By Thomas Harrington
A third-round pick from 2018, Blake McLaughlin just finished his second year of NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota.
In McLaughlin’s sophomore season, he improved on all of his numbers from his freshman year. After scoring five goals and 20 points, he increased his totals to eight goals and 24 points. He had a strong start to the season, with four points in his first five games, but then went scoreless for seven games. He followed that up with a four-game point streak. After that, McLaughlin had a much more consistent season, with no long pointless streaks. He had a three-point night in February, and four multi-point games overall.
While McLaughlin’s sophomore season was a successful one, he only hit some of the expectations I set for him a year ago. First, I knew it was a stretch as a sophomore, but I was hoping for 10 goals and 30 points out of him. He got close to those but didn’t quite hit them. However, he still finished fourth on the team in points and sixth in goals. Second, I was impressed by how much he played as a freshman, missing only three games. As a result, I wanted to see him suit up in every game as a sophomore. This time, he played in all 37 games. So he was able to hit one of my two expectations, that’s pretty good. I also had a longshot goal for him, and that was to play for Team USA at the World Juniors. He had been invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase before the season began, but it wasn’t enough for him to make the final roster for the tournament.
This year, McLaughlin will be returning to the University of Minnesota as a junior. Now that he’s an upperclassman, more will be expected of him. I won’t assign him specific numbers; instead, I want to see him continue to be one of the offensive leaders on Minnesota’s roster. This is partially because setting numbers in the NCAA in a normal year can be difficult, but this coming season it will likely be even more so because of the ongoing pandemic. Second, I would like to see a little more consistency out of McLaughlin. He doesn’t need to get a point every night, but I would like to see him avoid any extended pointless streaks.
McLaughlin has the tools to be a future NHL winger, but he needs to work on his consistency. His overall play has improved in his two seasons of college hockey, and hopefully, a third season in the NCAA will see him continue to do so. Even if his point totals don’t take an astronomical leap, as long as he develops his overall game the way he did this past season, that will be an excellent sign for his future.
McLaughlin is still unsigned. Depending on what happens with the NHL, AHL, and NCAA seasons, the Ducks could consider signing him to make sure that he gets some playing time this season. However, I think the plan/hope is that he returns to the NCAA for his junior season, and then signs his entry-level contract next summer, having him turn pro for the 2021-2022 season. He’ll need some time in the AHL before getting a shot in the NHL, so it’ll still be a number of years before we see him in Anaheim.
The next prospect update will be on Garrett Metcalf.
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September 1st, 2020