By Thomas Harrington
Kevin Gagne was never drafted, and the Ducks signed him to a three-year entry-level contract when he finished his junior career in the QMJHL two years ago. He has been a part of the Norfolk Admirals for the past two seasons and has not spent any time in the ECHL.
Gagne is a small, mobile skating defenseman who also spent time playing forward for Norfolk last season. When he played forward, it was usually on the fourth line with Charles Sarault and John Kurtz. Gagne ended up playing forward because of the number of defensemen on Norfolk’s roster last season, and the injury situation both in Anaheim and Norfolk. A skilled skater, he was more ideally suited to play forward than some of Norfolk’s other defensemen who don’t move as well as he does on the ice. After appearing in 71 games in his rookie season, Gagne appeared in only 57 games this past year, and his point totals fell from 22 to eight. Part of the problem for Gagne was that the Admirals used over 15 defensemen last season, even more than the Ducks used. With so many bodies used on the backend, there wasn’t enough room for all of the defensemen, leading Gagne to play at forward, and others ended up in the ECHL.
This coming season, the Gulls will once again have glut of young players on the backend, but will hopefully use fewer players than Norfolk did last season. With that in mind, it could be hard for Gagne to find consistent playing time. Unfortunately, while it was impressive that Gagne was able to play both forward and defense last season, I do think that it ultimately hurt his development because he was never able to consistently play a position and develop chemistry with his teammates. Hopefully, this year, he can stay on defense through the entire season. I’m fully expecting Shea Theodore to be the Gulls’ number one offensive threat from the blueline, but Gagne could be a nice second or third option behind him, seeing time on the second powerplay unit and the bottom pairing. If he is able to consistently play defense this season, I do think we’ll see a better season out of Gagne. However, if he bounces between forward and defense again, I think he’ll have another difficult season in terms of production and playing time.
Gagne has one more year left on his contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer, assuming the Ducks decide to give him a qualifying offer, which is far from a sure thing right now. After struggling in his sophomore season, Gagne is going to need to put together a much better season if he wants to remain a part of the Ducks organization. Depending on how things work out, the Ducks could qualify him next summer but with the intent of looking to trade him at a later date. Last year, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if Gagne made his NHL debut within a couple of seasons, but with his struggles this past season, I do think that is less likely to happen now. Unless the Ducks run into severe injury issues, he won’t be making his NHL debut this season. This will be a make or break it season for Gagne. If he can get back to how he was in his rookie season, he should ensure his future with Anaheim for at least the short term. However, if he struggles again or regresses even more, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is no longer part of the Ducks organization after this season.
My next prospect update will be on Brandon Montour.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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