Home Ducks The Ducks’ Prospect Rankings – 1-31: Part V

The Ducks’ Prospect Rankings – 1-31: Part V

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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 fifth 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 1-4 covered rankings 31-12. 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.

Rankings 11-7 starts to get into the Ducks’ upper echelon of prospects. Many of the prospects in 11-7 have floors that hover around top 4 D and middle 6 forwards and ceilings that are as high as star first-line forwards and top pairing defensemen.

If you missed the first 10 prospects covered in this series, check out The Ducks’ Prospect Rankings – 1-31: Part 1Part 2,  Part 3, and Part 4.

11) Lukas Dostal – G

Drafted: 2018, 3rd round, 85th overall

Strengths: Great positioning, good athleticism, great reads on plays.

Weaknesses: Lacks size.

Comparable: Petr Mrazek

Dostal is a dynamic goalie who dominates in almost any league he plays in. In the 2019 season, he played in two men’s league in the Finish Liiga and the Trebic-Czech2. In the Czech2 he posted a .915 SV% in 24 games, and in the Liiga he posted a .922 SV% through 10 games. His most impressive performance, however, was in the U20 World Junior tournament where he posted .957 SV% in 4 games against the best players under 20, not in the NHL. Dostal has all of the makings of an excellent modern-day goalie who is economical with his movements through excellent positioning and a superb hockey IQ. If he keeps dominating the way he has against men in Europe, by 2021 he may be the starter for the Gulls and then could possibly push for the Ducks’ backup position as soon as 2022.

Best Case Scenario:

Dostal continues to dominate every league he’s a part of, and that domination translates to the AHL and to the NHL and becomes a top 20 NHL starter.

Worst Case Scenario:

Dostal has difficulty adjusting to the speed of the NHL game and he doesn’t dominate the way he has in other leagues causing him to play as more of a fringe starter in the NHL.

Most Probable Scenario:

He doesn’t dominate the NHL the way he’s dominated every other league because his athleticism is just average in the NHL. However, his IQ still makes up for the majority of his weaknesses, and he’s a quality NHL starter in the league.

10) Brendan Guhle –D

Drafted: 2015, 2nd round, 51st overall

Strengths: Incredible skating, excellent hockey IQ, good in transition.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t have great strength in front of the net, doesn’t have great puck handling.

Comparable: Mike Matheson

Before coming to the Ducks, Guhle had played 100 games in Rochester of the AHL. Through 100 games he had compiled 53 points, a very respectable number for a two-way defender like Guhle. After coming to the Ducks, he put up very good numbers playing alongside Fowler on the left side. Although it was a very small sample size, through 6 games played Guhle had the highest expected goals for percentage in those games played. He also helped in significantly improving Fowler’s play in those 6 games on the same pairing as Fowler. Through the 6 games played together, Guhle and Fowler’s pairing was almost 10% more successful in 5-on-5 shot attempts than the regular pairing of Fowler and Manson in the 2019 season. Guhle and Fowler’s “expected goals for” metric was also 13% better than the Fowler and Manson pairing.

Guhle’s strongest asset is his incredible skating when paired with his exceptional hockey sense; you can see why he is such a remarkable two-way defender. He not only knows where to be on the ice regardless of the zone he is in, but he’s also able to get to those areas quickly. This ability to always be in the right position allows him to transition the puck better than most young defenders his age. The one weakness to Guhle’s game is that he is not an above-average puck-handler, he’s not bad by any means, but he’s not exceptional either. However, if he continues to be paired with an elite puck-handler like Cam Fowler, he may not need to be above average with the puck. If Guhle is on the ice with Fowler, all he needs to do is make up for Fowler’s defensive positioning woes, and Cam will make up for the offensive portion of their pairing. Not to mention the pairing of Guhle and Fowler could be one of the fastest pairings in hockey, if not the fastest.

In Guhle’s limited time playing in the pre-season he has looked very good next to Fowler on the left side. Although it’s a limited sample size, through four games the Guhle and Fowler pairing has been incredible at controlling the puck. When Guhle is on the ice the Ducks had 58.59% of the shot attempts and 65.13% of the expected goals, meaning when Guhle was on the ice the puck was usually in the opposition’s end and going toward the net. Not only did Guhle have good individual stats, but it also seems that he may be a partner for Fowler who will finally help unleash his game. After being paired with Guhle, Fowler has controlled 59.79% of the shot attempts when on the ice and 59.62% of the expected goals. Granted, all of these numbers are based on pre-season games, which are not very determinative of regular-season success. However,  the manner in which they’ve been able to transition the play into the other zone has been a great cause for optimism, as it is more a showing of a proper breakout system than just being able to take advantage of lesser competition.

Best Case Scenario:

Guhle improves his puck-handling and becomes an all-around two-way defender who can slot in as a 2-3 defender.

Worst Case Scenario:

The great performance that Guhle put up in 2019 was a shot in the pan, and his play regresses to a point where he is only a 5/6 defenseman.

Most Probable Scenario:

Guhle’s puck-handling stays around the same level it is at currently, but he benefits from playing with an elite puck-mover in Cam Fowler which helps him cement his spot on the roster as a 4/5 defenseman.

9) Josh Mahura – D

Drafted: 2016, 3rd round, 85th overall

Strengths: Great skater, good puck skills, good two-way ability, good in transition.

Weaknesses: Can get pushed off the puck sometimes, has had injury problems.

Comparable: Jake Gardiner

Mahura has all the tools to be a solid defender for the Ducks for many years to come. He’s a great skater, has a good two-way ability and can make the heady play that gets his team into the offensive zone. The main thing holding him back in his development has been his propensity to get injured. Through the last two years he’s had to deal with injury problems, in the WHL it kept him to only 60 games in the 2018 season and in 2019 it kept him to only 40 games with the Gulls and 17 games with the Ducks. However, if Mahura can stay healthy, he showed that he can be a positive contributor to any team with his good decision making and great skating. Mahura isn’t the biggest player so there are some questions as to whether he’s going to be able to push people off the puck in the corners, and in front of the net, however, his good positioning and great gap control allows him to usually succeed despite his size by getting to the open spaces in the ice where the puck is going.

Best Case Scenario:

Mahura bulks up during the summer, adding muscle to his small frame allowing his low center of gravity to give an edge of grittiness to his polished game. The added physicality, along with his superb hockey sense, could turn him into a 2/3 caliber defenseman.

Worst Case Scenario:

Mahura stays the same size and suffers injuries that stint his development, and he tops off at 5/6.

Most Probable Scenario:

He gains a bit of muscle and stays healthy and develops into a 3/4 caliber defenseman.

8) Brayden Tracey – LW

Drafted: 2019, 1st round, 29th overall

Strengths: Great hockey sense, great hands, plays with some grit, good shot.

Weaknesses: Lacks size, is an average skater.

Comparable: Brad Marchand

Tracey was a player that had a big coming-out party in 2019 in the WHL. After dominating Midget AAA as a 16-year-old, he rocketed into the WHL as one of the top rookies in the league putting up 81 points, 36 goals in 66 games which were only 3 points less than fellow 1st rounder Dylan Cozens who was drafted 7th overall by the Buffalo Sabers. Tracey relies primarily on his smooth hands and good hockey sense to get his points. He’s great at weaving through defenders to get to the soft spots in front of the net where he can release his exceptional shot or make a smooth pass to a teammate. He’s a small player, but he plays with a good amount of grit, not unlike Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand. Tracey is at his best when he’s in the offensive zone and seem to have 360-degree awareness of the play at all times when attacking the net. Some scouts doubt Tracey because he is a smaller player at 6’0” and 176 lbs, but other scouts think that he’ll be fine once he adds some muscle to his frame.

In Tracey’s first showing against NHL prospects in the Ducks’ Rookie Faceoff Tournament, he showed off a lot of the traits that got him selected 29th overall. He was able to utilize his quick hands and skill down low to get high-danger chances. His biggest moment, of course, being his incredible toe-drag and wrist shot goal that he scored in the San Jose game.

Best Case Scenario:

Tracey adds some muscle to his frame and improves his skating a bit and becomes a 1st line scorer who looks like the second coming of Brad Marchand.

Worst Case Scenario:

He doesn’t add muscle to his frame, and he isn’t able to fully utilize his toolkit because he gets pushed around too much; however, he still has enough skill to play as a 3rd line scorer.

Most Probable Scenario:

Tracey beefs up a bit but keeps a similar level of skating, so he doesn’t have the wheels to blaze past NHL defenders. However, his high-level skill and hockey IQ still allow him to be a successful 2nd line scorer.

7) Daniel Sprong – RW

Drafted: 2015, 2nd round, 46th overall

Strengths: Elite shot, good speed, good hands.

Weaknesses: Can be inconsistent, bad defensively.

Comparable: Mike Hoffman.

Sprong had a strange season with the Ducks this year. While only getting an average time of 13 minutes game through 47 games, Sprong was still able to put up 14 goals and 19 points in his limited usage for the Ducks. The majority of those goals came at 5-on-5 as he only got 2 goals in his limited powerplay time. However, despite having provided a good amount of offense in his limited ice-time, Sprong was routinely scratched throughout the season. Sprong missed 19 games this season because he was a healthy scratch, a phenomenon that was perplexing as players with much less skill were making the lineup during that time. The reasoning for those scratches is presumably because of his lack of defensive acumen. Whenever Sprong is on the ice and the puck is in his own zone he adopts the patented EA Sports’ NHL “player with his controller unplugged” tactic on the back-check. Despite being dynamite in the offensive zone Sprong often comes off as uncaring when he’s forced to defend. However, if Sprong can improve his play behind his own blue line, he could become a lethal player for the Ducks.

Sprong is the only player in the Ducks list of prospects that has an elite shot, but not only is it the best among the prospects, but it’s also probably the best shot on the Ducks’ current roster right now. One needs to look no further than Sprong’s first game with the Ducks where he roofed a seemingly impossible wrist shot over Crawford’s shoulder coming off the wing on the rush. Sprong came down to below the faceoff circle and shot it short side over Crawford’s shoulder. He has so much power and accuracy in his shot that at any given time if he can get it off and through the defenders, there’s a pretty good chance, it’s going into the net. If Sprong is able to get some top-line minutes either on 5-on-5 or on the powerplay under a new coach he could push 25 goals as soon as the 2020 season.

Best Case Scenario:

Sprong gets the top 6 minutes in the 2020 season and powerplay time puts up 30 goals this season and develops into a 1st line scorer by the 2021 season.

Worst Case Scenario:

He doesn’t get top 6 minutes or powerplay time and gets scrutinized because his poor defensive play is further highlighted when he’s not playing with skilled teammates. He still produces offensively but not to his full potential and maxes out as a 3rd line scorer.

Most Probable Scenario:

Sprong doesn’t get top 6 minutes this season, but he does get time as a powerplay specialist. He puts up 20 goals in the 2020 season and develops himself into a 2nd line scorer for the 2021 season.

Photograph: AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Photograph: Darryl Dyck/CP
Photograph: Foster Snell/NHLI
Photograph: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Photograph: Marissa Baecker/Getty Images Sport
Photograph: AP Photo/Kyusung Gong
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