The Anaheim Ducks are a team that’s turning over a new leaf. After years spent in a rebuild, brighter days are ahead, as evidenced by the team’s second-place position in the Pacific Division standings. Their impressive 19-15-7 record is bolstered primarily by the emergence of young talent and their ability to revitalize the team’s aging core.
The Ducks are known for being able to develop quality players efficiently and effectively within their systems, and in working closely with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, their efforts are beginning to pay off. They have four young players completing their rookie years in the 2021-22 season; Jacob Perreault, Brayden Tracey, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, and Lukas Dostal. All four rookies have made their NHL debut, and while they’re spending significant time in the minors, their seasons thus far bode well for the future of the Ducks. Let’s take a look at their rookie seasons so far.
Tracey was selected in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in the first round (29th overall) by the Ducks, and he’s since signed with the franchise until 2023-24, at a cap hit of $863,333 per year. All of the rookies signed for slightly greater than league-minimum ($750,000), and with Tracey, it’s not hard to see why the Ducks felt he was worth a little more.
As a left-shooting forward who can play either the center or left wing, Tracey has excellent puck control, particularly in passing, and he doesn’t hesitate in high-pressure situations. He keeps it simple in the defensive zone too, which limits the number of costly turnovers that can be caused by missed passes or too-fancy stick-handling.
Tracey plays with an admirable amount of patience, shoots well, and has great offensive instincts, especially when identifying and leading plays. When it comes to shooting, he’s flexible and adjusts well to ongoing play.
In the 2020-21 season, Tracey split his season between the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Gulls. In 12 games, he hadn’t scored a point, but he turned it around for the Gulls in 2021-22. In 26 games, he has nine goals, 14 assists, and 18 penalty minutes (PIMs) for a total of 23 points and a +11 plus/minus rating.
In the last five games, Tracey has had two goals and four assists for a total of six points.
Perreault is the youngest of the rookies at only 19 years old and the shortest of the bunch, at only 5-foot-11. He’s an adept, right-shooting right winger who was drafted in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in the first round at 27th overall.
Perreault is under contract with the Ducks through the 2023-24 season, and his contract is valued at $894,167 annually. His hallmark is his shot; he’s a pure sharp-shooter on the ice, with an accurate, high-velocity, strong shot. And better yet, he’s wonderfully adaptable on the ice, depending on what shooting lanes or space is available. This means, if you pass him the puck, he’ll probably put it in the back of the net.
Along with his shooting ability, Perreault has no trouble settling pucks mid-stride, and he transitions pucks well into shooting chances and/or offensive opportunities. His transition game through the neutral zone is strong, as are his zone breakouts.
Perreault spent all of the 2020-21 season with the Gulls, where he earned three goals and 14 assists for a total of 17 points in 27 games. As it turns out, he was just getting started; in the 2021-22 season for the Gulls, he’s scored eight goals, 10 assists for a total of 18 points in 24 games. In the last five games, he’s earned one assist.
As the oldest of the Ducks rookies at 21 years old, soon to be 22 in early February, Groulx stands out. He’s a left-handed center or left wing who was drafted in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, 54th overall, in the second round. His contract with the Ducks has a cap hit of $822,500 and will expire at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Groulx is a dependable, two-way forward and exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road depth player teams love to have on hand. He doesn’t make many mistakes on the ice and can be counted upon to do the ‘little things’ during the game to keep the play moving, like clearing the puck and setting up zone breakouts.
Groulx also has an innate instinct for hockey. He’s great with puck management and control and approaches play on the ice with an admirable sense of maturity for someone so young. He spent the entirety of his 2020-21 season with the Gulls, where he collected 10 goals, 19 assists, and 29 points for a plus-14 rating in 42 games. Out of all four of the rookies, he’s spent the most time on the Ducks’ roster, and in 18 games for the team, he’s net one goal, two assists, for three points.
For the Gulls this season, Groulx has two goals, one assist, and three points in nine games. In the past five games, Groulx has had two goals.
As the Ducks’ rookie goaltender, the pressure is on for Dostal, and so far, he’s risen to the occasion. He catches left, and at 6-foot-2 and 174 pounds, Dostal is a thin but tall goaltender who can take up more space in the blue paint than one might think. His contract with the Ducks runs through the 2022-23 season and carries a cap hit of $822,500. Dostal was selected in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in the third round, 85th overall.
In the 2020-21 season, Dostal, who is Czech-born, spent some time on loan from the Ducks with Tampereen Ilves (Liiga), wherein 11 games he posted a .941 save percentage and a win/loss record of 10-1.
In the 2021-22 season, Dostal has split his time between the Ducks and the Gulls. For the Ducks, he’s played three games, for a .929 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.53 goals-against average (GAA). Surprisingly, his stats have been much better in the NHL than the AHL; in 12 games for the Gulls, Dostal has posted a .899 SV% and 2.86 GAA. In the last five games, Dostal has started in four, for a total of seven goals against, 115 saves, and a .943 SV%.
The Ducks are known for drafting well and developing their young players within their systems, and the burgeoning success at both the AHL and NHL level for these four rookies is evidence of that. The Ducks’ first (and only) Stanley Cup came in 2007, but with Dostal, Tracey, Perreault, and Groulx on the rise within the organization, the Ducks’ return to post-season glory may be sooner rather than later.
Covers the Anaheim Ducks for The Hockey Writers. Host of This Is Hockey Culture, a Fear The Fin Podcast, and journalist for Fear The Fin. Created Off The Ice, the first and only hockey sports news media show and digital source that covers men’s and women’s professional hockey equally. Former board member and Media Relations Coordinator for The Sports Shot, a popular multimedia platform dedicated to highlighting women’s professional sports in North America, now Women’s Sports Alliance. Created FNews Magazine’s, (an award-winning multimedia arts and culture magazine), first sports section and first sports column, and hosted Out Of Bounds, an Fnews sports podcast.