By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks signed forward Mitch Hults to a two year entry-level contract back in March. He then signed an ATO with San Diego and joined them for rest of the season. He made it into six regular season games and two playoff games before San Diego’s playoff run ended, giving him a taste of what professional hockey is like. Before joining the Gulls, Hults had played two years of NCAA hockey and was in the USHL before that.
Hults played for two seasons at Lake Superior State University. He scored 20 goals and 54 points in 76 games in his NCAA career. Before college, Hults went undrafted during his time in the USHL, but since being passed over in the draft, his game has seen significant improvement. After scoring only 24 points in his first two seasons in the USHL, he put up 34 points in his final USHL season. In his freshman season in the NCAA, Hults’ play continued to improve. He scored nine goals and 20 points in 40 games, good for second on the team in scoring. However, it was his sophomore season where he really shone, when he scored 11 goals and 34 points in 36 games. He led Lake Superior in both assists and points, and was fourth in goals. He also led the team with 366 faceoff wins and he won 54.5% of his draws. His 23 assists led the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and he was named to the All-WCHA Second Team. He was also named the WCHA Player of the Month in October when he scored four goals and 11 points in just six games.
In San Diego, Hults made it into the lineup in late March and played in six of San Diego’s final 10 games of the season. He picked up his first professional points, a pair of assists, in his second career game, and scored his first goal in his fifth game. Overall, he scored one goal and four points in those six games. In the playoffs, he was used more sparingly, but still made it into two of San Diego’s 10 games. He played in the final two games against San Jose, and scored his first playoff goal in game four of the series.
Hults isn’t a big time scorer, but he’s a great skater and was one of the fastest college free agents available this year. He’s also a highly effective forechecker and penalty killer, two areas that could fit in nicely with the Ducks in the future. While he isn’t known for lighting the lamp, he’s certainly a player who can get hot and dominate offensively for several games in a row; just look at his numbers from back in October.
This season, Hults should be a fixture in San Diego’s lineup. I’m not expecting him to lead the team in scoring, but I think he should be able to score around 10 goals and 30 points, while also being an effective member of the team’s penalty kill unit. Like most first year players, I expect him to struggle early on, but hopefully his game grows as the season progresses. He’ll be counted on to score, but I think he’ll primarily be used in a checking role. It would be a great sign if he can shut down some of the high powered players in the AHL’s Pacific Division.
In terms of his NHL future, I don’t think Hults will ever be a top line player. He could work well in a secondary scoring role, but I think he’d be much better as a future checking forward. From everything I’ve read about him, he reminds me of Andrew Cogliano. If he can turn into the next Cogliano, then the Ducks have found a gem of a player. Though he’s only broken the 20 goal mark once, Cogliano has become one of Anaheim’s most dependable players over the years. He’s also never missed a game in his career. Cogliano is the exact type of player that Hults should aspire to be. I highly doubt that Hults makes his NHL debut this season. I don’t think he’s a long term project, but he doesn’t appear to be NHL ready at this point in time. As long as he can adjust to the professional game with San Diego this season, I could see him making his NHL debut sometime in the next couple seasons.
Hults is signed to a two year deal and will be a restricted free agent when it’s over. It wouldn’t surprise me if he hasn’t made his NHL debut by the time this contract is up. However, as long as the Ducks are happy with his development, I do think they’ll extend him on another two-way deal, with the hopes that he would soon be making his NHL debut.
With the prospect profiles finished, it’s time to turn our attention to the prospect updates. First up is Deven Sideroff.
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July 15th, 2017