A long time ago, in a past season far, far away, I promised an update on those Ducks prospects likely to start their pro-careers with the Gulls
next this year. Because I have kept you waiting so long, I thought I would throw in a bonus piece on Gulls yet to arrive as well.
Class of 2017
This year's rookies consist of those AHL eligible due to their birthdate - meaning they turned 20 before December 31st, 2016. This pretty much consists of players taken in the 2015 draft (and some others). I will try to focus on the CHL players, but will throw in the odd overseas or collegiate player too. I will also add those vets the Ducks/Gulls have signed to fill some gaps.
Jacob Larsson - 27th Overall 2015 NHL Entry Draft - Frolunda HC
Larsson signed a 3-year entry level deal at the end of last season and started the 2016-2017 season with the Ducks having made the big club out of camp. He played four games and was a -1 before being sent down to San Diego, where he put up 2 points in a further four games but was a -6. He then went back to Sweden to play for Frolunda on loan. It remains to be seen whether he comes across again, but Elite Prospects already have him listed as starting this season with the Gulls, and with the recent departure of Theodore it seems pretty much a given he is coming and is here to stay this time.
Since his initial draft bio I always pegged him as a Lindholm clone - though with supposedly more room for development in his play away from the puck. He was an even +/- and had one assist at the World Juniors last year in Sweden’s 4th place finish.
Julius Nattinen - 59th Overall 2015 NHL Entry Draft - Windsor Spitfires
The Finnish center has yet to see time with the Gulls even as a black-ace because his junior teams always do so well. This year the Spitfires won the Memorial Cup with Nattinen potting 4 points in 7 games and ending up +5. With the departure of Sorensen and Gortz he automatically slots into the top six with the Gulls and if the play of Max Jones in his most recent appearance is any indication - I don’t think Nattinen will have much trouble transitioning his game from the OHL to the AHL.
His bio reads like a smaller, Finnish version of Ryan Getzlaf, but his closest comparison is Mikko Koivu - he loves to use his body to protect the puck on the cycle and set up plays. More of a playmaker than a pure scorer with a high element of 2-way to his game, he contributes on both elements of special teams more than competently and could develop into the long-term replacement for Kesler.
Note: The pick used to select Nattinen was actually the Rangers but was sent to the Ducks in the Hagelin/Etem deal.
Marcus Pettersson - 38th Overall 2014 NHL Entry Draft - Skellefteå AIK
As mentioned in a previous piece - Pettersson is the forgotten swede. He has quietly honed his game in the Swedish Elite League since he was drafted, making the annual appearance at prospect camp then heading back over the pond. It sounds like this year he is here to stay. Which will make the competition to make the already very talented Ducks blueline a hotly contested one. At this point he will be competing with fellow countrymen Larsson as well as Megna for maybe one spare spot - which if we are being honest will likely go to the Bieska/Holzer combo. Which is bad but isn't terrible because at least with the Gulls these young defenders will be getting decent ice time and wont be a scratch every other night. One more year of Bieska and his horrible deal.
But I digress. Pettersson is ready to make the jump - playing against grown men for the past 3 years, he has put up steady numbers, applying a stringent defensive game using his long reach to break up plays and shut down rushes. His only knock was his weight - 160lb at the time of drafting, now 175 at the most recent prospect camp. He hopes to bulk up further to 195 to match his 6”4’ frame. Last year he put up 9 points in 41 games for Skelleftea and was a -3 to finish the year, ranked 57th overall among defenders. For comparison Larsson was 82nd.
Deven Sideroff - 84th Overall 2015 NHL Entry Draft - Kamloops Blazers
Without a doubt the most handsome prospect in the organization - I mean, just look at those dreamy eyes and sick flow. The right-winger managed to get in a few games with the Gulls toward the end of the year as a black ace but failed to make the playoff line-up. In his final year with the Blazers he put together an impressive 78 points in a 67 game effort, but was shut down in the playoffs - tallying only a single assist in the Blazers first round exit. He lead the team in regular season points and was second in pretty much every other category but notably had the most game winning goals with 10; the next closest was 7. He also had 5 OT goals to lead the team.
His initial draft bio describes him as possessing smart hockey sense, always knowing when to make the right play. Reading between the lines he seems a bit of an all-rounder. Not a pure sniper but not a sole play maker either - his speed appears well suited for the penalty kill but he may be just as capable on the powerplay in a pinch.
Alex Dostie - 115th Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Charlottetown Islanders
Taken in last years draft 2 months after his 19th birthday - Dostie is now pro-eligible and will look to make an impression with the Gulls coaching staff. His initial comparisons were to Mathieu Perrault but he models his game after Tyler Johnson - both are smaller forwards though Johnson has a somewhat more physical edge. In his final year in the Q he put up 35 points in 31 games and a further 16 in 13 games in the postseason. I, for one, am excited to see what he can do when paired with the equally small, speedy, and robust Kevin Roy.
Tyler Soy - 205th Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Victoria Royals
Another over-ager taken in last years draft - Soy is a long shot project pick. But has quickly proved that like Ondrej Kase - he could be another 7th round steal. He lead the Royals in goals in his draft year and despite injuries this past season - still managed to score at a 1.5 point per game click. He saw some time with the Gulls to finish the season but appeared to be outmatched physically - he does not have a contract yet so could be returned to junior if he does not impress at the prospect tournament and in the preseason.
Mitch Hults - 2017 Collegiate Free Agent Signing - Lake Superior State
Twenty-two year old Hults signed a two year contract with the Ducks at the conclusion of his junior year at Lake Superior. He lead his team in scoring - racking up 34 points in 36 games and was listed by our friends at SBNation College Hockey as one of the top free agents available in college last season. He has size and reach but is deceptively fast and light on his feet. His knock is discipline issues but he wouldn't be a Ducks prospect without that. He saw 6 regular season games with the Gulls - scoring 1 goal and 3 assists while getting 1 goal in 2 games in the playoffs.
Austin Ortega - 2017 Collegiate Free Agent Signing - University of Nebraska-Omaha
Ortega signed an ATO with the Gulls at the conclusion of his senior year at Nebraska-Omaha and chipped in 4 goals and 1 assist for the Gulls to close out their season; however he failed to produce in the playoffs, going scoreless in 2 games. He has a one year deal so the San Diego native needs to have an impressive rookie season to progress - based on his stats in the NCAA and his play with the Gulls in the final regular season games; he could be sticking around. He put up 47 points in 38 games with the Mavericks in his final year.
Angus Redmond - 2017 Collegiate Free Agent Signing - Michigan Tech
Redmond began his freshmen year at Michigan Tech as the third string goalie but quickly supplanted himself as the number 1, playing the teams remaining 35 games and going 22-10-5 with a 1.85 GAA and .917 save percentage. He finished 3rd overall in GAA and also set a Michigan Tech record for wins by a freshman. Redmond figures to be the starter in Utah but given his impressive numbers he could force his way onto the Gulls sooner than expected.
Giovanni Fiore - Undrafted Free Agent Signing - Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Fiore lead the Q in goal scoring last season with 52 goals and finished the season with 90 points in 61 games tied 5th equal overall. He tallied a further 12 points in 11 games in the playoffs for the Eagles. He had tried out with the Montreal Canadiens to start the 2016-17 season but was ultimately cut so it is a bit of a boon that the Ducks were able to snag him at the conclusion of his junior season - given the Ducks recent 2017 draft class there appears to be a trend in the Ducks scouting the Q for talent lately.
Zach Saar - 2017 Collegiate Free Agent Signing - Penn State
Saar will quite literally stand out among some of the more recent Gulls acquisitions of smaller stature - at 6”6’ the imposing forward appears to be a no-nonsense grinder type. He had 8 points in 18 games in his senior year but due to taking too many penalties, was a healthy scratch for much of the end of the year and the entirety of the playoffs. He has been known for clutch goal heroics however and his toughness will further add balance to the Gulls lineup. Likely on a line with Scott Sabourin.
Mike Liambas - Free Agent Signing - Nashville Predators/Milwaukee Admirals
Liambas was signed to a two-way 1 year deal this summer. He will look to take over the leadership and toughness role which may have been vacated by the
as yet unsigned Stu Bickel. He is the 2nd all time penalty minute leader for the Admirals and there isn't really much else that needs to be said here.
Update: Bickel just got re-upped by the Gulls for one year.
Reto Berra - Free Agent Signing - Florida Panthers/Springfield Thunderbirds
Berra was brought in on a one year deal to replace the unsigned Jhonas Enroth as the veteran number one presence in the Gulls net. The 30 year old Swiss netminder had a disastrous 3.45 GAA and .876 save percentage in 7 games with the Panthers but was a better 2.53 GAA and 9.10 in 31 games with the Thunderbirds in the A. He will be competing with fellow veteran and oft-injured Dustin Tokarski as well as the upstart youngster Kevin Boyle for the right to be the Gulls number 1. Thankfully his deal is cheap - just 25k more than Boyle.
Steve Oleskey - Free Agent Signing - Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins/Toronto Marlies
Oleskey somehow obtained a one way contract on an already very crowded Ducks blueline. Guaranteeing he is getting NHL money while playing for the Gulls. The only reasoning I can think the Ducks brass decided to do this was to make him less appealing as a waiver pick up should he be called up as veteran injury relief. He put up 9 points in 20 games for the Marlies and was a +3. He then tallied 3 points in 11 games in their postseason run. A pure depth veteran signing that at this point looks to replace the unsigned Nate Guenin.
Waiting In The Wings
The following prospects are still cooking - either committed to collegiate careers for the time being or ineligible to turn pro due to their age.
Troy Terry - 148th Overall 2015 NHL Entry Draft - University of Denver
The World Juniors American Hero should be ready to join the Ducks/Gulls in either 2018 or 2019, depending on whether he wishes to do the full four years at university. He tallied 45 points in 35 games with DU last season in addition to breaking both Russian and Canadian hearts in the shootout. We all love to hate the skills competition but with TT on the Ducks in future years - it will be nice to have a sure-thing TJ Oshie up the sleeve.
Max Jones - 24th Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - London Knights
The 6”3’ 203 pound power forward is not short on confidence nor does he mince words when declaring his intentions for the upcoming season. It’s Ducks or bust. We have heard that from underage prospects before but if you - like me - saw Jones play in the Gulls postseason run last year, you would be quietly rooting for him to make good on that promise too. The kid was McDavid fast (at least in comparison to the AHL players around him) and was a genuine threat whenever he was on the ice. He finished an injury plagued year with 36 points in 33 games, topped by an impressive 12 in 14 in the playoffs. Playing sporadic minutes with the Gulls in their post season run he potted 2 points in 9 games.
Sam Steel - 30th Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Regina Pats
One more year Ducks fans - one more year until arguably the best forward prospect in the organization can turn pro. To say the young center had a breakout year last season is a gross understatment with a staggering 131 points in 66 games. The mammoth haul ranks him 109th all time in points in a season for the league - tied with the likes of Mike Sillinger and amongst some esteemed company. What lies in store for him this season? Could he creep further up that list?
Note: His selection was made using the Penguins pick that was acquired from Toronto in the Frederik Andersen deal.
Josh Mahura - 85th Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Regina Pats
The next best defencemen in the pipeline to start getting tentatively excited about - Mahura put up respectful numbers for the Pats in the regular season but was a force in the playoffs; netting 21 points in 23 games. The smooth skating blue liner will need to be patient with his development given the depth ahead of him but by next year it will be due time for some of the current Ducks defensive prospects with the Gulls to either move up or be moved out.
Jack Kopacka - 93rd Overall 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Being the only piece left in the Patrick Maroon deal is a “Big Rig” sized label to live up to - particularly with how well Maroon has done with the Oilers. Much like Maroon, Kopacka’s bio emphasizes his size as the strength of his game. He has put up over 40 points in 60 plus games in his last two seasons in the OHL but those stats aren't exactly shouting top-6 forward. At this point he is projecting as a fourth line energy grinder - but it is telling that he was given playoff time with the Gulls over the older Sideroff this past spring.
How do you think the Gulls will do next season? Better than last year? Competition for roster spots does look like it will be even more fierce. Post your best guesses at the Gulls projected line up in the comments.