Welcome back! It is a little early given that the season is another three full months away but I just wanted to do a little update given that there has been a few news items that directly affect the Gulls reported in the last few weeks.
Austin Ortega signs with Vaxjo Lakers HC of the SHL in Sweden.
A little bit surprising and disappointing given he was coming on strong toward the end of his tenure with the Gulls but he also likely saw that the already very full Gulls lineup is going to be even more full come this season with the next wave of pro-eligible Juniors. He spent half of his debut pro season with the Grizzlies in the ECHL and likely did not want to risk repeating that again. On the Grizzlies...
Utah Grizzlies announce new affiliation with Colorado Avalanche
The Grizzlies invite fans to Maverik Center Thursday at 12:15 p.m. where they will announce details on their new affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche. pic.twitter.com/geXSnQBqLO— Utah Grizzlies (@UtahGrizz) June 25, 2018
This came as a surprise to me but does make more sense for the 3rd tier feeder club to be affiliated to the much closer Avalanche who also switched their AHL team from San Antonio to the former ECHL Colorado Eagles to have their prospects within state now.
The concerning part is this leaves Anaheim without an ECHL affiliate which they desperately need (I will cover that next) but curiously - with the departure of the Eagles to the AHL that leaves a spot open in the ECHL and at last count there are 27 teams where the league had hoped to eventually have 30-31 to match the AHL and NHL. Could we eventually see a return of the Long Beach Ice Dogs?
Why an ECHL team affiliation is still needed.
See the image below for how thing are as they stand as of today, the eve before free-agency. I have included this mornings Kerdiles trade and put De Leo on a line with Blandisi and Roy because damn that line would be straight speed and not the Breaking Bad kind.
Note: this is almost exactly the lineup the Gulls iced in their final game of the season last year, obviously Jones, Steel and Mahura would be in the top 6 and top pairings respectively but I just wanted to illustrate how things ended last season with the incoming talent coming this year.
Gold: Incoming this season
I also included 2018 5th round pick Roman Durny because I have no idea what his upcoming season committments are but given he is already 20 and not taken out of the CHL he could actually sign and play right away.
Even if Tropp, Liambas and Sabourin are not brought back, that still leaves Sideroff and Nattinen on the outside looking in again. Because its the AHL I am assuming 2 out of 3 of those guys are brought back - enforcers are still a thing.
I am also not including any tryouts currently at Dev camp that may or not be signed or the likes of Steven Ruggiero or Brent Gates Jr. who appear to still be commited to College. I am also running on the assumption that Troy Terry and Marcus Pettersson make the big club out of camp with the Ducks signing 1 or 2 vet defenders that force Welinski to be sent back down.
Nic Kerdiles traded for Chase De Leo
OC Native for OC Native. We knew Kerdiles time might be running thin, no longer a prospect and looking more like a career minor league player with each passing injury plagued season the Ducks sacrificed skill level for age and speed. Of the remaining players selected in Kerdiles draft still with the Ducks org, Kerdiles had produced the least impact in his stints in the NHL. Both Megna and Roy are now on the hotseat and expected to make the big club or risk missing the boat before entering their prime years. De Leo was taken in the same draft as Ritchie, Pettersson, Montour & Kase and is not waiver eligible. His AHL stats are not as great as Kerdiles but the speed element to his game gives hope that Murray really is trying to stick to what he said at the end of last season.
Ducks Development Camp
is was On
are were the most recent draft selections there this year, but there are were some interesting names on the invite list.
Justin Ducharme - is a player I called out in our Draft Guess The Selections pieces. He was someone I named as a potential 4th Round Selection but who ultimately went undrafted. His ability to read the game and proficiency on the penalty kill are what stood out to scouts but because he was on a very deep Memorial Cup winning Titan team his offensive skills are still a mystery. With potentially a bigger role on a thin Chicoutimi team this season he could surprise and he could be another player the Ducks might grab undrafted much like Giovanni Fiore. Bonus points, he is also rocking the #69 in dev camp. #NICE
Nolan Walker - is a shifty small center committed to St Cloud State this season after totaling 50 points in 55 games in the USHL. I like his speed and acceleration, his game has an emphasis on playmaking but if he sees the opportunity he takes it. Will be interesting to see if the Ducks follow his college career and get him locked up early if he does well.
I will report back with updates on how things look as players get signed and/or leave but for now, interesting times are ahead!
Update: This was meant to be posted early this morning so hence why some things seem a tad out of date. Mike Liambas has since left so that is one of the 2 out of 3 that I spoke of and Ducharme scored in the prospect scrimmage this morning. Looks like Max Jones left with a cast on his arm too :(