By Thomas Harrington
After signing his entry-level contract with Anaheim in May of 2015, the decision was made to bring Ondrej Kase stateside and he played for San Diego last season.
Kase had a promising start for the Gulls, as he scored a goal and an assist in his second career AHL game. However, Kase suffered a concussion the very next game and was out of the lineup from late October to mid-February. In his first game back from injury, Kase once again scored a goal and an assist. He had one more multi-point game in April and had a three-game point streak in March. Overall, he appeared in 25 games with the Gulls and scored six goals and 14 points. In the playoffs, he played in all nine of San Diego’s games and scored one goal and four points. He scored three of his four points in the first round win over Texas but registered only one assist in the five-game series loss to Ontario.
A year ago, I was expecting Kase to stay one more season in Europe before coming to North America, so I was a little surprised to see that the decision was made to bring him to San Diego. He’s a little small, but he’s one of the better passers who played for San Diego last year. Given that he played in two vastly different leagues, it’s a little difficult to compare this past season to the year before, but the fact that he averaged about the same amount of points per game in San Diego as he did in the Czech Republic, despite having to deal with a concussion, I take as a good sign of his development.
This coming season, there are three things I want out of Kase. First, a healthy season. Concussions are always scary, but since Kase was able to finish the season and playoffs seemingly fine, hopefully, he’s fully recovered. Second, I’d like to see his point totals take a big leap forward. As a seventh round pick, the odds of him making the NHL aren’t high, but given that he had a strong rookie season in the AHL, he’s definitely put himself on the right track to getting there. Finally, besides an increase in his point totals, I want him to continue being a consistent point producer for San Diego. Last season, when healthy, his longest scoreless streak was three games, and that only happened once. That’s remarkable consistency for a player in his rookie season in the AHL. For Kase, it’s not about having huge nights on the scoresheet, it’s more about being on the scoresheet on an almost nightly basis. If he can score at a high rate across an entire AHL season, I like his chances of making his way to Anaheim in the next few years.
Kase could end up being a huge steal for the Ducks since they picked him 205th overall two years ago, though he has a long way to go before that can truly be said. He’s a little undersized, but he’s an excellent playmaker and is willing to go to the difficult areas of the ice to make a play. He needs to continue to work on avoiding getting hit, and if he can master that skill, he could have a solid career. He’s still at least a year or two from being NHL ready, so fans shouldn’t expect to him in Anaheim anytime soon. However, given the potential open positions on the Ducks’ roster, he would be my dark horse candidate to sneak in a game or two this season with the big club.
Kase has only just begun his entry level contract. When it finishes, he’ll be a restricted free agent. It’s impossible to know how much he’ll progress in the next couple of seasons, so it’s hard to say what kind of contract the Ducks and Kase will work out. However, as long as he can stay healthy and continue to progress in San Diego, and, if possible, in Anaheim, I’m confident the Ducks will extend him when his entry level deal expires.
My next prospect update will be on Keaton Thompson.
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