By Thomas Harrington
Now that I’ve gone over all of the Ducks’ individual prospects, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of Anaheim’s farm system, it’s time to list the players who I believe are Anaheim’s 10 best prospects. Just a quick note: as I’ve done previously, I will only be including players who are eligible to win the Calder Memorial Trophy this season. To be eligible to win this award, a player has to have played less than 25 games in any single season and they cannot have played more than six games in each of the two preceding seasons.
I used two sets of criteria to create this list. The first is: what is their ceiling? Are they a future top pairing defender or a bottom pairing defender? Are they top line material, or more suitable for a bottom six role? The other thing I looked at is: how likely are they to reach their NHL potential? A player may have the potential to be a top-six forward, but will they actually make it that far, or be relegated to the AHL or European leagues for most of their career? As an example, I had Chris Wagner in the top 10 a couple of years ago because even though he projected as a bottom six player, he looked like he was pretty much NHL ready, putting him ahead of some other prospects who had a higher ceiling.
Before I get to the top 10 prospects, let’s go over the players who just missed the cut: Kevin Boyle, Angus Redmond, Julius Nattinen, Andy Welinski, Jaycob Megna, and Antoine Morand. Boyle was good in the AHL but struggled at times in the ECHL. I’d like to see more consistency from him this coming season. Redmond was stellar in his one season in the NCAA, but he needs to replicate that in the pros. Nattinen was on the top 10 list last year, but he really struggled in Windsor this past season, causing him to just miss the cut. I still like his future, but he needs to have a bounce back season to get back on this list. Welinski was in the top 10 last year as well and had a solid rookie season in San Diego. However, a couple of other prospects had impressive enough seasons to jump ahead of the player I had ranked 10th a year ago. Megna could be NHL ready, but the recent signing of Francois Beauchemin has cast some doubt on that. Combined with his ceiling of being a sixth or seventh defenseman, this causes him to just miss. Finally, Morand, Anaheim’s second pick from this summer, misses because I didn’t have room for him in Anaheim’s top 10. He’s a solid prospect, and I’m hoping he cracks the top 10 in a year.
Finally, gone from last year’s top 10 are five players: Welinski, Nattinen, Stefan Noesen (lost to waivers), Brandon Montour (graduated), and Shea Theodore (graduated, then traded). Five new players in the top 10 show how volatile and unpredictable prospective hockey player careers can be. It could be concerning that two players have fallen out of last year’s top 10, but I’m more impressed by the players who were able to make such a big jump over them this past season. Now, on to the top 10. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parentheses and NR means not ranked the previous year.
Now, on to the top 10. Previous year’s rankings will be shown in parentheses and NR means not ranked the previous year.
10. (NR) Deven Sideroff – Anaheim’s top right wing prospect averaged over a point per game in his final year of junior hockey. He got a taste of professional hockey at the end of last season as he suited up for three games with the Gulls. In his upcoming rookie season, he will hopefully show that he’s a future top six winger.
9. (NR) Maxime Comtois – Anaheim’s top pick from 2017 is just an all-around good player. He’s a future power forward with good speed, a potentially deadly combination. He plays well at both ends of the ice and the Ducks were incredibly happy to see him still available at 50th overall. He’s averaged nearly a point per game in the QMJHL, a mark he’ll hopefully crack this coming season.
8. (NR) Josh Mahura – A year ago, Mahura was thought of as a bit of a reach pick because he only played in two regular-season games in the 2015-2016 season. However, an outstanding year has vaulted him into Anaheim’s top 10 prospects and their second-best defensive prospect overall. He’s got a ton of skill, though he does need to work a little more on his defensive play.
7. (NR) Kevin Roy – I actually had Roy in Anaheim’s top 10 prospects a couple years ago, but an injury-plagued senior year at Northeastern University caused him to drop out. However, he had a great rookie season with the Gulls, putting him firmly back in this group, just as I’d hoped he would do. If he’s with the Gulls for the entire year, he should put up some big numbers, but I’m hoping he gets some time in Anaheim.
6. (9) Kalle Kossila – Kossila and Roy put up remarkably similar numbers in their rookie seasons with San Diego. Kossila gets the higher spot because he made his NHL debut this past season, and I expect to see more from him in the NHL this coming year. When he’s with the Gulls, expect to see him among their leading scorers.
5. (NR) Troy Terry – When an unranked player makes the top five of Anaheim’s top 10 prospects (and nearly the top four), it’s usually because he was a first or second round pick from that summer. However, Terry is a fifth-round pick from 2015 and wasn’t on most people’s radar a year ago. He had an absolute monster year that resulted in two championships and put himself among Anaheim’s top prospects. He’s got great hands and no one improved their stock more in Anaheim than Terry did last season.
4. (6) Nicolas Kerdiles – Injuries almost cost Kerdiles the season and maybe even a spot on this list. However, a strong comeback from injury and making his NHL debut kept him in Anaheim’s top 10. Getting called up in the playoffs and getting four postseason games with the Ducks gives him the fourth spot. If he can stay healthy, I’m expecting Kerdiles to spend most of the upcoming season in the NHL.
3. (3) Max Jones – Jones stays at the number three spot from a year ago, and that’s primarily because of discipline issues. If he can avoid any long suspensions and be an offensive force for London, he could be in one of the top two spots a year from now. Of the players that Anaheim has in juniors, Jones is probably the most NHL ready and showed that by playing well for the Gulls in nine playoff games at the end of the year. If he can stay healthy and disciplined this year, I’m expecting big things from the young winger.
2. (4) Jacob Larsson – With Theodore and Montour no longer prospects, Larsson has become Anaheim’s top defensive prospect. However, he hasn’t taken that spot just because the two players ahead of him have left; he’s earned it by showing what a strong defensive talent he is. At training camp a year ago, he beat out both Theodore and Montour for the final roster spot to start the season. Even though he eventually went back to Sweden, he showed that he can compete with Theodore and Montour for playing time, a good sign of his development and what the Ducks expect out of him.
1. (5) Sam Steel – Averaging nearly two points per game in the season after he was drafted, how could Anaheim’s top prospect be anyone other than Steel? He was an absolute offensive force in junior hockey last year, and I expect that to continue this coming season. When he was drafted, people knew he could be an elite playmaker, but few suspected that he would turn into an elite sniper as well, scoring 50 goals last year. He does need to get a little stronger in order to succeed in the NHL, but there are plenty of smaller players who have excelled in the NHL in recent years. Hopefully Steel will be the next one to do so. He’s got top-six potential, and could be the heir apparent to Anaheim’s top line center position, though he’s got a long way to go before he’s close to that.
Agree or disagree with this list? Let us at DucksNPucks know; we love talking Ducks hockey.
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September 20th, 2017