By Thomas Harrington
This past season was Michael Sgarbossa’s first full season as a member of the Anaheim organization. He spent most of the season with the San Diego Gulls but did make his way up to Anaheim for one game at the end of the season.
This past season was Sgarbossa’s fourth professional season, and he’s spent most of that time in the AHL. It was a solid season for Sgarbossa, as he had one of the best seasons of his professional career. He appeared in 62 games, a career high for him, and scored 17 goals and 44 points. The 44 points tied his career high from the 2012-2013 season and the 17 goals were the second most of his career. He was one of San Diego’s top two centers and finished third on the team in scoring. He was used in virtually every situation, from even strength to the powerplay to the penalty kill, and was one of the key reasons why San Diego’s inaugural season was such a successful one. Sgarbossa had a remarkably consistent season, as his longest scoring drought of the season was four games, and he only had one real offensive slump all season. Only once did he score more than two points in a game, a three-assist effort in March, but he found his way onto the scoresheet more often than not.
Early in the season, Sgarbossa and Nick Ritchie formed some instant chemistry and gave the Gulls a solid one-two scoring punch. Sgarbossa was the setup man and Ritchie was the finisher. Together, they made Ritchie one of the highest scoring rookies in the AHL early in the season, earning him a callup to Anaheim. With Ritchie gone, Sgarbossa continued to play well, but he was at his best when paired next to the big winger. Other players, he played next to include Stefan Noesen, Nic Kerdiles, and Corey Tropp, some of San Diego’s top wingers.
In the playoffs, Sgarbossa was one of San Diego’s better players. In the first round series win over Texas, he scored a goal and five points. Unfortunately, he was injured at the end of the series and only returned to the lineup in the final game of the series against Ontario where he was scoreless. Despite missing so much time, his five points were tied for fourth on the team in playoff scoring. Had he been healthy for that second round series, it’s likely the Gulls would have at least won another game or two and made things more interesting. The five playoff games were the first playoff games of Sgarbossa’s career, and he’ll be hungry to get back there this coming season.
Given his strong play for the Gulls during the regular season, he earned a callup to Anaheim and played in their second to last game of the season. He saw just over eight minutes of ice time, won 50% of his faceoffs, and had two blocked shots. It was the 10th NHL game of his career.
A year ago, I said that I wanted to see Sgarbossa become one of San Diego’s go-to forwards. Finishing second in goals and third in points on the team means he certainly met, if not exceeded, those expectations. I also said that I hoped he would make his way to Anaheim at some point during the season, and even though it was only one game, he was able to do that too.
This coming season, I want Sgarbossa to build off the successful season he had last year. It would be great to see him hit the 20 goal and 50 point marks in the AHL. With Ritchie and possibly other Gulls wingers likely NHL bound for large parts of the upcoming season, Sgarbossa could be one of the leaders on a very young Gulls team. It would also be great if he could help lead San Diego back to the playoffs and push the team on an even deeper playoff run. Finally, one game with Anaheim last year was nice, but if he is to have a future in the NHL with the Ducks, he’s going to need to work his way into Anaheim’s lineup more often this season. However, with the newly signed Antoine Vermette, a roster spot in Anaheim will be that much harder for Sgarbossa to achieve.
Sgarbossa was going to be a restricted free agent this summer, but the Ducks decided to give him a one-year extension. He’ll be a restricted free agent again next summer. Depending on how Sgarbossa plays this year and how other young center prospects (like Julius Nattinen) develop, this could be Sgarbossa’s final year with Anaheim. Or, if he has another good season, the Ducks could decide to bring him back again and keep his veteran presence around some of their younger prospects. At this point, it’s starting to look like Sgarbossa will be a career AHLer who gets called up to the NHL when needed. Given Anaheim’s depth at center, he’ll have a hard time cracking their lineup, so if he does want more of a chance at an NHL job, he’ll probably have to seek it elsewhere.
My next prospect update will be on Kenton Helgesen.
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