka Profaca, and goaltender Brayden Peters. I expect Beland to get a game or two; I don’t think he’ll play in all three unless the Ducks choose to rest more of their own draft picks than I expect. Right now, Anaheim has six really strong defensive prospects at this tournament, so I think it will be hard for either of Cote or Profaca to get more than a game each, though again if the Ducks choose to rest more of their defensemen then either could get a second game. Finally, I expect Peters to start one game, probably either Friday or Saturday’s contest so Alexander isn’t playing on back to back days.
The other teams will also be bringing a number of high profile prospects to the tournament. Against San Jose the Ducks could face notable prospects like Thomas Bordeleau, William Eklund, Ryan Merkley, or Ozzy Wiesblatt. The Coyotes could use notable prospects like Conor Geekie, Dylan Guenther, Julian Lutz, or Jack McBain. Finally, the Golden Knights could use notable prospects like Brendan Brisson, Zach Dean, Matyas Sapovaliv, or Kaedan Korsczak.
Rookie tournaments are generally a lot of fun. Hopefully Anaheim’s prospects do well, but more importantly, hopefully no one on any of these six teams suffers any kind of injury. This tournament is designed to give each team a glimpse of their future, but it’s also to give these kids an idea of what it will take to make it in the NHL.
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September 14th, 2022