Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old is the cut-off for prospects. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Anaheim Ducks Prospects
The Anaheim Ducks continue to be one of the top teams in the NHL. They took first place in the Pacific Division before easily dispatching of the Calgary Flames in a first round sweep. The Edmonton Oilers put up a bigger fight in the second round, but Anaheim prevailed in seven games. A John Gibson injury in the Conference Finals would ultimately spell doom for the Ducks, as they fell to the Nashville Predators.
The off-season began with the Ducks trading Shea Theodore to the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft and defenceman Simon Despres being bought out. Jonathan Bernier left to sign with the Colorado Avalanche. Nate Thompson left for the Ottawa Senators. The Ducks brought in Ryan Miller from the Vancouver Canucks, Dennis Rasmussen from the Chicago Blackhawks, Francois Beauchemin from the Avalanche, and Reto Barra from the Florida Panthers.
Top Prospect: Brandon Montour
Defense — shoots Right
Born April 11th, 1994 — Brantford, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 192 lbs [183 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round, #55 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Montour was again dominant in the AHL, with 13 goals and 32 points in just 32 games for the San Diego Gulls. He didn’t put up the same great numbers in his 27 NHL games, scoring just two goals and six points in 27 games. When injuries hit the Ducks defence in the playoffs, Montour stepped up, with seven assists in 17 playoff games, and looking composed in his minutes on the blue line.
Montour is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. His edge work is crisp and clean and his agility allows him to avoid forecheckers, as well as to walk the line in the offensive zone and open up passing and shooting lanes. Montour is strong on his skates, using good lower body strength, and a low centre of gravity to fight through checks. He is a lot stronger now than when he was drafted.
Montour loves to join or lead the rush. He avoids the forecheck and pushes the puck up the ice quickly. Montour has very good stick handling skills. He is an excellent play maker, with good vision, and the passing ability to start the rush or to quarterback things at the blue line. Montour makes smart plays with the puck. He likes to rush and pinches often; but he has learned to minimize the unnecessary risks. Montour also has a huge slap shot. His ability to open up shooting lanes is a real asset in getting it on net. He also has a very good wrist shot and strong release, which he uses when pressured at the point.
Montour is a smart defender. His positional play is solid, as he keeps attackers to the outside and protects the front of the net. Montour uses a quick stick to cut down passing lanes. He also reads the play well and creates turnovers, which he then transitions into quick offense.
The Ducks have an excellent blue line, and cracking it is not easy. However, Montour’s time is now. He is now 23-years-old and did not look out of place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Expect him to be a full-time NHLer this year.
#2 Prospect: Sam Steel
Center — shoots Left
Born February 3rd, 1998 — Sherwood Park, Alberta
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #30 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Steel had an incredible season. He led the WHL in scoring with 131 points in 66 games. He was also named WHL player of the year. Steel kept the scoring coming in the playoffs with 30 points in 23 games. Unfortunately injuries decimated the Regina Pats depth and they fell in the League Final.
Steel is an outstanding skater with strong speed and great acceleration. He is smooth on his skates and also shows outstanding edge work and agility. Once he gets a step on a defender, he is gone. Steel takes advantage of this on the rush where he can take defenders wide and cut to the front of the net. He can also make a quick cut and take the inside route to get there. Steel has a powerful stride, with good balance and the ability to fight through checks. It could even improve with a little more leg strength as he matures.
Steel has outstanding stick handling ability and very soft hands. He combines this with the skating to weave through traffic and create plays off the rush. Steel also has a good wrist shot and a quick release, allowing him to use defenders as a screen and fire it on net if they back off too much. Add in excellent vision and passing skills and Steel excels as a play maker. In fact his play making ability is probably the biggest strength in his game right now. Steel has outstanding hockey IQ, and thinks the game a step ahead of others. He seems to always make the smart play with the puck on his stick.
Steel is also a very hard worker, who constantly keeps his feet moving and is involved in every aspect of the play. He is strong on the forecheck, and uses his good puck protection skills to make plays down low on the cycle game. He has a bit of peskiness to go along with that high end skill and always seems to be in the middle of the after the whistle scrums.
Steel has shown the willingness to compete on the back check. He is also good in the face-off circle, and works hard to apply back pressure to support his defence when defending against the rush. Steel is willing to work to contain opponents down low, but sometimes struggles with bigger forwards. He could stand to add some upper body strength to be better in containment against a strong cycle game.
Steel will likely head back to Regina, where he will be one of the best players in junior hockey and hopes to lead the Pats to the Memorial Cup. They are hosting the tournament this year, the 100th anniversary of the event. Steel will also play a big role on Team Canada at the World Juniors. He is looking like an absolute draft steal, and is a hugely important prospect in the Anaheim Ducks system.
#3 Prospect: Jacob Larsson
Defense — shoots Left
Born April 29th, 1997 — Ljungby, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 191 lbs [188 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #27 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Larsson played decent minutes for a 19-year-old defenceman in the SHL. He scored five points in 29 games for Frolunda, and three points in seven playoff games. He also put up a goal and six points in 10 Champions League games. Larsson represented Sweden at the World Juniors. When the European season ended he came to North America, playing four games for the Ducks as well as four games for the Gulls in the AHL.
Larsson is a very good skater. He has a very smooth stride, which generates very good top end speed and strong acceleration in both directions. His edge work, pivots, and agility are all extremely good, making Larsson a very difficult defender to beat one-on-one off the rush. He is strong on his skates and also has good balance, allowing him to be physical in puck battles and in clearing the crease. He is tough to knock off the puck when he has it on his stick.
Larsson is not flashy, but he has solid all-around skill. His wrist shot and slap shot are good, but not bombs. He is extremely smart though, and makes sure to get his shot on net, and keep it low for rebounds and tip-ins. He also shows good poise with the puck on his stick and makes smart plays.
Larsson’s vision and passing skill are excellent. He makes a great first pass out of his zone, and can make the long stretch pass if a forward is open. Larsson has not really shown the passing skills in the offensive zone though. He is decent back there, but his ability as a “power play quarterback” seems limited. Larsson is not the type of defenceman to lead the rush and go coast-to-coast very often, but he can join as a trailer as well as let go his accurate shot.
Larsson’s defensive game is his real strength. He is gritty and willing to battle in front of the net and in the corners, but is not one to throw big hits. He could use an increase in upper body strength to play at the next level though. Larsson reads the play well and has very good positioning. He is alos willing to block shots and uses an active stick to cut down passing lanes. He has very good gap control and forces opposing forwards to the outside. When he gets the puck, Larsson moves it out of the zone quickly, starts the transition game. He can also skate the puck out of pressure from forecheckers.
Larsson heads to North America. He needs to play minutes, so expect him in the AHL where he can be a top pairing defenceman for the Gulls. If injuries hit, he can be a fill-in in the NHL. With the depth of the Ducks blue line right now, he will have to bide his time. With Beauchemin and Kevin Bieksa not getting any younger, spots should open up soon, and he will be ready to take them.
#4 Prospect: Max Jones
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born February 17th, 1998 — Orion, Michigan
Height 6’3″ — Weight 200 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 1st round, #24 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
It was an up-and-down year for Max Jones. He came out of the gate red-hot, and was amongst the OHL scoring leaders early in the year. He then suffered a hand injury and a lower body injury, costing him significant time, and preventing him from playing for Team USA at the World Juniors.
When Jones returned, he was hit with a 10-game suspension for a crosscheck to the head. Overall, he was limited to just 33 games, scoring 17 goals and 36 points. He also had seven goals and 12 points in 14 playoff games. Jones joined San Diego, playing in nine AHL playoff games.
Jones is a very good skater for his size. He has a very good first step, and a strong stride that gives him good speed and acceleration. His stride is long and powerful allowing him to fight through checks. Jones is willing to use that power to drive the puck to the front of the net, where he has the quick hands and instincts to finish the play. He has good lower-body strength, giving him excellent balance. Jones has good agility, and can make quick cuts at top speed. He is able to maneuver through traffic both with and without the puck.
Max Jones can be a pure sniper. He has an elite shot with a tremendously quick release. A big winger who plays a power forward’s game, Jones gets in quickly and throws hits on the forecheck. He is more than willing to mix things up in battles for pucks in the corners and in front of the net. Jones protects the puck extremely well, working the cycle game to create opportunities for his linemates to get open in scoring areas. He uses his body well to shield the puck, and long reach to keep it away from opponents.
Jones can sometimes be too much of a shoot-first player though, getting tunnel vision and not being enough of a passer. He has a tremendous motor and will continue his intense pursuit of the puck in all three zones, never taking a shift off.
Jones plays the game with real edge, as seen by his recent suspension, and the high penalty minute totals he has accumulated over the last several years. He sometimes crosses the line looking for a big hit. He also is not afraid to drop the gloves in order to stand up for himself, or for a teammate. Jones is a decent defensive player, who brings his tenacious puck pursuit in all three zones. He has good positioning and instincts for the game, reading plays well and creating turnovers which he can transition into offence.
Jones returns to London where he will be one of the best wingers in the OHL. He must learn to maintain his discipline as he is too valuable to the Knights to take penalties and suspensions. Expect Jones to also play for Team USA at the World Juniors.
#5 Prospect: Maxime Comtois
The Ducks drafted Comtois with the 50th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Comtois. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#6 Prospect: Troy Terry
Center — shoots Right
Born September 10th, 1997 — Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Height 5’11” — Weight 168 lbs [180 cm / 76 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 5th round, #148 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
It was a fairytale season for Troy Terry. He was a virtual unknown when it began, but became an American Hockey Hero with his performance in the World Junior Championships. Terry was the shootout hero in both the semi-finals and finals and Team USA won gold. He also put up 22 goals and 45 points in 35 games for the University of Denver, helping the Pioneers to the national championship. He was named the team’s best offensive player.
Terry is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. Terry is dangerous on the rush as he can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He makes quick cuts, and is elusive with good edge work and agility. Terry has a low centre of gravity and good balance. He could be even better with increased core strength.
Terry is an excellent stick handler. He protects the puck well on the rush, and on the cycle game. He can beat defenders one-on-one and has the quick hands to finish in close to the net. Terry has poise, and can slow the play down in the offensive zone. When a teammate gets open, he can fire a tape-to-tape pass through a tight area. He can also score goals with a good wrist shot as well as a quick release from further out. He is not afraid to stand in front of the net, despite his smaller size.
Terry also shows a good defensive game. He has been used on the penalty kill and played important minutes against top lines for Denver. He cuts down passing lanes well, with good positioning, anticipation and a quick stick. Terry is also good in the face-off circle. He needs to add more muscle to his frame, as he can be pushed around by bigger forwards when supporting the defence down low.
Terry heads back to the University of Denver, looking to help the Pioneers repeat as National Champions. Expect the Ducks to try and sign him to an entry level contract once the season is done. He could be a big boost to the Gulls at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Terry is likely a year or two away from full-time NHL action.
#7 Prospect: Josh Mahura
Defense — shoots Left
Born May 5th, 1998 — St. Albert, Alberta
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 3rd round, #85 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Mahura had a strong start to the season with the Red Deer Rebels before moving to the Regina Pats at the WHL trade deadline. It took him some time to settle in with Regina, but once he did, he took off. He put up eight goals and 21 points in 23 playoff games, helping the Pats get all the way to the league final.
Mahura is a good skater, who uses this ability to play a strong defensive game. He is highly mobile and tough to beat one-on-one. Mahura has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has very good pivots and edge work. Mahura has good balance, he is strong on the puck and in battles along the boards.
Mahura’s offensive game took a big step forward this season. He harnessed his agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. Coupled with good stick handling and poise with the puck, it helped Mahura become a real threat on the power play. Mahura’s shot is hard and accurate. He gets it on net, giving his teammates time to pounce on rebounds and get deflections. He is also a good passer, with the vision to find the open man and set up goal scoring opportunities.
Mahura maintains good gap control, not allowing attackers to get by him very often. He is not a huge hitter, but is willing to be physical in the corners and in clearing the front of the net. Mahura uses his agility to stay in front of attackers and funnel them to the outside He understands positioning and shuts down passing and shooting lanes, making good use of an active stick. Mahura blocks shots, and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line.
Mahura heads back to Regina. He will be a key defender as they look ahead to the 2018 Memorial Cup. Mahura will likely need a year or two in the AHL once his junior career is done.
#8 Prospect: Antoine Morand
The Ducks drafted Morand with the 60th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Morand. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Jaycob Megna
Defense — shoots Left
Born December 10th, 1992 — Plantation, Florida
Height 6’6″ — Weight 225 lbs [198 cm / 102 kg]
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 7th round, #210 overall at the 2012 NHL Draft
Megna had a strong season with San Diego. He was one of the teams most used defencemen and put up 27 points in 62 games. He also got called up to play one game for the Ducks. In the AHL Playoffs, he scored four assists in 10 games.
Like many big players, Megna is a bit of an awkward skater. However, he has improved over the last several years. His speed and acceleration are a bit below average, but not unduly so. He also can struggle with agility and edge work which means that particularly quick forwards can give him an issue off the rush. Megna is strong on the puck though, and his big body gives him an advantage in clearing the front of the net and winning one-on-one battles along the boards.
Megna’s offensive game has really improved. He makes a good first pass to start the transition game, and can also make the long stretch pass to create breakaways and odd-man rushes. While he is not the type to carry the puck, he can get off a good wrist shot as a trailer on the rush. He also has a decent slap shot from the point. He likely won’t be a big scorer in the NHL, but is not an offensive black hole either.
Megna’s size is an asset in his own end. His long stick and big frame cut down passing and shooting lanes. He also clears the front of the net and can lean on opponents in the corners. Megna can do more as a hitter though, he is not the type to really hammer an opponent into the boards.
With four full AHL seasons already under his belt, it is do-or-die time for Megna. He needs to prove he deserves a spot in the NHL, even if it is an extra defenceman in the pressbox. If sent back to the AHL, Megna will need to clear waivers in order to play for San Diego.
Defence is the strongest part of the Ducks system. They are loaded with young defencemen, both in the system and on the team already. It was this surplus that allowed them to trade away Shea Theodore. The Ducks also have Marcus Pettersson who has been developing as a stay at home defender in Sweden, and Keaton Thompson going into his second pro season.
Upfront the Ducks went heavy on forwards this year, taking Jack Badini, and Kyle Olson along with Comtois and Morand this year. They also have Julius Naatinen, a two-way centre who won the Memorial Cup with Windsor this year. However, his offensive numbers were down compared to 2015-16 and he needs to bounce back this year. It is approaching do or die time for Nicolas Kerdiles. Drafted as an offensive prospect, he looks like his future is in the bottom six now. Kevin Roy is an undersized scorer, who may not have the speed to make the jump from the AHL to NHL. Jack Kopacka, Nick Sorenson, and Kalle Kossila are other forwards to watch.
Newly drafted Olle Eriksson-Ek gives the Ducks a prospect in net. Gibson is young, and so they have time to develop him. They currently don’t have any other high potential goalie prospects.
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