With the 2019 NHL Draft in the rearview, the Anaheim Ducks have announced the annual Prospect Development Camp, set to run through June 29 at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine, CA. All seven of this year’s draft picks will join other top Ducks prospects at the camp for on- and off-ice workouts, culminating with a public practice Saturday, June 29 at 10:00 A.M. Pacific time.
The newest Ducks will don the ‘D’ sweater and hit the ice as professionals for the first time and run through drills plus strength and conditioning tests in addition to receiving a personalized diet program. Those entering their first professional camp include center Trevor Zegras (first round, ninth overall), left wing Brayden Tracey (first round, 29th overall), defenseman Jackson LaCombe (second round, 39th overall), defenseman Henry Thrun (fourth round, 101st overall), center Trevor Janicke (fifth round, 132nd overall), defenseman William Francis (sixth round, 163rd overall), and defenseman Mathew Hill (sixth round, 186th overall).
While all of this year’s picks are certainly looking to show management they made the right decision in selecting them to the team, none are expected to crack this year’s lineup. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any young players in camp looking to prove that they belong.
Ducks Prospects Looking to Crack 2019-20 Lineup
With the team now firmly in a rebuild, several Ducks prospects are being counted on to not only crack the lineup but contribute and play key roles right away. The majority of the young Ducks in this category are forwards. Let’s take a look at the players in camp who are likely to make the big club to start the season.
The Sure Thing: Troy Terry
It’s hard to believe that Troy Terry is still finding himself here at prospect camp, having been selected back in the 2015 draft. But after playing through his junior year at the University of Denver and only having his first full season as a pro last year, Terry enters 2019-20 on the final year of his entry-level contract.
Terry split his time last season between Anaheim and the AHL with the Ducks’ affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, averaging a point per game in 41 games in the minors while putting up 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 32 NHL games. It seems likely that Terry will slot in as the third-line center to start the season, with Ryan Kesler headed to long-term injured reserve after hip surgery.
However, the club may also shift Terry to the wing where he played some last season to make room for one of their other enticing forward prospects.
Next in Line: Sam Steel
2016 first-round pick Sam Steel also split last season between the Ducks and the Gulls, showing glimpses of his potential with 41 points in 53 AHL contests to go with six goals and five assists in 22 games in the NHL. The Ducks will be looking for Steel to play more of a 200-foot game to go with his offensive gifts, but it would be no surprise if he ends up cracking the Ducks’ opening night roster and sticks around if he can facilitate scoring.
The Dark Horse: Maxime Comtois
It seems like 2017 second-round pick Max Comtois is flying a bit under the radar entering Prospect Development Camp, but it wouldn’t surprise this writer if he not only makes the team to start the season, but sticks around the whole year. Comtois can score (31 goals in 25 QMJHL games last season), plays a complete game, and brings a sandpaper element that the Ducks will be lacking following the departure of Corey Perry and the absence of Kesler.
Terry and Steel are pure skill players and do not get under opponent’s skin quite like Comtois, who got his first taste of NHL action last year and didn’t look out of place. However, all three could very well spend most of the season in Anaheim if the team fully commits to its youth movement.
Wild Cards: Max Jones and Kiefer Sherwood
Two wingers who saw significant time in Anaheim last season and will look to crack the 2019-20 lineup include Max Jones and Kiefer Sherwood.
Jones, a 2016 first-round pick (24th overall), is in the mold of a classic power forward at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. The team will look for Jones to add speed and quickness to his game to keep up with the faster play in the big leagues, although as the big St. Louis Blues just showed in winning the Cup, size still has value in today’s NHL.
Meanwhile, the undrafted Sherwood, whom the Ducks plucked away from Miami (Ohio) University after his junior season, plays a reliable game and will be counted on as a depth option throughout the season if he does not make the team straight away.
While each of these players could valuable pieces of the Ducks forward group in the coming years, it may well be Zegras who emerges as the best of them all, with future first-line potential written all over him. We’ll see how he fares in camp and during this season at Boston University.
Prospects Development Camp – Defense
Once heralded for its plethora of defensive prospects, the Ducks have depleted their stash pile at perhaps the worst time as they now enter what could be a lengthy rebuild. Now a major organizational need, which was addressed during the draft with four of the team’s seven picks going toward defensemen.
But are any ready to step into the lineup this season? Certainly not from this year’s draft class, but there may be a couple of others in camp.
Not in Camp: Jacob Larsson
Let’s just start with a quick mention of someone not participating in the Prospect Development Camp – Jacob Larsson. The 2015 first-round pick played 49 games in Anaheim last season and will be a lock to make the roster this season. He doesn’t bring any offense to the table but is a steady, stay-at-home blueliner who is still growing into his potential.
The 2019-20 season is a big one for Larsson, who is entering the final season of his entry-level contract. He’ll be looking to prove to the Ducks that he is a piece to keep around during the rebuild rather than become another defenseman with untapped potential who blossoms after he is traded away.
On the Rise: Josh Mahura
A player who has steadily seen his stock rise since he was drafted in the third round in 2016, Josh Mahura will look to stay on the upswing here in camp and continue the momentum all the way into next season. As things stand, he likely will be competing with the next name on this list for a slot on the left side of the Ducks third defense pairing to start the season.
Something to Prove: Brendan Guhle
Acquired in the trade for Brandon Montour, Brendan Guhle enters Prospect Development Camp looking to prove he belongs full-time in the NHL on the last year of his entry-level contract. Guhle has all the intangibles: size, solid skating, strong puck-moving skills, and a physical element to his game, but has yet to put it all together. The Ducks hope this is the year.
Naturally, there are always surprises throughout the summer, both good and bad, so we’ll be checking in to see where players are as training camp approaches. It is likely that the Ducks bring in a veteran defenseman or two in free agency to add depth, but that remains to be seen.
The future is bright for the Ducks, at least up front, and it all starts these next few days in Irvine.