The 2016-2017 NHL season is officially over. The Expansion Draft has passed, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has been completed and free agency is officially underway. As a result, teams have had at least some change come to their rosters, including their prospect pipeline. Some teams have undergone huge makeovers and some have just had minor tweaks. Either way, teams saw new faces come in and some old ones leave. In this series, we will take a look at each team and provide an update on their farm system.
The Anaheim Ducks came into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in a rough spot. After coming out of the Expansion Draft with the subtraction of top defensive prospect Shea Theodore, the Ducks would have to wait until the second day of the draft before making a selection after trading what turned into their first round pick for Patrick Eaves.
What the Ducks ended up doing in the second round of the draft was a huge positive for the organization. With two picks in the second round, the Ducks were able to select Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand with the 50th and 60th pick, respectively. Both bring stick skills and have NHL potential.
Comtois is more of a power forward who can still bring momentum and puck movement in the offensive zone and Morand is a centerman that has fantastic hands and quick feet who can set up plays.
The Ducks drafted another center and wing combo in the third and fourth round with the additions of Jack Badini and Kyle Olson. Both will bring a two-way style to Anaheim’s system and will provide quality help to their depth.
In the fifth round, the Ducks drafted Swedish goalie Olle Eriksson Ek, who could develop into a solid goaltending option in the future. He has some size but mostly focuses on quickness and post-to-post movement. Coming out of Farjestad BK, Eriksson Ek posted a 2.16 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage in junior and moved his way up to the second-ranked European goalie by NHL Central Scouting.
The Ducks also had some prospects graduate into their NHL lineup throughout the year this past season. Nick Ritchie started to become a solid bottom six forward for Anaheim and contributed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Shea Theodore, who has since been shipped out, broke his way into the top six on the back end, and all indications suggest that Brandon Montour will be a full-time NHLer next season.
Other Ducks prospects saw great success with their clubs this past season, which goes a long way in their development. Sam Steel was named the WHL Player of the Year after his outstanding performance during the 2016-2017 season. He won the WHL scoring title with 50 goals and 131 points in 66 games. Steel was the last pick in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, but his play this year shows that he should have gone in the top ten. He is offensively gifted and developing a decent two-way game. Depending on how training camp goes, Steel could be on his way to the NHL very soon.
2015 first round pick Jacob Larsson will officially be in North America for the entire season next year. Larsson scored five points in 29 games with Frolunda last season before coming over to North America where he made his AHL and NHL debut with the San Diego Gulls and Ducks. Larsson relies on his smooth skating to help with his transition play and two-way ability, so hearing a report from Curtis Zupke from the Los Angeles Times that Larsson is rehabbing a knee injury this off-season is concerning, but hopefully is not a huge deal for the Swede.
Another 2016 first round selection from the Ducks, Max Jones, was able to contribute at the professional level during the AHL playoffs. The power forward was able to show flashes of brilliance, but also has some flaws to fix before making the jump to a full-time professional spot, according to Zachary DeVine of Dobber Prospects,
“Jones’ speed and tenacity helped him fit right into the AHL. Some of his decisions with the puck, however, pointed to more time needed developing the patience necessary for the professional game. Jones will return next year to the London Knights of the OHL, but Ducks’ brass must be excited in what they saw during the young forward’s time in San Diego” – Zachary DeVine
As of Right Now…
The Anaheim Ducks had already collected one of the NHL’s premium prospect pools before Theodore left and Montour had graduated. The additions of Maxime Comtois, Antoine Morand, and Olle Eriksson Ek continues their success in drafting and stellar pipeline.
There are spots open for young players to take over this fall, but only a few. Ondrej Kase was able to come in last season and play 62 games with the Ducks, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It can be done, but most of the prospects in the Anaheim pen need to mature and marinate in the minors before seeing NHL time. Troy Terry is set to play his junior year at Denver, which is a big help to the mental and physical aspects of his development.
The perfect situation for the Ducks and the prospect depth next season is to have young skaters come in during the later stages of the year when all junior leagues are done and help contribute to a playoff push.
Later in the off-season (next month), there will be a more in-depth preview of the upcoming season for each team, in terms of prospects. This should include an updated top five prospects from each team and possible breakout performances. Follow me on Twitter for other updates or for any questions @MarkoLWOS.