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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 the NHL in any single season. Additionally, they cannot have played more than six games in each of the two preceding 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 with promise but injuries essentially ended his career.
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.
Also, just because a player doesn’t appear on this list doesn’t mean they won’t have a successful career in Anaheim or the NHL, or that they won’t appear in the NHL this season. 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 before his rookie season.
Before I get to the top 10 rookies, here are the players who just missed the cut: Jackson LaCombe, Noah Warren, Tristan Luneau, Calle Clang, Sam Colangelo, and Brayden Tracey. LaCombe was on the list last year but only falls off because I believe every player on this list either has a higher ceiling than he does, is closer to the NHL than he is, or both. I’m very excited about both Warren and Luneau, but I don’t think their ceilings are as high as some of these other players, and they are a number of years away from the NHL. If either has a truly great season, they could force their way onto this list in a year.
Clang is Anaheim’s second best goaltending prospect and has been playing well overseas. A great season in the SHL could put him into the top 10 a year from now. Colangelo had a very good sophomore season after a difficult freshman year, but it wasn’t quite enough to get into the top 10. Finally, Tracey looked much more comfortable in San Diego than he did during his initial 12 game run with them during the 2020-2021 season, but after a strong first half of the season he hit a wall in the second half. Still, I feel much more confident in him now than I did a year ago.
Trevor Zegras (graduated), Jamie Drysdale (graduated), and LaCombe were the three players from last year’s top 10 list who do not appear on this year’s. Two players from Anaheim’s 2022 draft class and one player acquired via trade are replacing them. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parentheses and NR means not ranked the previous year. Now, on to the top 10!
10. (10) Sasha Pastujov – Pastujov had a scorching hot start to his OHL career, but couldn’t maintain his torrid pace through the rest of the season. As a result, he keeps his spot from a year ago, despite several other good prospects pushing to be included in the top 10. If he can translate his first couple of months from last year into an entire season, expect to see him move up this list.
9. (9) Henry Thrun – Thrun keeps his spot from a year ago. I was concerned after he spent his sophomore year in the USHL, but his return to the NCAA was a very successful one. If he had signed his entry-level deal and was going to be in the AHL this season, he’d probably be a spot or two higher, since he’d be that much closer to the NHL.
8. (NR) Drew Helleson – Acquired from Colorado in the Manson deal, Helleson signed his entry-level deal with the Ducks and will probably start the year in San Diego. Anaheim’s defensive core is looking much better than it did at the end of last season, but they still aren’t incredibly deep on the right side. Depending on how the season goes, it wouldn’t surprise me if Helleson made his NHL debut this season, and if certain players are traded or hurt, he could see significant time with the Ducks.
7. (6) Benoit-Olivier Groulx – Groulx drops a spot from last year, but that’s more about the players ahead of him than him having a bad season last year. He made his NHL debut but struggled at times with the Ducks. If he’s not with the Ducks out of training camp, I expect him to be the first player called up from San Diego. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he spends most or all of the season in Anaheim. He’ll never be an elite NHL goal scorer, but he’s a solid defensive player who plays well at both ends of the ice.
6. (NR) Nathan Gaucher – It may seem odd to rank a first round pick outside of the top five, but I believe that every single player ahead of Gaucher deserves it because they are knocking on the NHL’s door, or have a significantly higher ceiling. Gaucher is a center who plays well at both ends of the ice and could morph into an excellent shut down center who can put the puck in the back of the net.
5. (5) Jacob Perreault – Anaheim’s top right wing prospect had a second strong season for San Diego. He made his NHL debut this past season, and while I don’t think he’s ready to push for a full time NHL job yet, I do think we could see him get a decent amount of time with Anaheim this year.
4. (4) Lukas Dostal – Despite a slow start to the year, Dostal had a second solid season for the Gulls and made his NHL debut. He played well enough to stay in fourth, and if not for the meteoric rise of another Anaheim prospect, I probably would have listed him third right now. Dostal will get more NHL time in Anaheim this year, and depending on what the team ultimately does with Anthony Stolarz, could be Anaheim’s backup before the season is over.
3. (NR) Pavel Mintyukov – Anaheim’s top pick from 2022 had a great season in the OHL after not playing at all in the 2020-2021 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s an excellent passer and skater who will likely be in the NHL in the not too distant future.
2. (7) Olen Zellweger – After the amazing season in the WHL that Zellweger just had, he’s easily the biggest riser among Anaheim’s prospects. The biggest concern with him is his size, but he’s such a good skater that he should be able to avoid most hits that come his way. Combine that with great vision, passing, and a good shot and he has the tools to be a very good NHL defenseman very soon.
1. (3) Mason McTavish – After the season that McTavish just had, punctuated by a dominant performance at the World Juniors in August, there is no question who Anaheim’s top prospect is going into the 2022-2023 season. As long as he’s healthy, expect to see him with the Ducks on opening night.
Up next will be the final offseason prospect article: the prospects most likely to see time in Anaheim this season.
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September 28th, 2022