When asked which player in the Anaheim Ducks organization is most valuable, the unanimous answer is usually John Gibson. Despite a subpar season in 2019-20, which is likely due to a heavy two-year workload, Gibson remains the key in Anaheim’s aspirations to return to the playoffs and Stanley Cup contention. But, with all the talk of the Ducks’ young core and the rebuild, there is another young goaltender in the organization who may be part of that future contender or be dealt for pieces to build it. That player is young Czech goaltender Lukas Dostal, and it looks like he might be ready to take the next step forward in his career.
Dostal Wows at a Young Age
The Ducks picked Dostal No. 85 overall in 2018, and he’s become their most impressive goalie prospect since Gibson. After turning pro in 2018, he’s impressed in almost every place he’s played.
He wowed with the Czechs at the 2018-19 World Junior Championships, posting a goals-against average of 1.25 and a save percentage of .957. That performance included this save against Team USA:
This season, playing for Ilves of the Finnish Elite League, Dostal posted a remarkable 1.78 goals-against average and a save percentage of .928 in 48 games. Though he struggled at the 2019-20 WJC, his impressive overall numbers should be a sign of his potential.
In addition, he made 28 saves during his only appearance in the Ducks’ Rookie Faceoff in September on the way to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
Now that he’s turned 20 years old and has performed well everywhere he’s been, it’s time for the Ducks to take a look at him at the pro level.
Where Will Dostal Play Next Season?
From the mouth of Ducks assistant general manager Martin Madden, it sounds like Dostal has earned his opportunity to play for the San Diego Gulls and win the starting job:
“I think he’s shown a maturity beyond his years. Even though he is a true freshman in terms of pro, he will be playing his 20-year-old season, and I think he’s ready to lead the way and earn the No. 1 spot at the American League Level.”
It makes sense for the Ducks to unleash Dostal in the AHL. He’s proven himself at every other possible level, so it’s time for the organization to see just how good he is, either to eventually push Gibson for the starting job, which seams unfathomable, or to increase his value for a trade.
How Soon Will We See Dostal in the NHL?
Could Dostal land in the NHL by the end of next season? It’s not likely, but not impossible. If the Ducks have multiple goalies injured, as they did in 2018-19, and Dostal is playing well in San Diego, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to play a few games in the NHL. At 20, he would be the same age Gibson was when he made his NHL debut.
Additionally, Dostal’s entry-level contract expires after the 2021-22 season. Considering his trajectory, it makes sense that he should get some NHL experience before then. Ryan Miller seems likely to retire before the start of next season, and the Ducks have a void at backup goaltender. If Dostal plays well in the AHL this season and gets a few NHL games under his belt, the timing would seem perfect for him to back up Gibson in the final year of his entry-level deal, if he shows he belongs.
Related: The Top 10 NHL Goalie Prospects
A dream scenario would be similar to the final season when Frederik Andersen and Gibson split time as the Ducks’ starter. Dostal wouldn’t be competing to be the Ducks’ long-term goalie, Gibson seemingly already has that wrapped up, although you never know.
Either way, if Dostal could take some of the load off of Gibson, it wouldn’t hurt the Ducks star goaltender’s long-term viability.
Dostal a Trade Asset?
Having Dostal in the NHL could also lead to an interesting situation, similar to the one in 2016 with Andersen. If Dostal plays well, the Ducks wouldn’t be able to pay two No. 1 goaltenders following the 2021-22 season when Dostal’s contract runs out.
Andersen’s entry-level contract ran out following the 2015-16 season, and Anaheim had to provide him with a significant raise or trade him. Gibson’s play made that decision easy, and the Ducks sent Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the No. 30 overall pick in 2016 and the No. 50. pick in 2017. Those picks became Sam Steel and Max Comtois. Though those two haven’t become stars, they are on track to be important pieces on the Ducks’ NHL roster.
With Dostal’s strong numbers in the amateur ranks and his early professional career, he is becoming one of the Ducks’ best future assets. Whether in the goal or as part of a trade, Anaheim has depth that they can use to their advantage.
Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.