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Graduated Prospect: Isac Lundestrom
By Thomas Harrington
Similar to Max Comtois, Isac Lundestrom was technically not a rookie this past season because he had played 30 NHL games over the last two seasons. However, also similar to Comtois, Lundestrom had also played in 55 AHL games over the previous two seasons and had yet to establish himself in the NHL.
Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Lundestrom actually started his season playing for Timra IK in the HockeyAllsvenskan. He scored five goals and 11 points for them before he came back stateside for the start of the NHL season. Once the NHL was able to play, Lundestrom quickly established himself as one of Anaheim’s four centers. He scored his first career hat trick in March, and had goals in back to back games in February.
While Lundestrom’s offense finally started kicking in, it was his defensive play that cemented his place in the Ducks’ lineup. He averaged 1:32 of shorthanded ice time per game, which was 12th on the team, but was fourth among the team’s forwards. Overall, he scored six goals and nine points in 41 games. Unfortunately, he missed several games in April with appendicitis, or he likely would have scored a few more points to close out the season.
Lundestrom more than met my expectations for him from a year ago. First, I really expected him to have another year split between the NHL and AHL. Instead, he spent the entire year in the NHL, and was often in the lineup above other young centers like Sam Steel. Second, I wanted him to start putting the puck in the net. When he was drafted, it was known that Lundestrom wouldn’t be a 50 goal scorer, but as long as he could chip in with 10 to 20 goals a season, his defensive play would make up for his lack of offense. However, he had yet to score in the NHL before this season. While six goals in 41 games isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, that’s a 12 goal pace in an 82 game season. If his play can improve next season, he has a chance to eclipse the 15 goal mark, which would be a good sign of his development and help solidify him as Anaheim’s third line center.
This coming season, Lundestrom will be fighting to keep his spot in Anaheim’s lineup. Trevor Zegras should be in Anaheim on a full time basis, Adam Henrique is still around, Ryan Getzlaf will probably be re-signed, Steel will be looking to really have a breakthrough offensive season, and Derek Grant will likely be centering the fourth line. If the Ducks draft a center in the first round, they could also be pushing for a roster spot. With so many centers competing for ice time, Lundestrom will need to be even better, and I think he can be. This past season he showed that he can play in the NHL; this coming season he needs to show that he belongs in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
Lundestrom is a restricted free agent this summer, and there’s no question that Anaheim is going to qualify and extend him. The only question is for how much and for how long. I said that I thought Comtois’ next contract would likely fall somewhere between the deals that Troy Terry and Rickard Rakell signed.
For Lundestrom, given that his offensive game isn’t as strong as Comtois’, I think he’ll sign for less than Comtois, both in term and money. I think he’ll likely get two or three years, and receive anywhere from $1.4 to $2 million a season. That’s a nice raise over his rookie contract and will give him a chance to cash in with a bigger contract in a few years if his game can keep improving. For the Ducks, it’ll give them another good, young player on a very reasonable contract for the next few years.
Unlike Comtois, Lundestrom will be eligible for the expansion draft this summer. While he’s not going to be an elite scorer, he’s shown enough that I expect Anaheim to protect him this summer. However, the Ducks have a number of good, young players who they will have to protect and at least one of them will be exposed. That could end up being Lundestrom, but it would surprise me if it was. Personally, I’d protect Lundestrom, but it remains to be seen what happens this summer.
The next, and final, graduated prospect will be on the recently-acquired Alexander Volkov.
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June 9th, 2021