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Prospect Update: Blake McLaughlin
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s first third round pick from 2018, forward Blake McLaughlin, just completed his first full professional season. He split time between the AHL and ECHL.
McLaughlin made his AHL debut in the 2021-2022 season, playing in seven games for the Gulls at the end of the year. He scored a goal and had an assist in two playoff games. This past season, he started the year in San Diego. He was primarily used in a fourth line role and went scoreless in 24 games. He was tied with Travis Howe for the most games played by a Gulls skater and recording no points. As the season went on, he became a healthy scratch more and more often, and was eventually assigned to the ECHL in early January. He spent the rest of the year playing for the Tulsa Oilers. In 43 games, he scored 14 goals and 34 points. Despite playing about 20 games less than the rest of Tulsa, he still finished fifth on the team in points and fourth in goals.
I had two expectations for McLaughlin for this past season, but he missed on both of them. First, he’s a player who knows how to shoot the puck, and I wanted to see him continue to average two shots per game. In his first seven career AHL games, he recorded 13 shots. Unfortunately, in his 24 games this past season, his shot total only climbed by one, to 14 shots. My second expectation was for him to play in a majority of San Diego’s games, which he missed by quite a bit, appearing in only a third of the Gulls’ games. I knew that he’d be a scratch some nights; what I didn’t see coming was him being assigned to the ECHL for the second half of the season. The good news is that once he was with Tulsa, he was able to start putting up some points and re-find his game.
This coming season, McLaughlin will likely split time between the AHL and ECHL again. It remains to be seen which league he spends more time in, but I’m hoping a majority of it is with the Gulls. Right now, he’s pretty far away from making his NHL debut, and depending on how this season goes for him, McLaughlin could end up settling firmly into minor league player only territory. However, if he can have a strong season with San Diego, he could show that he still has a shot at the NHL someday. It won’t come this season, but if he plays well enough, he could have an outside chance at it in the 2024-2025 or 2025-2026 seasons.
I have a couple of expectations for McLaughlin this coming season. First, when he’s in San Diego, to put up some points. It can be a goal or an assist, it can be a beautiful breakaway or an ugly goal, it doesn’t matter, he just needs to find the back of the net. Second, to play in more AHL games than ECHL games. For young players, it’s all about growth and becoming better. Spending more time in the AHL than the ECHL will show that McLaughlin has improved from last year.
McLaughlin has one year left on his entry-level contract before becoming a restricted free agent next summer. If he can establish himself as an AHL regular this season, then the Ducks will likely extend him a year from now on a two-way deal. However, if he spends most or all of the season in the ECHL, the Ducks will likely choose to not qualify him and let him leave as a free agent.
The next prospect update will be defenseman William Francis.
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July 27th, 2023