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Prospect Update: Judd Caulfield
By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks acquired forward Judd Caulfield from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Thimo Nickl. He signed his entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks on April 2nd and joined the San Diego Gulls on an ATO to finish the season. Before the trade, he was originally planning to go back to North Dakota for one more season but decided to turn pro after the Ducks acquired him. Pittsburgh originally drafted him in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, 145th overall.
After being drafted, Caulfield spent four years playing NCAA hockey at the University of North Dakota. His freshman and sophomore years saw him put up relatively similar totals, four goals and 12 points in 29 games and four goals and 11 points in 26 games. It was in his junior season when things started to come together for him. As an upperclassman, Caulfield scored 11 goals and 20 points in 39 games. As a senior, Caulfield was one of the team’s alternate captains and scored 10 goals and 19 points in 39 games. He finished fourth on the team in goals and points.
After joining the Gulls, Caulfield played in five AHL games and was scoreless. In those five games, he was primarily used on San Diego’s second line. He picked up four shots and four penalty minutes in those five games.
Caulfield is a power forward who does some of his best work away from the puck and is known for his strong defensive play. He doesn’t have the highest offensive ceiling, but he’s got a big frame, standing at 6’3”. If he can learn to use that effectively, he could become a very good player in the future.
There’s an outside chance that Caulfield plays in the NHL next year, but I’d be surprised if he did. Personally, I think he’s going to spend the entire year with San Diego, and that’s not a bad thing. After the disastrous season they just had, the Gulls are a team in transition. I anticipate big changes to their lineup next season, and Caulfield will be part of that. Hopefully he can be a big part of making San Diego a good team again.
I have one big expectation for Caulfield this season. He’s not a prolific scorer, and there’s usually an adjustment for a player going from the NCAA to professional hockey. I just want to see him get better as the season goes on. It would be great to see his point totals increase every month, but I’ll be happy to see his overall game improve throughout the year. He’s going to have bad games, and he’s going to have stretches of games where things just aren’t going right for him. But as long as Caulfield is better at the end of the season than he was at the beginning of the season, I’ll be happy.
Caulfield’s entry-level deal begins next year and it runs for two years. He’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s complete. As long as he’s developed into at least a solid AHL player in that time, I anticipate the Ducks re-signing him on a short, two-way deal. If he’s become an NHL regular by then, he could be looking at a one-way deal with more term on it. However, if he struggles with the Gulls and spends much of the next two years in the ECHL, the Ducks could choose to not qualify him and let him leave as a free agent.
With the prospect profiles now complete, it’s time to turn to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
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June 24th, 2023