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Prospect Update: Jackson LaCombe
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s second round pick from 2019, Jackson LaCombe just completed his third year of NCAA hockey. There was some thought that he might sign his entry-level deal this summer and turn pro this coming season, but he’s decided to return for his senior year at the University of Minnesota.
LaCombe has had a tumultuous college career because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but had a very strong junior season. He set career highs in games played, assists, and points by playing in 39 games and scoring three goals and 30 points. LaCombe didn’t miss a game all season and led Minnesota with 27 assists, 64 blocked shots, and a +23 rating. For the first time since 2014 Minnesota advanced to the Frozen Four and LaCombe was a big reason why. He set a new career high with a five-game point streak and had five assists over a two-game stretch in late February.
I had two expectations for LaCombe last summer, to break the 30 point mark and to improve his defensive game. Well, he hit the 30 point mark but didn’t get above it, so he partially met this expectation. His defensive game continued to improve and evolve during his time in college. He can actually play both sides of the blueline, something that could help LaCombe make the NHL in the future.
This coming year, LaCombe will be playing his final year of NCAA hockey and has been voted one of the team’s three captains by his teammates. With his final year of college hockey ahead of him, I expect LaCombe to play the best hockey of his career. First, I expect him to break the 30 point mark. Second, I expect his defensive game to continue to evolve. Third, I expect him to play in every game of the season for Minnesota again.
With LaCombe staying in college for another year, his timeline to the NHL has been pushed back. If he had turned pro and joined the Gulls this coming season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that he could make his NHL debut either this season or next. With him not turning pro until this season of NCAA hockey is over, I think the 2023-2024 season is a possibility, but the year after feels more likely. However, if he has a truly dominant season, the Ducks may decide to bring him to the NHL this year once his college career ends.
The Ducks usually prefer to bring their college prospects to the AHL first, but it’s not unheard of for them to bring some players to the NHL as soon as they sign their entry-level contract. After finishing his career at the University of Denver, Troy Terry joined the Ducks for a couple of games at the end of the 2017-2018 season. Given LaCombe’s age and maturity, if he’s playing good enough hockey, I have to think that the Ducks will at least consider it.
LaCombe is currently unsigned, but Pat Verbek is planning to sign LaCombe to his entry-level deal once his senior year is over. The Ducks actually offered him a deal following the conclusion this past season, but after thinking about it, he decided to return to college for his final year. He might join the Ducks at the end of the season, though I think it more likely he joins the Gulls for the rest of the season, similar to what Josh Lopina did this past year.
The next prospect update will be on Gage Alexander.
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August 13th, 2022