By Thomas Harrington
A second-round pick from 2017, Antoine Morand just completed his first season of professional hockey, spending the entire year in the AHL.
Morand didn’t exactly light the AHL on fire in his first season with San Diego, but it was a solid rookie season that he can hopefully build off of going forward. Overall, he played in 54 games and scored five goals and 16 points. It took Morand four games to record his first assist, and he scored his first goal in his fifth career game. He spent most of the season playing on San Diego’s third and fourth lines but did see some time in the team’s top six as well. I think the most impressive thing about Morand’s rookie season is that he only missed three games all season. Rookies often face a rough adjustment period to pro hockey, and Morand certainly had his ups and downs. But he was able to play well enough to keep a spot in the lineup almost every night, even though he wasn’t scoring at a high rate. Usually, it’s points that keep rookies in the lineup. For Morand, it was his overall game.
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A year ago, I was hoping for 10+ goals and 30+ points out of Morand. Since he wasn’t able to hit those numbers, he did fall short of my expectations. However, his overall game and poise did impress me. I also wanted Morand to be one of San Diego’s top three centers. While he spent plenty of time in San Diego’s top nine forwards, he did also play a lot on the team’s fourth line and spent time playing wing as well. As a result, he fell short of that expectation as well. While he didn’t meet my expectations from a year ago, his play on the ice did impress me despite the lower than hoped for offensive output.
This coming season, Morand will return to San Diego. With Trevor Zegras possibly joining them, center jobs will be even more difficult to grab in the AHL. However, Morand has shown that he can contribute while playing on the wing as well. I won’t assign him any particular offensive numbers this season, but I do want to see him improve on his offensive totals from his rookie season. I’d also like to see him spend less time on San Diego’s fourth line. Making his NHL debut would be great, but that’s not something that I’ll expect out of him this coming season.
I think Morand is still at least a year or two away from having a real shot at the NHL. While I liked his overall game for an AHL rookie, he does need to improve in all three zones, and really needs to see an uptick in his offensive production if he wants to make it to the NHL. If he can come in and be one of San Diego’s better scorers this coming season, then he could make his NHL debut. If he’s not able to increase his offensive production, then he’s going to need to really focus on his two-way game and make himself invaluable in all other aspects of the game. I do think he started that process this past season, but he’s got a ways to go before he gets to that point.
Morand has two years left on his entry-level deal, and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. I expect him to be re-signed when it’s up, likely on a two-way deal for one or two years. If his game improves significantly and he spends a lot of time in Anaheim, then he’ll have a shot at a one-way deal, similar to the ones that Jacob Larsson or Sonny Milano have recently signed. But I think a two-way deal is more likely. If he’s earned a one-way deal, then Morand will be much further along in two years time than I expect, which will be a great sign for his future and for Anaheim.
The next prospect update will be on Blake McLaughlin.
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August 26th, 2020