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

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

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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 final piece of a six-part series that offers 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.

Rankings 6-1 is the pinnacle of the Ducks’ prospect pool. Almost all of the prospects herein are already NHL-calibre players. For prospects 6-1, each one has 1st line or elite player ceilings, and each one has a floor that projects them to be at least a high-level top 9 forward.

If you missed the first 10 prospects covered in this series, check out The Ducks’ Prospect Rankings – 1-31: Part 1Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, and  Part 5.

6) Max Jones – LW

Drafted: 2016, 1st round, 24th overall

Strengths: Good speed, good hands, great grit and tenacity, decent two-way ability.

Weaknesses: Can overcommit himself and lose the puck, has difficulty putting up offensive counting stats.

Comparable: Brendan Gallagher

Max Jones was the “best-looking player on the ice in 2019 who couldn’t put up the counting stats to match the way he looked.” Every time he was on the ice, he looked like a buzz saw that was predestined to score every shift; however, somehow, he rarely got to his scoring destination. Jones has the whole package of a modern power forward in today’s NHL, he has size, skill, he plays on the edge, and he has exceptional speed. Jones can keep the puck in the corners by outmuscling his opposition, and he can keep the puck by deking defenders out of their jockstrap. Unfortunately, despite all of these abilities that he possesses, he was still somehow only able to score 2 goals and 5 points in 30 games for the Ducks in 2019. Despite these less than stellar numbers for the Ducks last season it is reasonable to assume that under Eakins’ improved system and a little more luck in 2020, Jones’ stellar eye test performance and good underlying metrics should translate to some better counting stats this season.

Although at the time of this writing, the Ducks are only two games into the season, Max Jones has looked outstanding in his small sample size in the regular season. When on the ice he’s consistently hounding the puck and providing support for his linemates in the offensive zone leading to solid possession and increased scoring chances. When Jones is on the ice the Ducks have been able to control 56.14% of the shot attempts and have 60.87% of the expected goals for. For those who don’t understand analytics, those are very good numbers.

Best Case Scenario:

Eakins utilizes Jones on the 1st line with Getzlaf and Kase, and his production explodes from being with highly skilled players. His hockey sense improves from playing with elite players in Getzlaf and Kase, and he becomes a reliable complimentary 1st line power forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Jones doesn’t get top 6 minutes, and he remains snakebit for the 2020 season. He doesn’t improve his hockey sense from working with elite talent and remains the player that looks like he should be better than he is playing. He remains a 3rd  line skilled power forward.

Most Probable Scenario:

He doesn’t get 1st line minutes, but he sees time on the 2nd line and on the powerplay and penalty kill. His increase in time-on-ice helps his confidence, and he starts producing at a level expected of a middle-6 skilled power forward.

5) Isac Lundestrom – C

Drafted: 2018, 1st round, 23rd overall

Strengths: Good skater, good puck skills, great hockey IQ, good two-way ability.

Weaknesses: Has an average shot.

Comparable: Adam Kerfoot.

Lundestrom was probably one of the more surprising prospects of the 2019 season. Nobody expected him to start playing right after training camp, but that’s what he did. He played 15 games in the NHL last season at age 18 and put up 2 points. Despite the forgettable stat line, he showed that he could compete against the pros in the NHL just a year after being drafted. Eventually, he was sent down, and he returned to the SHL where he put up 9 points in 17 games playing bottom 6 minutes against men. Lundestrom showed in 2019 that he has the chops to be a future difference-maker on an NHL team. The question is how much longer it will take before he sees NHL ice again.

It’s harder to find a weakness in Lundestrom’s game than it is for almost all of the other prospects in the Ducks’ prospect pool. And not many other prospects have the same potential floor as Lundestrom, meaning his worst-case scenario is better than almost every other prospect. He’s a smooth-skating Swede with great puck skills, an incredible hockey IQ and a great two-way game. Lundestrom makes hockey look effortless and can dominate his opponents without looking like he’s trying. The only thing that might be a slight flaw in his game is that he doesn’t have an incredible shot; however, his shot is still good, so it’s not a huge critique of his game. Lundestrom does everything well, but he doesn’t necessarily do everything at an elite game-breaking level which may keep him from being a difference-maker every game.

Through only one game in the regular season, Lundestrom had an outstanding night with Silfverberg and Rakell against the Sharks. With Lundestrom on the ice, the Ducks controlled 70.59% of the shot attempts and 77.69% of the expected goals for. It’s only one game, but if Lundestrom can keep up this kind of pace in the games to come he may find himself not spending a lot of time in San Diego.

Best Case Scenario:

Lundestrom improves his shot over a season in the AHL and excels as a top 6 forward with the Gulls. By 2022 he has the ability to be a fringe 1st line center.

Worst Case Scenario:

Lundestrom doesn’t dominate in the AHL and stays around the same level of skill he as right now. By 2021 he plays like an elite 3rd centerman.

Most Probable Scenario

Lundestrom has a solid AHL season and shows that he’s an incredible top 6 forward for the Gulls. His offensive skill improves a bit with more offensive responsibility in San Diego, and he becomes a solid two-way 2nd line center by 2022.

4) Maxime Comtois – LW

Drafted: 2017, 2nd round, 50th overall

Strengths: Good skater, good size, good shot, good hockey IQ.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t necessarily have elite skills.

Comparable: Jamie Benn

Maxime Comtois, much like Jones, is the perfect modern-day power forward. He’s fast, big, has a good shot and great hockey sense. The big difference between Comtois and Jones is that Comtois has an innate ability to score goals in bunches in whichever league he’s in. In the QMJHL Comtois’ resume is incredible, through 205 games played, Max had 123 goals and 244 points. He brought the same scoring ability to the NHL with a goal in his first game in the NHL and 7 points in 10 games.

It seems like Comtois should be perfectly adjusted for the NHL by his counting stats; however, his underlying stats did not show the same domination as he had very porous possession stats relative to the rest of his team with a -9.8 CF% relative. Granted, he did start over 61% of his zone starts in the defensive zone, which would mitigate his ability to produce shot attempts. He also had a very high, PDO measures shooting % and save %, and is essentially a “luck” stat. The median for PDO is 100 if a player has less than 100 they’re unlucky, and if they have more, they’re lucky. Comtois had an incredibly lucky 116 PDO, which means he was very lucky last year.

His underlying stats should give some pause to analysts who believe he’s going to explode next season; however, you can expect Comtois to vastly improve his underlying stats under Eakins’ system rather than Carlyle’s system which was a possession nightmare. Also, he only played in 10 games last year, which is a very small sample size for utilizing advanced analytics. Regardless, Comtois still showed that he had the ability to put points up in this league despite his bad underlying numbers, so you can expect him to still put up points when he’s in the NHL again.

Best Case Scenario:

Comtois impresses in training camp and gets a top 9 position on the Ducks, and he continues his scoring touch in the NHL and tops out as a 1st line scoring power forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Comtois plays in the AHL and struggles against professionals in his first full year, and his scoring dries up, and he ends up being a 3rd line power forward.

Most Probable Scenario:

Comtois plays most of the season in the AHL but plays sometime in the NHL, he scores at a good rate in both leagues and develops into a 2nd line forward by 2021.

3) Troy Terry – RW

Drafted: 2015, 5th round, 148th overall

Strengths: Elite hockey IQ, good shot, great passer, good skater, really shifty.

Weaknesses: Could be stronger on the puck.

Comparable: Jakub Voracek

Terry had a tale of two players’ season last year. Terry was expected to come onto the team and instantly provide value in a top 6 role for the Ducks. Terry noticeably struggled in his first few games at the beginning of the season. He looked like he was afraid of the puck and unwilling to go into the dirty places in the corner to get the puck. Predictably, Terry was promptly sent down to the AHL to ripen a bit more with the Eakins’ Gulls.

Once Terry arrived in San Diego, the player that Ducks fans were expecting showed his face. Terry dominated the AHL in his extended conditioning stint with the Gulls. Through 41 games Terry put up 16 goals and 41 points. After dominating the AHL, he got called up to join the Ducks again. In his second call-up Terry performed much better, he put 13 points in 32 games, not astounding counting stats but respectable for a rookie. However, when you look deeper into Terry’s stats you can see his high level of play.

Through 32 games Terry managed to post a 6.6 GAR. GAR stands for goals-above-replacement and represents how valuable a player is compared to a replacement-level player and considers their ability at even-strength offense, even-strength defense, powerplay offense, penalty taking, penalty drawing, and face-offs. Terry’s 6.6 GAR means that he contributed a 6.6 positive goals differential compared to what a waiver-wire level player.

To add some context to his play, other notable players who had a similar GAR in a similar amount of games were, Taylor Hall at 6.8 GAR through 33 games, Mats Zuccarello at 7 GAR through 46 games and William Nylander at 6.3 GAR through 54 games. That puts Terry in some elite company, it doesn’t mean that his offensive game will be in the same league as these players moving forward, but that last season his overall game contributed nearly the same amount to his team.

Considering how successful Terry’s season was last year, the expectations for this year are understandably even higher. If Terry can weather the storm of the pressure, he has on him and utilizes his elite hockey sense and great overall game he should be a very productive top 6 forward for the Ducks as soon as the 2020 season.

Terry played alongside Jones and Henrique in the first two games of the season so his numbers are very similar to Jones’. Through two games of play while Terry was on the ice the Ducks controlled 61.22% of the shot attempts and 69.20% of the expected goals for. Terry has been getting chances to score, he just hasn’t put it in the net yet, however, if that line sticks together and keeps pushing play at their current clip they should see the pucks start to go into the back of the net pretty soon.

Best Case Scenario:

Terry plays his way onto the 1st line with Getzlaf and Kase, and his playmaking becomes elite, and he gets stronger on the puck, causing him to top out as a 1st line playmaking winger.

Worst Case Scenario:

Terry’s play on the puck proves too weak to propel himself into the top 6 and with a crowded rightwing in Anaheim he ends up becoming an elite 3rd line playmaking winger.

Most Probable Scenario:

Terry doesn’t improve his play on the puck, but he can fully utilize his shiftiness to make up for it, and he excels as a 2nd line playmaking winger.

2) Sam Steel – C   

Drafted: 2016, 1st round, 30th overall

Strengths: Great hands, great awareness, great passer, can quarterback a powerplay, great hockey IQ, good shot.

Weaknesses: Lacks size.

Comparable: Ryan O’Reilly

Sam Steel has been at the pinnacle of the Ducks’ prospect pool for several years now. Ever since his 131 point season in the year after being drafted Ducks’ fans have been gleefully awaiting the arrival of Steel on their full-time roster. Well, Ducks’ fans got a taste of what Sam Steel could become last year and much like Terry his season was a tale of two players. When the season started Steel was on the main roster, and through his first 13 game stint he was not good, the team hemorrhaged shot attempts whenever he was on the ice controlling only 35.92% of the shot attempts. Also, through the first 13 games, Steel only scored one goal and 3 points.

Due to his poor performance Steel was sent back down to the Gulls to improve his confidence and overall game. Much like Terry, Steel performed very well in the AHL putting up 20 goals and 41 points through 53 games. After performing so well in San Diego, Steel was called up for the remaining 9 games of the Ducks’ season; in those games, Steel performed exceptionally.

Through 9 games Steel put up 5 goals and 8 points including a hat-trick against the Vancouver Canucks. He also had the best possession metrics on the team through that time with 56% of the shot attempts in his favor while on the ice. The majority of his time on the ice was with Rakell and Silfverberg, and that trio proved to be a dominant force whenever on the ice and big part of that dominance was Steel’s ability to control play in the middle of the ice.

Steel has always been a dominant player in each league he’s played, mainly due to his incredible hockey sense and ability to always know where the play is going and how to get the puck to the dangerous areas. Steel has been marketed as a playmaker, but teams shouldn’t look past his goal-scoring ability as he put up 106 goals through 192 games in the WHL along with 20 goals through 53 games in the AHL in 2019. To put that into perspective, he scored at a 0.55 goals-per-game pace versus goal-scoring winger Comtois’ 0.50 goals-per-game. Steel isn’t just an offensive force; he also has an exceptional two-way game that makes him a very difficult player for opposing teams to game plan against.

Steel is billed as a potential dominant 2nd line center, and that is where this article places him for his “Most Probable Scenario,” but his showing at the end of the 2019 season showed that he could translate his ability to dominate leagues to the NHL. If he can continue his upward trajectory from the end of the 2019 season his “Best Case Scenario” may become his “Most Probable Scenario” very quickly.

Best Case Scenario:

Steel gets an early promotion to first-line minutes playing in-between Rakell and Silfverberg and progresses even further from his dominant play with them last season, and he develops into a 1st line center.

Worst Case Scenario:

Steel doesn’t get top 6 minutes in the NHL in 2020, and his development slows to the point that he becomes an elite 3rd line center.

Most Probable Scenario:

Steel gets 2nd line minutes alongside Rakell and Silfverberg, he learns from their elusive play which makes up for his lack of size and he becomes a dominant 2nd line center for the Ducks.

1) Trevor Zegras – C /LW

Drafted: 2019, 1st round, 9th overall

Strengths: Good speed, elite hockey IQ, good shot, elite passing ability, has grit to his game.

Weaknesses: Questions as to whether his creative and gritty playing style will translate to the NHL because of his small size.

Comparable: Elias Pettersson

For the first time since selecting Nick Ritchie 10th overall in 2014, the Ducks had a top 10 pick in the NHL draft. With the 9th overall selection, the Ducks selected Trevor Zegras from the USNTDP, a highly touted prospect who many analysts saw going earlier. Amateur hockey analysts like Corey Pronman and Sam Consentino had Zegras ranked 6th and 5th on their 2019 draft rankings. Also, in recent news, it became evident that many NHL teams likely had Zegras high on their own draft lists as Montreal’s scouting draft list was released, and it showed that they had Zegras ranked 3rd out of all eligible draftees. Needless to say, the Ducks management was very pleased to select Trevor Zegras with the 9th overall pick.

Zegras had a very productive season in the USHL considering for the majority of the season Zegras played as the 2nd line center, although, as the year went on he saw more time on the 1st line with Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield. Even though he wasn’t on the first line or first powerplay the majority of the season, Zegras still put up an impressive 87 points in 60 games last year; however, it wasn’t so much about how many points he got but how he got the points.

Almost anytime he was on the ice Zegras would find a way to make a play that seemed impossible to make. Zegras would consistently send no-look-backhand passes through the slot that would find their way onto a teammate’s stick, and he would attempt dekes to get through defenders and then pull a quick between the legs pass to rushing teammates. Zegras has an elite ability to see the game and capitalize on the smallest holes in his opponent’s defense because of his elite playmaking ability. Moreover, even though Zegras is a fairly small player, he still displayed some grit in the USHL and was willing to throw the odd hit and subtle stick work to get under his opponents’ skin. His agility and edgework allow him to avoid any hits the opposition may attempt in retaliation making him something of a scoring pest.

Zegras will be playing with Boston University of the NCAA during the 2020 season where he will be playing against much older players than he was in the USHL. The main thing that Ducks’ management will likely be looking for in Zegras is whether his small frame will still be effective against the much larger and older players in the NCAA. If Zegras can show that he can still be as elusive as he was in the USHL and score at a similar clip, the Ducks’ management should be very pleased with their selection.

Best Case Scenario:

Zegras takes the NCAA by storm, and his elite skill proves to be more than enough to make up for his lack of size against older players. He embraces his creative play and continues to wow the audience with his elite playmaking. When he arrives in the NHL, he becomes an elite 1st line centerman taking on the mantle of Ryan Getzlaf in 2022.

Worst Case Scenario:

Zegras struggles in the NCAA, and his size proves to be a more challenging problem than it was in the USHL. He doesn’t dominate the league, but he still puts up respectable numbers in his freshman year, and he becomes a more dominant forward in his sophomore season. By 2023 he plays as an effective 2nd line playmaking center.

Most Probable Scenario:

Zegras dominates in the NCAA but not to the level he dominated in the USHL. He ends up putting on some extra poundage for the NHL, but the bigger faster players make it so that he can’t be as creative as he was in the USHL. However, Zegras elite puck skills, hockey sense, and playmaking still allow him to become an effective 1st line playmaking center for the Ducks in 2023.

- Kyusong Gong/Contributing Photo
- Sean M. Haffey/Getty Photographer
- Mark J. Terrill/AP
- AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
- Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
- Rockland/Westchester Sports Journal News
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