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Prospect Update: Benoit-Olivier Groulx
By Thomas Harrington
A second round pick from 2018, Benoit-Olivier Groulx just completed his first career professional season. He spent the entire year playing for the San Diego Gulls.
Unlike some AHL players, Groulx decided to remain in North America and not play overseas while he waited for San Diego to get its season underway. Given that it was his first professional season, I have no issue with him choosing to stay in North America and wait for the AHL’s season to begin. I also don’t know what kinds of opportunities Groulx would have had if he had played overseas. Regardless, once the AHL season started, Groulx quickly settled in as San Diego’s third line center and found a home on the team’s penalty kill unit.
For a rookie, one of the biggest compliments they can receive is to be given big defensive responsibilities. However, it wasn’t all about Groulx’s defensive play, as he also scored 10 goals and 29 points in 42 games. He led all San Diego rookies in assists and points, and was tied for third in assists among AHL rookies and fifth in points. It’s fair to say that other than Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, Groulx was the most promising rookie skater on San Diego’s roster this past season. He and fellow rookie Bryce Kindopp formed some nice chemistry on both the third line and penalty kill. They learned to read off of each other very well and I’m excited to see what they can do for an encore next year.
Given the prevailing pandemic and the questions around the AHL at the time, my expectations for Groulx from last summer were vague, but he was still able to meet them. All I really wanted was for him to play as much hockey as possible. He was able to suit up for 42 of San Diego’s games, and led all AHL rookies in games played. For a young player, ice time is one of the best ways for them to develop and improve, and Groulx did that this year.
My expectations for Groulx this season are very simple: to be better than his rookie year. He scored 10 goals and 29 points in 42 games, I want him to better all of those numbers. I also want him to continue to become one of San Diego’s top defensive forwards. If he can do both of those things, he could very well make his NHL debut this coming season. I won’t list the NHL as one of my expectations for him next season, but I do hope he’s able to get at least a game with Anaheim.
This coming year, Groulx will be returning to San Diego. However, if he can continue his strong play with the Gulls, he’ll have a chance to make his NHL debut. It’s also going to depend on what moves the Ducks make this summer. I’m assuming that Ryan Getzlaf will be back, and Trevor Zegras should be in the NHL on a full time basis. Even if the Ducks trade Adam Henrique, they will still have Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, and Derek Grant fighting for time at center. If Getzlaf or Grant move to the wing, that could open up a spot for Groulx. Alternatively, he could also be given a shot on the wing. He’s played some wing in juniors, but has primarily been used as a center with San Diego.
While Groulx might make his NHL debut this season, I don’t think he’ll have a chance at being a full time NHL player until the 2022-2023 season. He had a very good rookie season in the AHL. This year, I want him to improve on that, and possibly get some NHL games. If he can do that, I think he’ll have a legitimate shot at making the NHL roster the following season. He doesn’t have the talent of some of Anaheim’s other top prospects, but he’s a hard worker and a smart player with a solid skill set. Combined, he could become an ideal third line player going forward.
Groulx has two years left on his entry-level deal and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. Assuming he’s made his way to the NHL by then, even if it’s not on a full time basis, I fully expect Anaheim to re-sign him. However, if he struggles over the next couple of seasons, Anaheim could decide to not qualify him and let him leave as a free agent.
The next prospect update will be on Simon Benoit.
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June 28th, 2021