By Thomas Harrington
A second-round pick from 2017, Max Comtois completed his first full professional season this past year, splitting time between the NHL and AHL.
Comtois’ season was split almost perfectly between Anaheim and San Diego. With the Gulls, Comtois played in 31 games and scored nine goals and 24 points. With the Ducks, he played in 29 games and scored five goals and 11 points. Comtois was called up to Anaheim shortly after the season began and stayed with the Ducks for about a month. He was recalled again in early December and stayed in the NHL until mid-January. He was given primarily second and third-line minutes, playing between 11 and 16 minutes in 25 of his 29 games. He did play over 20 minutes once, and under 10 minutes once.
In San Diego, Comtois was used primarily on the team’s second line, though he did get time on every line. He only played in one AHL game before his initial recall to Anaheim. Once he rejoined the Gulls in November, he recorded four assists in three games. He had a five-game point streak in February and had a career-high three points when he scored two goals and an assist during that point streak. Overall, he scored eight goals and 13 points in 13 February games and was named the AHL Rookie of the Month. Despite spending half the season in Anaheim, he still finished eighth in assists and points in San Diego and was tied for ninth in goals.
A year ago, I had two sets of expectations for Comtois. When he was in the NHL, I knew that he wouldn’t score at a similar rate to what he did in his first 10 NHL games, but I wanted him to continue to play well with the Ducks and be a dangerous player. Some nights, he absolutely did that, but on some nights he struggled, which is expected from a rookie.
Overall, I’m happy with what he did when he was in Anaheim. My other expectation was for him to be one of San Diego’s best players during his time in the AHL, which he was absolutely able to do. He averaged 0.77 points per game with the Gulls, good for third on the team. Only Troy Terry and Sam Carrick scored at a higher points per game pace in San Diego last season.
This coming season, I expect Comtois to once again split time between the Ducks and Gulls. I think he’s good enough to probably spend the entire year in the NHL, but the Ducks are very deep at left wing. They have Rickard Rakell, Sonny Milano, Max Jones, Danton Heinen, Nicolas Deslaurier, and Andrew Agozzino who can all line up at left wing. Rakell is a lock for one of the top six left-wing spots. I think one of Milano or Heinen will take the other, and one of them could also line up on the right side. Deslaurier really solidified his spot on the fourth line last season, so Comtois is fighting Jones and Agozzino for that third-line left-wing spot. I think Agozzino is likely going to be the spare forward, if not sent to San Diego, so it’s really Jones versus Comtois for that final spot. Right now, I think Jones is a little further along in his development, but I think both will be used throughout the season.
My expectations for Comtois this season will be similar to what I had for him a year ago. First, when he’s in San Diego, for him to be one of their top players. Second, when he’s in Anaheim, to show that he’s improving against NHL competition. I’d love for him to fully establish himself as an NHL regular, but I feel like that expectation is too much right now because of how much competition he’ll have in Anaheim. If he does spend the year in the NHL, that will be a great sign for his future, but if he doesn’t, I don’t want to knock him next summer because of the number of other players that he’s competing against for playing time.
I still believe that Comtois can become a very good second or third-line NHL winger. I don’t think he’ll ever be a top-line winger, but I could see him getting into the 20 goal and 50 point range. He’s not there yet, but if he can continue to develop, I’m hoping he can get to those numbers in the next few years.
Comtois has one year left on his entry-level contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer and I expect him to be re-signed. If he’s able to beat out the competition and spend the year in Anaheim, he can likely expect a one-way deal. However, since I expect him to split the year between the NHL and AHL again, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a two-way deal for one or two years.
The next and final prospect update will be on Trevor Zegras.
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December 28th, 2020