By Thomas Harrington
Kenton Helgesen was a seventh round pick in 2012 and the Ducks signed him to a three year entry-level contract on April 19, 2014. Helgesen played his entire junior career for the Calgary Hitmen, a team many Ducks fans are familiar with as Ryan Getzlaf played there for four seasons before turning pro.
A year ago, I expected Helgesen to turn pro and join the Norfolk Admirals. Instead, the decision was made for him to spend one year in the WHL as an overage player. In Canadian junior leagues, teams are allowed to have three overage players on their roster. Helgesen was one of three for the Hitmen this past season. As one of the overaged players, Helgesen was a natural choice to be the team’s captain.
Helgesen started his career in the WHL as a defenseman, but has since seen significant time playing forward as well, a position that the Ducks are hoping to use him at in the future. This past season, Helgesen scored a career high 21 goals, and his 45 points were the second most of his career. The 21 goals were tied for fourth on the team and the 45 points were seventh. However, more important than his ability to produce was his leadership skills. Mark French, the team’s coach, referred to Helgesen as “the heart and soul” of the Hitmen.
In the playoffs, Helgesen’s game improved even more as he scored six goals and 13 points in 17 playoffs games, helping the Hitmen advance to the third round of the WHL playoffs. His six goals were tied for third on the team in playoff scoring and 13 points were tied for fifth.
Now that he has completed his overage season in the WHL, Helgesen will turn pro this coming season and play for the San Diego Gulls. Expect him to start out as a third or fourth line winger, although he could see some time on defense depending on how the roster shakes out. His ability to play both positions could give him a huge advantage over other prospects in the Ducks’ system as he looks to advance to the NHL.
Helgesen has never been a big time goal scorer, so for his first season in the AHL, my hope for him would be to play as many games as possible in the Gulls’ bottom six, similar to my hopes for Matt Bailey from last summer. I’m not expecting much offense, but I’m hoping that he continues to grow as a leader and becomes one of the young leaders on this team. Over the next couple of seasons, the Ducks have a number of prospects who will hopefully be ready to make the jump to the NHL, and when they do, I’m hoping to see Helgesen really step up and take on a big role with the Gulls.
Helgesen is by no means guaranteed a spot on an NHL roster in the future, but his leadership skills and the ability to play both forward and defense give him a better chance than most seventh round draft picks. I wouldn’t expect him to make his NHL debut this season, as he is just about to begin his entry level deal and will be under contract with the Ducks for the next few seasons. When that contract expires, he will be a restricted free agent. While we won’t see him with the Ducks this season, depending on how he progresses and what the Ducks’ roster looks like at the time, it wouldn’t shock me to see him get called up in two or three seasons and make his NHL debut. Like many late round picks, his NHL future is murkier than the more high end prospects in the Ducks’ system, but his progression over the last couple of seasons is a good sign for his future.
My next prospect update will be on Joseph Cramarossa.
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