The Anaheim Ducks are a team whose core and identity are in transition. The core has begun to age out as Corey Perry was given a buy-out in the offseason and Ryan Kesler will miss the entire 2019-20 season due to injury. The 35-year-old will have two seasons remaining on his current contract but is there any tread left on that tire or desire to return to the NHL after missing an entire season to a rebuilding team? It’s doubtful. Even if he wants to return it is likely he will receive the Joffrey Lupul treatment.
The roster has already embraced the youth movement with the likes of Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Jacob Larsson all receiving full-time insertion into the lineup on a regular basis. The pipeline has not dried up despite the recent influx of prospects as we take a look at the top ten Anaheim Ducks prospects in the system.
1. Trevor Zegras, C/W – Boston U. (NCAA)
HT/WT: 6-0, 170
Drafted: Ninth overall in the first round of the 2019 Draft by Anaheim
Zegras is the heir apparent to Ryan Getzlaf as the teams future number one center. Getzlaf’s contract will expire following the 20-21 season which is about when Zegras is projected to make his mark.
The upside for Zegras is very high. He has size, mobility, is very reliable defensively and plays an aggressive and physical game. His offensive ability to create and finish plays is what sets him apart as the Ducks future franchise player.
Zegras is playing in his freshman season with the Boston Terriers and is a probable one-and-done player who will likely be pro-ready in one to two years.
2. Maxime Comtois, LW – Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
HT/WT: 6-2, 207
Drafted: 50th overall in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft by Anaheim
After starting last season in the NHL, Comtois was ultimately returned to junior where he had a dominant season posting close to 2.0 PPG in Drummondville. He was named Captain of Team Canada for the World Junior where he posted five goals in five games.
A gifted finisher around the net, Comtois uses his size and strength to his advantage in both protecting the puck and stealing it back. There is a lot to like with Comtois – he is big, can skate, sees the ice well both offensively and defensively and he can score.
Playing in his first full season as a pro, look for Comtois to spend the majority, if not all of the year in the NHL with the Ducks in a top-six role.
3. Sam Steel, C – Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft by Anaheim
In his first year in pro hockey last season, Steel made the Ducks to start the year, playing in 22 games before being reassigned to the AHL to play out the balance of the year and get more ice time and development. He posted a very impressive 41 points in 53 games with the Gulls showing he is very NHL ready.
Steel lacks size but in today’s NHL that is not a problem to play in the top-six. He will compete with Zegras in the future for the top pivot position but the two will be the strength of the Ducks down the middle for years to come.
4. Isac Lundestrom, C – San Diego Gulls (AHL)
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft by Anaheim
The speedy Sweede made his NHL debut out of his draft year by virtue of an impressive rookie and training camp. In his 15 NHL games, he only managed two assists. In the AHL the results were similar, with six in 12 games with the Gulls. Ultimately the then 18-year-old was loaned back to his club team in his native Sweden and represented his native country at the World Junior.
Back in North America expect to see Lundestrom split time between the NHL and AHL with the lions share of games being played with the Gulls. Lundestrom has great wheels, is responsible defensively, and has good playmaking ability. With Zegras and Steel above him on the depth chart, he looks like a third-line pivot at best.
5. Brendan Guhle, D – Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Drafted: 51st overall in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft by Buffalo Sabres
The Ducks acquired Guhle, along with a 2019 first round pick (Brayden Tracey) from the Sabres in exchange for Brandon Montour. Guhle had split his time in the Sabres organization between Buffalo and Rochester in his first two pro seasons.
Since his arrival in California, he has only played in the NHL and has secured a role on the big club but continues to play for a regular role as he has been injured or scratched. Guhle is known as a transition and puck-moving defenseman with good passing and vision and continues to improve his defensive decision making and reads.
6. Lukas Dostal, G – Ilves (Liiga)
Drafted: 85th Overall in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft by Anaheim
The Czech keeper had a breakout performance at the World Junior with his tournament leading .957 SV%. Dostal split the 18-19 season playing in Europe between eight teams in as many leagues and tournaments. He will be looking to focus his development in a more stable role this year as he is on loan to Ilves in the Liiga and will still see plenty of international competition as well.
Dostal is the Ducks top goalie prospect by all accounts and with a young John Gibson as the incumbent, there will be no rush on the development of Dostal. He could be several years away but looks to be well worth the wait.
7. Josh Mahura, D – San Diego Gulls (AHL)
Drafted: 85th overall in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft by Anaheim
Mahura had a brilliant WHL career capped off with a Memorial Cup All-Star performance with the Pats. The smooth skating defenseman had a strong start to his pro career earning a 17 game look in the NHL with the Ducks before playing out his rookie season in the AHL where he posted a very impressive 19 points in 40 games.
There is a roster position in the very near future once the Ducks feel he has finished his development in the AHL. With Korbinian Holzer and Michael Del Zotto both on expiring contracts, look for that to happen full-time next season at the latest.
8. Brayden Tracey, LW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks
Tracey exploded on the scene in his draft year. He was not very well known as a prospect, but by the halfway point of the season last year he was making quite the buzz based on his puck skills and soft hands that he eventually played his way all the way into the first round of the NHL draft.
Tracey really came out of nowhere last year and perhaps by virtue of playing on a line with two WHL veterans, he produced his 81 points. This year will be an important development year again for Tracey as he needs to prove he can do it on his own at the junior level and continue to raise his stock.
9. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Drafted: 54th overall in the second round of the 2018 draft by Anaheim
It would be easy to underestimate Groulx as he is big and strong and gets a lot of defensive zone assignments because he is so reliable. The son hockey Coach Benoit Groulx, he understands the game very well and has a very strong compete level and plays aggressive (100 PIM in his draft season).
But do not overlook his skill and ability to be offensive and creative with the puck. In his D+1 season he eclipsed the point per game pace with 80 points in 65 games. Now in his final year in Junior as the Captain of Halifax look for him to try to lead the Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup Championship. Next year will be his first pro season and expect Groulx to spend some time developing in the AHL with the Gulls.
Long term his floor is as a two-way fourth-line centre with the ability to play in a higher role, possibly top-six on the wing.
10. Blake McLaughlin, LW – University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Drafted: 79th overall in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft by Anaheim
The undersized winger made a smooth transition from the USHL to the NCAA last year posting 20 points in 35 games as a freshman. However, it started off a little rocky as five assists in his first 16 games, but once he found his confidence and stride he looked very good.
Expect the hard working winger to play his Junior and possibly Senior years in the NCAA developing his game, finding consistency and confidence before he makes the move to the pro level.