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The Anaheim Ducks have accumulated a plethora of exceptional prospects over the last five drafts. However, with every new draft, it can become easier and easier to forget the prospects of previous years.

This article is the fourth piece of a six-part series that will offer a little reminder of who the Ducks have in their prospect cupboard by examining the Ducks’ top 31 prospects. Each article will provide a list of some of the strengths and weaknesses of each prospect, a player in the NHL with a comparable playing style to each prospect, and the best, worst and most probable prediction for each prospect’s potential.

Part 1-3 covered rankings 31-17. For Rankings 31-22 the players analyzed had potential ceilings just outside of the top 9 forwards or top 4 defensemen. Rankings 21-17 offer up some prospects with a bit more intrigue as some of them had top 9 forward and top 4 defenseman potential. Rankings 16-12 start to get into prospects who have almost a 100% likelihood of making the NHL. The majority of these players have ceilings as high as top 6 forwards and 2nd pairing defensemen.


If you missed the first 10 prospects covered in this series, check out The Ducks’ Prospect Rankings – 1-31: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.


16) Benoit-Olivier Groulx – C

Drafted: 2018, 2nd round, 54th overall

Strengths: Good size, good speed, a good shot, and an excellent hockey IQ.

Weaknesses: May not be skilled enough to compete against professionals.

Comparable: Charlie Coyle

Groulx had a great 2019 season that lived up to his projected 1st round pedigree after his 2017 season. He put up 80 points in 65 games for the Mooseheads in the QMJHL. Groulx has everything that a modern-day NHL coach should want in a player; he’s big, has good speed, excellent hockey sense, and a sneaky good shot. If everything goes right for Groulx for the 2020 QMJHL season, he should become a 100+ point producer. The question for his professional career is whether the reason why he’s able to dominate in the juniors is because of his size and whether his ability to keep the puck and avoid defenders will be mitigated when playing against men.

In the Ducks’ Rookie Faceoff Tournament, Groulx showed that he had the ability to push the play in a limited sample size. He was retrieving the puck in the corners and throwing opposing players off the puck with his big frame. He was stronger on his edges, and his speed had clearly improved from the Ducks’ 2019 training camp. His hands looked quicker against the tougher competition of the tournament. Consequently, he showed that he might be skilled enough to translate his overall game against men his size.

In Groulx’s first game against NHL competition in the Ducks’ first preseason game against the Sharks, he had a very strong showing. Though it’s a very small sample size, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, Groulx’s underlying numbers were superb. When Groulx was on the ice his team controlled 69.23% and had the second-highest expected goals for on the team with 0.68. Although these statistics are based on small sample size and aren’t predictive of how Groulx will perform against NHL competition, it does promote some optimism regarding his ability to successfully utilize his game in the NHL.

Best Case Scenario:

Groulx proves his critics wrong and shows that he can still break away from NHL defenders. He becomes a 2nd line playmaker in the middle of the ice.

Worst Case Scenario:

The critics are right, and his size proves to be the main reason he dominates in junior, he has difficulty separating himself from NHL defenders and plays as a skilled 4th liner.

Most Probable Scenario:

His puck skills turn out not to be good enough to dominate against bigger competition. However, he still has a good level of hockey IQ and ability to be productive in the NHL. He turns into a skilled 3rd line center.

15) Kiefer Sherwood – RW

Undrafted

Strengths: Great speed, good hands, and hard on the puck.

Weaknesses: Can’t drive a line.

Comparable: Andrew Cogliano

Sherwood is another undrafted player who came out of nowhere for the Ducks this season. He came out in camp showed himself to be a player that injected energy and speed into the lineup. Sherwood is at his best when he’s fighting for the puck down low or speeding down along the boards to the net. He doesn’t have a lethal shot, but he’s proficient at getting the puck in his teammates’ hands and getting towards the net and making life difficult for defenders below the hash marks.

Best Case Scenario:

If Sherwood gets paired with some highly skilled players that can drive their lines and he develops his shot a bit more, Sherwood’s speed and ability to get the puck could turn him into a solid complimentary 2nd line forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

If Sherwood isn’t with great players, his skillset tends to go unnoticed, and he becomes just another water-bug skating around which could see him relegated to a 4th line support position.

Most Probable Scenario:

Sherwood doesn’t have top 6 skill right now, but he does have the ability and skillset to push possession against weaker competition. If paired with better players, he could become a quality 3rd line grinder.

14) Henry Thrun – D      

Drafted: 2019, 4 round, 101st overall

Strengths: Great hockey IQ, smart defensively, good passer, and good transition game.

Weaknesses: Not the fastest skater, not the greatest offensively.

Comparable: Josh Manson

Henry Thrun is possibly one of the most underrated defensemen from the 2019 draft. He isn’t the flashiest player, and he didn’t get a lot of powerplay time on a stacked U.S. National U18 Team because of teammate Cam York. However, he does everything else right in the game and still put up a respectable 37 points in 64 games in the USDP. Because Thrun has an incredible hockey IQ and knows precisely where to be at the right time; he’s excellent at transitioning the puck out of his zone and can make a seam pass if needed. He isn’t the fastest skater, but he is a good skater as he has good agility and can keep tight gaps on oncoming attackers.

Thrun plays a lot like current Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, and if he keeps on his upward trajectory in development, he may be viewed as one of the big steals of the 2019 draft. Given Thrun’s build and hockey IQ, it would not be surprising if he was positioned to take Manson’s role once his contract was up in 2023.

Best Case Scenario:

He improves his skating a bit more in a straight line and is able to utilize his stocky build. He becomes a capable two-way defenseman in a 2/3 spot in the top 4.

Worst Case Scenario:

If Thrun’s skating doesn’t improve, he could have difficulty with a much faster NHL; however, because of his great hockey IQ, his floor is a 5/6 defenseman in the league.

Most Probable Scenario:

Thrun will improve his stride as he adjusts to his large frame and become a useful two-way defenseman. Maybe he won’t be able to anchor a top pairing but he will be a solid 3/4 defenseman.

13) Jackson LaCombe – D

Drafted: 2019, 2nd round, 39th overall

Strengths: Great speed, good skill, good transition game, offensively gifted, and has some grit to his game.

Weaknesses: Can be too aggressive on the puck and lacks defensive awareness.

Comparable: Cam Fowler

Jackson LaCombe’s playstyle is nearly the opposite of fellow 2019 Ducks’ draftee Henry Thrun. Thrun uses his high IQ and gap control to make up for his lack of speed and skill, while LaCombe uses his incredible speed and skill to make up for any mistakes he makes due to poor positioning. LaCombe is a gifted offensive defenseman who can change the entire pulse of a game when he gets the puck in the offensive zone.

The problem for LaCombe comes when it’s in his zone, and he needs to actually defend. Many times LaCombe struggles to adapt to defensive situations where the attacking team is set up in his zone. He has difficulty deciding which attackers he needs to focus on and how to position himself to block seam passes. However, although he struggles in his zone when the opposing team is set up, he is generally successful defending the rush as his speed allows him to easily close up gaps and rush into corners to retrieve pucks.

The bright side to LaCombe’s game is that whenever he is on the ice, the puck is usually not in his zone as his exceptional speed and skill allow him to patrol the opposition blue line and keep the puck in the offensive zone. The trick for developing LaCombe will be about fine-tuning his hockey IQ rather than boosting his skill. On the other hand, if the Ducks are successful in developing LaCombe’s hockey mind, they could have a near-elite defender in the same vein as Cam Fowler.

Best Case Scenario:

LaCombe takes enormous steps in improving his defensive awareness and decision making and becomes a high scoring 2/3 defenseman.

Worst Case Scenario:

LaCombe doesn’t develop his hockey IQ, and he can’t rely on his superb hockey skill to make up for it. Against much better competition in the NHL, he bottoms out as a 5/6 defenseman.

Most Probable Scenario:

LaCombe improves his hockey IQ and defensive awareness enough to not be a complete liability in his own zone. He relies on his offensive acumen to earn minutes as a 3/4 NHL offensive defenseman.

12) Jacob Larsson – D

Drafted: 2015, 1st round, 27th overall

Strengths: Good speed, decent puck skills, good hockey IQ.

Weaknesses: Not exceptional at anything, can struggle down low against attackers, doesn’t have a great shot.

Comparable: Brendan Smith

When Larsson was first selected in 2015, the expectation was that he would turn into Lindholm lite, well, that hasn’t exactly happened YET. While there are moments where Larsson does play a lot like his Swedish teammate, most nights there’s a lack of that physical dominance Lindholm possesses to truly make Larsson a true Wal-Mart brand Lindholm. However, Larsson does still possess a lot of the needed skills to be a sturdy NHL defenseman.

Larsson improved a lot in 2019, he always had the foot speed, skill and IQ to be a hockey player, but before the 2019 season, he lacked an ability to read and react to the play in the NHL. As the 2019 season went on Larsson’s ability to quickly read and react to plays improved dramatically.

At the beginning of the year, Larsson would routinely hesitate at the opposing team’s blue line and his own blue line resulting in him continually finding himself out of position. However, after he got used to the increased speed of the NHL he was able to read when he needed to pinch and retreat at both blue lines and became a reliable possession driver for the Ducks. From the end of November till the end of the season, Larsson was the second-best possession pushing defenseman for the team, behind only Hampus Lindholm. Also, he was the second-best defenseman, behind Lindholm, in the “expected goals for” metric for his team when he was on the ice. As a result, if Larsson plays a whole season and develops further under Eakins’ system, he may become the Lindholm lite defender the Ducks thought they were getting when they drafted him.

Best Case Scenario:

Larsson gets boosted minutes under Eakins, improves his physical game and shot over the offseason. He has a coming-out party in 2020 as a 3/4 defenseman for the Ducks.

Worst Case Scenario:

Larsson doesn’t benefit at all under Eakins’ system, doesn’t improve his physical game or shot. He ends up languishing on the 3rd pairing as a 5/6 defenseman for the better part of his career.

Most Probable Scenario:

His playstyle compliments Eakins’ systems and Eakins and Wilford utilize him as they did in San Diego. He develops into a competent top 4 defenseman.


Photograph: Paul Palmeter/CBC.ca
Photograph: Sean M. Haffrey/Getty Images
Photograph: Becky Olsen/USHL Network
Photograph: Chriss Krenn/2019 National Championships
Photograph: Field Level Media
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