Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Anaheim Ducks Prospects
The Anaheim Ducks started last season slowly, as they faced multiple injuries. However, they had a great second half of the season and ended up finishing second in the Pacific Division. Rickard Rakell broke out with a 34 goal season. Ryan Getzlaf proved that he is still an elite player with 61 points in 56 games. Goaltender John Gibson put up a fantastic season with a 0.926 save percentage in 60 games. However, the playoffs were rough, as the team fell in four straight games to the San Jose Sharks.
The Ducks made a series of minor moves over the off-season, signing Carter Rowney, Andrej Sustr, Anton Rodin, and Luke Schenn. While these players provide depth, any major changes to the Ducks roster will need to come from their prospect pool.
2018 NHL Draft Picks: Isac Lundestrom, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Blake McLaughlin, Lukas Dostal, Jackson Perbix, Roman Durny, Hunter Drew
Graduations: Brandon Montour, Andy Welinski (age), Kevin Roy (age), Kalle Kossila (age),
Top Prospect: Sam Steel
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 3rd, 1998 — Sherwood Park, Alberta
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #30 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Steel had another solid season with the Regina Pats. He put up 33 goals and 83 points in 54 games. He also added a goal and 11 points in seven playoff games. Steel took his game up another notch at the Memorial Cup, scoring 13 points in just five games. He brought home the tournament MVP, but it was only a consolation prize as the Pats fell in the final to the Acadie Bathurst Titan. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors where he scored nine points in seven games and helped the team win a gold medal.
Steel is an outstanding skater with strong speed and great acceleration. He is smooth on his skates and also shows outstanding edgework and agility. Once he gets a step on a defender, he is gone. Steel takes advantage of this on the rush where he can take defenders wide and cut to the front of the net. He can also make a quick cut and take the inside route to get there. Steel has a powerful stride, with good balance and the ability to fight through checks. It could even improve with a little more leg strength as he matures.
Steel has outstanding stickhandling ability and very soft hands. He combines this with the skating to weave through traffic and create plays off the rush. Steel also has a good wrist shot and a quick release, allowing him to use defenders as a screen and fire it on the net if they back off too much. Add in excellent vision and passing skills and Steel excels as a playmaker. In fact, his playmaking ability is probably the biggest strength of his game. Steel has outstanding hockey IQ and thinks the game a step ahead of others. He seems to always make the smart play with the puck on his stick.
Steel is also a very hard worker, who constantly keeps his feet moving and is involved in every aspect of the play. He is strong on the forecheck and uses his good puck protection skills to make plays down low on the cycle game. He has a bit of peskiness to go along with that high-end skill and always seems to be in the middle of the after the whistle scrums.
Steel has shown the willingness to compete on the backcheck. He is also good in the face-off circle and works hard to apply back pressure to support his defence when defending against the rush. Steel is willing to work to contain opponents down low but sometimes struggles with bigger forwards. He could stand to add some upper body strength to be better in containment against a strong cycle game.
Steel will go to training camp looking to make the Ducks. With the top three centre spots seemingly spoken for, the only obvious open spot is the fourth line centre role. Given Steel’s age and potential, he needs minutes. If Steel cannot earn a spot on the top three lines, the Ducks should send him to the AHL for further development. In any event, expect Steel to get some NHL action as he will be, at the minimum, one of the first call-ups when injuries hit. The potential here is very high and he will be ready for a bigger role soon.
#2 Prospect: Jacob Larsson
Defence — shoots Left
Born April 29th, 1997 — Ljungby, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 195 lbs [188 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #27 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Larsson spent his entire season in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls. He played in 50 games, scoring three goals and 13 assists for 16 points.
Larsson is a very good skater. He has a very smooth stride, which generates very good top end speed and strong acceleration in both directions. His edge work, pivots, and agility are all extremely good, making Larsson a very difficult defender to beat one-on-one off the rush. He is strong on his skates and also has good balance, allowing him to be physical in puck battles and in clearing the crease. He is tough to knock off the puck when he has it on his stick.
Larsson is not flashy but he has solid all-around skill. His wrist shot and slap shot are good, but not bombs. He is extremely smart though and makes sure to get his shot on the net and keep it low for rebounds and tip-ins. He also shows good poise with the puck on his stick and makes smart plays.
Larsson’s vision and passing skill are excellent. He makes a great first pass out of his zone and can make the long stretch pass if a forward is open. Larsson has not really shown the passing skills in the offensive zone though. He is decent back there, but his ability as a “power play quarterback” seems limited. Larsson is not the type of defenceman to lead the rush and go coast-to-coast very often, but he can join as a trailer and get off his accurate shot.
Larsson’s defensive game is his real strength. He is gritty and willing to battle in front of the net and in the corners but is not one to throw big hits. He could use an increase in upper body strength to play at the next level though. Larsson reads the play well and has very good positioning. He is also willing to block shots and uses an active stick to cut down passing lanes. He has very good gap control and forces opposing forwards to the outside. When he gets the puck, Larsson moves it out of the zone quickly, starts the transition game. He can also skate the puck out of pressure from forecheckers.
The Ducks signed a number of depth defencemen this off-season. Larsson needs to play minutes, so expect him in the AHL where he can be a top pairing defenceman for the Gulls. If injuries hit, he can be a fill-in in the NHL. With the depth of the Ducks blue line right now, he will have to bide his time. Spots should open up soon, and he will be ready to take one of them. He is still just 21-years-old.
#3 Prospect: Troy Terry
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born September 10th, 1997 — Denver, Colorado
Height 6’1″ — Weight 175 lbs [185 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 5th round, #148 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Terry had another outstanding season with the University of Denver. He put up 14 goals and 48 points in 39 games. He also joined Team USA at the Olympic games, putting up five assists in five games. After signing his entry-level contract, he played two games for the Ducks but is still looking for his first NHL point.
Terry is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration. Terry is dangerous on the rush as he can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He makes quick cuts and is elusive with good edgework and agility. Terry has a low centre of gravity and good balance. He could be even better with increased core strength.
Terry is an excellent stick-handler. He protects the puck well on the rush, and on the cycle game. He can beat defenders one-on-one and has the quick hands to finish in close to the net. Terry has poise and can slow the play down in the offensive zone. When a teammate gets open, he can fire a tape-to-tape pass through a tight area. He can also score goals with a good wrist shot as well as a quick release from further out. He is not afraid to stand in front of the net, despite his smaller size.
Terry also shows a good defensive game. He has been used on the penalty kill and played important minutes against top lines for Denver. He cuts down passing lanes well, with good positioning, anticipation and a quick stick. Terry is also good in the face-off circle. He needs to add more muscle to his frame, as he can be pushed around by bigger forwards when supporting the defence down low.
Terry is likely a winger at the NHL level. He is likely to start next season with San Diego in the AHL. There are still areas of his game that need development and the Ducks winger group is deep and hard to break into. Expect him to see some games as a call-up but Terry is likely looking at 2019-20 before he is ready for a full-time role.
#4 Prospect: Isac Lundestrom
The Ducks drafted Lundestrom with the 23rd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Lundestrom. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Josh Mahura
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 5th, 1998 — St. Albert, Alberta
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 3rd round, #85 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Mahura also had a strong season with the Regina Pats. He scored 22 goals and 69 points in 60 games. He also added five assists in seven playoff games. In the Memorial Cup, Mahura scored two goals and five assists for seven points in five games.
Mahura is a good skater, who uses this ability to play a strong defensive game. He is highly mobile and tough to beat one-on-one. Mahura has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has very good pivots and edge work. Mahura has good balance, he is strong on the puck and in battles along the boards.
Mahura’s offensive game has exploded over the last two years. He has harnessed his agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. Coupled with good stick-handling and poise with the puck, it has helped Mahura to become a real threat on the power play. Mahura’s shot is very hard and accurate. He gets it on the net, giving his teammates time to pounce on rebounds and get deflections. He is also a good passer, with the vision to find the open man and set up goal scoring opportunities.
Mahura has started to use his skating to join the rush as a trailer, and even to carry the puck out of the zone and lead the rush. He sees the ice extremely well and can set up teammates in transition. He’s also able to use a powerful and accurate wrist shot. It also features a quick release.
Mahura maintains good gap control, not allowing attackers to get by him very often. He is not a huge hitter but is willing to be physical in the corners and in clearing the front of the net. Mahura uses his agility to stay in front of attackers and funnel them to the outside He understands positioning and shuts down passing and shooting lanes, making good use of an active stick. Mahura blocks shots and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line.
Mahura heads to San Diego to begin his pro career. He will continue to work on his game and attempt to make it translate against bigger and stronger opponents. Mahura may need to continue to add strength to his frame and gain experience before he is ready for the big league.
#6 Prospect: Maxime Comtois
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born January 8th, 1999 — Longueuil, Quebec
Height 6’2″ — Weight 212 lbs [188 cm / 96 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round, #50 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Comtois had an excellent season with Victoriaville, putting up 44 goals and 85 points and 12 points in 13 playoff games. He also played on Team Canada at the World Juniors with three goals and three assists for six points in seven games. Comtois was part of the gold medal winning team.
Comtois is a good, but not great, skater. He could stand to improve his first step quickness, but once he gets going he moves well enough. He has good top-end speed and has the ability to change gears and accelerate quickly. Comtois also has the power in his stride to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. His edgework and agility are decent.
Comtois is a goal scorer. He has an excellent array of shots, with good power and accuracy on his wrist shot, snapshot and slap shot. A sniper, Comtois has a very quick release that can handcuff opposing goaltenders. While he has the shot needed to score from the slot and face-off circles, he also has the soft hands to beat a goalie in close to the net. Comtois can score goals with deflections, rebounds, and by quickly burying a pass in tight. He can also drive the net off the rush, or when working in the offensive zone.
Comtois also has decent vision and passing skills. He can extend plays by using his stick handling as well as his body to protect the puck and control the play on the boards. Once teammates get open he can make a pass through tight openings. Comtois has good size and is not afraid to work along the boards or in front of the net. He pressures defenders well on the forecheck, creating turnovers. Comtois could stand to add some muscle to his frame to help him in board battles and establishing his position in front of the net going forward.
Comtois has been given big responsibilities for the Tigres, including killing penalties. He has good positioning and the work ethic in his own end of the ice. He is more than willing to support the defence with strong back pressure, as well as working against the cycle game.
In the off-season, Comtois has been traded from Victoriaville to Drummondville. He will head back to the QMJHL and the hope is that he can help the Voltigeurs compete for a championship. He should also play a role for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
#7 Prospect: Marcus Pettersson
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 8th, 1996 — Skelleftea, Sweden
Height 6’4″ — Weight 180 lbs [193 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round, #38 overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Pettersson split time between the AHL and NHL last season. He scored one goal and four points in 22 NHL games. He also played in four playoff games, but did not pick up a point. Playing in San Diego, Pettersson had 14 assists in 44 games.
Pettersson is a very strong skater, especially for his height. He is quick both going forward and backward; has excellent agility and very solid pivots and edgework. He has decent balance given the lankiness (its still below average, but not as much as you’d expect), this will get a lot better as he adds muscle and core strength. Pettersson has put on some muscle over the years, but could still do more.
Pettersson’s offensive game hasn’t really developed as hoped in his draft year. He can make a good pass out of his end to start the transition game. He also skates the puck out of dangerous areas to get it out of the zone. However, Pettersson does not make a lot of offensive plays. What you see, is what you get with him. He makes safe, simple passes in the offensive zone, keeping the puck moving and not really generating offence. He also is a stay-at-home player who doesn’t lead or join the rush often.
Pettersson’s mobility makes him excellent in defending against the rush, and he is very difficult to beat one-on-one. He also has a good, active stick and the ability to anticipate plays and break them up. His positioning has really improved and he now does a good job of keeping himself between his man and the not. Pettersson is not one to throw big hits but is willing to battle in the corners and in front of the net. The defensive side of his game has taken big steps forward from his draft year.
Pettersson projects as a bottom-pair stay at home defenceman. He will use his NHL experience and head to camp competing for a full-time spot on the Ducks blueline this year.
#8 Prospect: Antoine Morand
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 18th, 1999 — Mercier, Quebec
Height 5’11” — Weight 179 lbs [180 cm / 81 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round, #60 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Morand put up 26 goals and 76 points in 66 games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He added eight goals and 19 points in 20 playoff games as the team took home the QMJHL Championship. Morand added two assists in four games, helping the Titan win the Memorial Cup.
Morand is extremely elusive in the offensive zone. He has a great first step and excellent acceleration. His top-end speed allows Morand to pull away from a defender if he gets a step on them. He also has excellent agility, and the edgework necessary to make quick cuts on a dime. A strong lower body gives Morand good balance. He is stronger on the puck than one would expect when looking at his diminutive size. The low centre of gravity allows Morand to win battles along the boards.
Antoine Morand combines his skating ability with the soft hands to control the puck and make plays in tight spaces and at top speed. He is absolutely deadly in one-on-one situations. Morand is especially effective in close to the net. He can make a quick deke on a goaltender, fire the puck to the top of the net, or make a quick pass to a teammate. He has accurate wrist and snapshots, as well as a quick release. Morand scores most of his goals inside the hash-marks. He could add some muscle and a bit more power on his shot if he is to score from further out.
Morand is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer though. He has outstanding vision and the passing skill to put the puck through the tightest of openings. He also uses his skating and lateral agility to open up passing lanes and find a way to get the puck to his linemates. Morand also has excellent hockey IQ. He always seems to make the right play with the puck. While Morand might be small, but he is not afraid to get involved in battles for the puck in the corner, or to mix things up in front of the net. His effort level is high and his motor is non-stop. He is often found at the middle of post-whistle scrums.
Morand could use some work defensively. While he can use his leverage to overcome a lack of size when fighting for pucks along the boards, his size becomes a real detriment when playing against an opponent who already has the puck and is cycling. Morand can get overpowered and has trouble containing forwards down low. He also needs to get better positionally. He also needs to get better in the faceoff circle.
After winning the Championship, the Titan are rebuilding. They have already traded Morand to the Halifax Mooseheads. He joins another team looking to be a contender in the QMJHL next season. The Ducks would love to see him increase his offensive production and improve his strength in his final year of junior hockey.
#9 Prospect: Benoit-Olivier Groulx
The Ducks drafted Groulx with the 54th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Groulx. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Max Jones
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born February 17th, 1998 — Orion, Michigan
Height 6’3″ — Weight 200 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #24 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Jones split last season between the London Knights and Kingston Frontenacs. Traded to Kingston at the OHL trade deadline, he had injury issues and only played six games for the team. He would also come back to play nine playoff games, scoring four points. His regular season numbers were disappointing, with 19 goals and five assists for 24 points in 31 games.
Jones is a good skater for his size. He has a very good first step and a strong stride that gives him good speed and acceleration. His stride is long and powerful allowing him to fight through checks. Jones is willing to use that power to drive the puck to the front of the net, where he has the quick hands and instincts to finish the play. He has good lower-body strength, giving him excellent balance. Jones has decent agility and is able to maneuver through traffic both with and without the puck.
Max Jones can be a pure sniper. He has an elite shot with a tremendously quick release. A big winger who plays a power forward’s game, Jones gets in quickly and throws hits on the forecheck. He is more than willing to mix things up in battles for pucks in the corners and in front of the net. Jones protects the puck well, working the cycle game to create opportunities for linemates to get open in scoring areas. He uses his body well to shield the puck, and long reach to keep it away from opponents.
Jones can sometimes be too much of a shoot-first player though, getting tunnel vision and not being enough of a passer. His assist totals last year are certainly indicative of this style of play. Jones has a good motor and will continue his intense pursuit of the puck in all three zones, never taking a shift off. For some reason, these skills are not translating to the type of scoring that one would expect to see from a first-round pick. There are real questions about his hockey IQ, as he doesn’t always make the smartest decisions both with and without the puck.
Jones plays the game with a real edge, as seen by his history of OHL suspensions, and the high penalty minute totals he has accumulated over the last several years. He sometimes crosses the line looking for a big hit. He also is not afraid to drop the gloves in order to stand up for himself, or for a teammate. Jones is a decent defensive player, who brings his tenacious puck pursuit in all three zones. He has good positioning and instincts for the game, reading plays well and creating turnovers which he can transition into offence.
Jones heads to San Diego for his first pro season. The Ducks hope that he can take a step forward in his offensive game. Even if he doesn’t, the trend towards players like Tom Wilson and other wingers who show some talent along with toughness mean that he can still grind out an NHL career.
Sleeper Prospect: Jack Kopacka
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 5th, 1998 — Metamora, Michigan
Height 6’3″ — Weight 203 lbs [191 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 4th round, #93 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Kopacka had a solid season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. His 31 goals and 63 points in 66 games helped the Greyhounds to be the best regular season team in the CHL. He put up 13 goals and 21 points in 24 playoff games, but the Greyhounds fell in the OHL Final to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Jack Kopacka is a very good skater. He has excellent speed and good acceleration. Kopacka can be dangerous off the rush and gets in quickly on the forecheck. He can beat a defender wide, accelerate and drive to the front of the net. He needs to learn to finish his checks and be more effective at forcing defencemen into turnovers. Kopacka also has good agility and edge work. Kopacka is able to maneuver through traffic, both with and without the puck. He could stand to add lower body and core strength. This would improve his balance as well as allow him to be stronger on the puck.
Kopacka is a very good stick handler. He is able to control the puck while moving at top speed. This makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. Kopacka’s ability to change gears makes him difficult to defend one-on-one. When defenders back off to defend against his skating, he can take advantage with a quick wrist shot. Kopacka’s wrister is hard and features a quick release. He could stand to improve on his passing skills. He is not very creative as a playmaker, looking for the simple play to a teammate. His vision and hockey sense has improved since his draft year, as he does a better job of anticipating where his teammates will be.
Kopacka is involved in battles along the boards and in front of the net. He’s added strength to improve in this area at the junior level. Kopacka can still add more strength to be effective against professional players going forward. Kopacka has good height though. His frame looks like it could stand to add some muscle and this would help him greatly at the next level.
Kopacka’s defensive game is well-developed for a player his age. He has very good positioning in his own end. Kopacka uses a long, active stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. He is willing to be a shot blocker and put his body on the line. When he does get the puck, Kopacka looks to transition quickly to offence. Similarly to his game at the offensive end, Kopacka’s lack of muscle will be a challenge when playing against professionals.
Kopacka heads to San Diego. The Ducks hope that he will show his offensive game at the pro level. He also needs to continue to play his strong defence against bigger, stronger, and faster opponents. Kopacka is still a bit of a project, but he has some talent.
The Ducks have built up a quality system despite drafting later most years. While it is not amongst the best in the NHL, it certainly isn’t amongst the worst either. Steel is a blue-chip prospect, and Larsson and Terry are close to that level. They have good depth at all positions as well.
This draft was not deep for goalies but the Ducks grabbed one of our top-ranked goalies in Lukas Dostal. They also added Roman Durny. They join 2017 draftee Olle Eriksson Ek as the Ducks have stocked up on goalies in recent drafts. Angus Redmond and Garrett Metcalf are also in the system.
In addition to those already profiled, the blue line includes new draftee Hunter Drew. He joins Keaton Thompson, Matthew Berkovitz, and Steven Ruggiero in the pipeline.
Upfront the Ducks also added Blake McLaughlin and Jackson Perbix in this draft. Jack Badini, Nick Sorenson, Kyle Olson, Chase De Leo, Alex Dostie, Julius Nattinen, Brent Gates, and Devin Sideroff are other notable forwards in the Ducks system.
REGINA, SK – MAY 18: Sam Steel (ANA) #23 of Regina Pats skates behind the net against the Hamilton Bulldogs at Brandt Centre – Evraz Place on May 18, 2018, in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)