By Thomas Harrington
With San Diego’s training camp getting started Monday morning, the Anaheim Ducks announced their second round of roster cuts to help fill out the Gulls’ training camp roster. Giovanni Fiore, Mitch Hults, Jack Kopacka, Angus Redmond, Deven Sideroff, and Keaton Thompson were all assigned to the Gulls, while Roman Durny was assigned to his USHL team. The Ducks also placed Jaycob Megna and Julius Nattinen on waivers. If Megna clears on Tuesday, expect him to be San Diego bound as well. Nattinen has been placed on unconditional waivers; if he clears, his contract will be terminated.
It was unsurprising to see Hults, Kopacka, Redmond, Sideroff, and Thompson assigned to San Diego this morning. Hults, Kopacka, Sideroff, and Thompson should all be big parts of the Gulls this season. Hults and Sideroff will be entering their sophomore seasons with the Gulls, while this will be Thompson’s third season with the team and Kopacka’s rookie year. None of them are expected to make their NHL debuts this season, but if they play well enough in the AHL, they could surprise. Redmond spent the entirety of last season in the ECHL. With Kevin Boyle and Jared Coreau as San Diego’s top two goalies, Redmond could spend most of this year in the ECHL again. However, if any of Anaheim’s top four goalies get injured this year, Redmond could end up making his San Diego Gulls debut.
While the rest of the players weren’t a surprise, it was a little disappointing to see Fiore already assigned to the Gulls. He was one of the surprise players of last year’s training camp and preseason and ended up making his NHL debut as a result. With a couple of open spots on the left wing, and Max Jones injured, it looked like he had a chance to get some more NHL action this season. Instead, he’s already back in the AHL. Hopefully, he impresses with San Diego and works his way back to Anaheim this season.
Megna is a good, solid bottom pairing defenseman, something the Ducks already have. He’s also among their older prospects, so ultimately, it’s not a surprise to see him on waivers. Hopefully, no other team claims him and he reports to San Diego. The Ducks could also be trying to sneak him through waivers now, when a bunch of other players are on waivers, in the hopes that no one will claim him, but still keep him in Anaheim. The Ducks could then assign him to the Gulls if they need to, or keep him in Anaheim if he excels.
Since being a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Nattinen has struggled. He scored 71 points in the 2015-2016 season in the OHL but dropped to just 38 in his final year of juniors. In his rookie season with the Gulls, he scored four goals and 12 points in 55 games. Personally, I was very surprised by this move. While he has struggled over the last couple of years, he’s not the only prospect to do that. I also thought that he played relatively well at the rookie tournament, scoring two goals in two games. While he still has a long way to go, another year in the AHL would be good for him. He wasn’t looking like a future NHL star, but if he develops over the next couple of seasons, he could have a chance at an NHL future. It sounds like this was done at Nattinen’s request. Instead of returning to the AHL for another year, he asked to be released from his contract and head back to Finland to continue his hockey career. Given how far he is from cracking Anaheim’s lineup, it does make sense for the young forward to want to head back to his home country and play there. He’s certainly not the first young player to return home to continue his career, and he won’t be the last.
Goaltending for both Anaheim and San Diego is pretty set heading into the season, so it was inevitable that Durny would be cut. He’s returning to the USHL where he posted solid numbers last season. Hopefully, he can improve on them this year.
Anaheim’s roster now stands at 43 players, so several more players need to be cut before the season starts. Given the poor results of Anaheim’s first three preseason games, Anaheim’s prospects need to step up and start scoring in the final three if they want to find themselves on the opening night roster. Players like Troy Terry, Sam Steel, and Isac Lundestrom are all getting extended looks but haven’t done enough yet to solidify a spot in the NHL.
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September 24th, 2018