San Diego has won three of their last four with a slightly more depleted line up thanks in part to injuries to the Ducks resulting in call-ups of regular contributors. They have also taken advantage of suddenly slumping division rivals to ease themselves into second place in the Pacific division, which - if you read my comments last week on playoff positioning - is exactly where I would like them to be heading into the post season.
Injury Roll Call
From the last injury update, I correctly predicted that Josh Mahura would return to the line up within the week and that he did, albeit a game earlier than I expected returning to action in the most recent game against the Reign. But with the good comes the bad and in the most recent game we saw forwards Matt Berry and Kevin Roy both leave the game early with differing ailments.
Matt Berry: Seemed to fall into the boards awkwardly on a trip that was called as a minor penalty at the time. He may have pulled something or perhaps done some knee damage, hopefully it is not anything too serious.
Kevin Roy: Appeared to take a puck off his foot or ankle, on the broadcast it sounded like a pass but that seems to soft a play to have done the kind of damage needing to keep him out unless it hit him in a really weird and awkward spot. Either way, it is immensely important for both he and the Gulls that he is not out for any long period of time, as he needs to raise his profile with what limited time has left this year in order to secure a new contract next season.
Luke Gazdic: Is back to health - as reported by Andy Zilch in response to my question which he answered on the GullsCast podcast this week.
Ryan Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie have been out with mysterious injuries so Sam Steel and Kiefer Sherwood were recalled. Jacob Larsson is day to day with a Charley Horse so Andy Welinski has been more permanently summoned, and given what happened at the end of the most recent Canucks game, it looks as though Josh Manson might be out now too. So it looks like Josh Mahura is likely gets the instant recall. Sigh.
Black Ace Arrivals
As predicted, some of the Black Aces I indicated might be arriving have signed their ATOs in the lead up to the playoffs. This past week we had the following three arrive - and I will admit that one of these was a surprise to me.
Brent Gates Jr.
The University of Minnesota co-captain signed a ATO to join the Gulls, which to me indicates a “show me” form of deal. A smart move on the part of the Ducks given his numbers were OK but not great this year. Given the spat of injuries hitting both clubs right now, he might actually see some game time in the stretch run, possibly as soon as tonight.
Here was the surprise for me. Ruggiero was one of those prospects who felt to me like he would never get here, so it was a pleasant surprise to see his name included in the press release giving the update on Gates signing. The 6’3” right shooting defender is twenty two years old and just completed his senior year at Lake Superior State where he set career highs in games (37) goals (6) assists (5) and points (11). He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NHL entry draft.
Olle Eriksson Ek
I did mention that of all the goaltenders in the Ducks system, Eriksson Ek would likely be the one to come over as a Black Ace after his season was done because he was the only one under contract. He doesn't quite have the hype that Lukas Dostal has right now, mostly because he hasn't had that great of a year in comparison. The 2017 5th round pick spent the year with BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan (the second tier Swedish league), he saw 16 total games of action and posted a 2.77 GAA and .901 SV%. I don’t see him getting any action with the Gulls, but it also likely means Angus Redmond won’t be seen again this season.
Over in the CHL...
Has four points in three playoff games for the Voltiguers who are already up 3-0 in their series with the Olympiques. It’s looking likely that Max will progress to the next round of the playoffs. He is tied for 4th in playoff scoring, behind team-mate and Wings prospect Joseph Veleno who is 2nd overall.
Has just the one assist in three playoff games for the Mooseheads, who are down 2-1 in their series with the Remparts. This may not be a massive shock as Sam Steel and Josh Mahura similarly bowed out of the first round of the WHL playoffs last year despite being the definite favourite. Their Regina Pats hosted the Memorial Cup so they would have known they effectively had a bye to the final four. Morand and his Mooseheads are in the same situation this year. Note: this report has Morand as being injured, so perhaps he is playing through something - which is sounds like something he would likely do.
Has not participated in the playoffs thus far, and from reports appears to be out indefinitely with Mono, tough break for a kid that has had a really good year. The Mooseheads will definitely hope he is back to health by the time the Memorial Cup rolls around in a few weeks.
Has three assists in three playoff games with the Islanders who are up 2-1 over the Screaming Eagles. A very strong showing so far for the 2018 6th round pick.
Has one assist in two playoff games and is in a two-game hole against the Everett Silvertips. From reports, it sounds like the Silvertips are keying in on his line to shutdown the Americans offense and winning games off the back of strong play from the 2019 entry draft top-ranked goaltender Dustin Wolf. As I predicted, Olson is likely going to be the first from the CHL to come to the Gulls.
They Grow Up So Fast
As pointed out by our own Jake Rudolph in our slack chat last week, there are four players on the Gulls/Ducks who are due to hit Group 6 UFA status this summer.
- Kalle Kossila
- Andy Welinski
- Jaycob Megna
- Kevin Roy
What is a Group 6 UFA?
A Group 6 (Unrestricted) Free Agent is any player 25 or older with at least three professional seasons who has not played in at least 80 NHL games (28 for goalies) becomes a UFA at the end of his contract
Essentially, it is a way of categorizing those players who have not met the normal NHL minimum games-played requirements to become regular UFAs, but have played long enough as a professional to meet the minimum age. In layman’s terms - it is a way for players who have been drafted by their club-but for whatever reason have not been able to crack their NHL roster- to be able to explore unrestricted free agency after a certain amount of time spent as a professional.
Ranking that list of four in terms of who might stay and who might leave I would group it as follows with the higher up being more likely to stay.
Megna was essentially given a huge carrot when he was named the second captain in (rebooted) Gulls history this past summer. He has been given plenty of opportunities with the big club (including his current successful tenure) and other than a savvy rival club making him an offer he can’t refuse (unlikely given he isn't really of the “new NHL” defender ilk) I cannot see him wanting to leave.
Kossila is an interesting case. In my eyes this was to be his year, but got a very unfortunate injury at a very unfortunate time when the Ducks actually desperately needed his services. Once he was healthy again, so too were the Ducks. One could say that the Ducks’ past two summers of signing the likes of Derek Grant and Carter Rowney to fill the depth center role could have had a negative effect of how Kossila views his importance to the club, but I believe he likes it in San Diego and -at the risk of becoming a career AHLer- I think he re-signs on a one year deal to give it one last shot to make the Ducks.
Roy is in the exact same situation as Kossila. This was his year to break out and make the Ducks on a permanent basis. He bet on himself to do so this past summer when he signed a 2-way deal that meant he made less in the AHL than he did last year but more in the NHL if he made it. Missing most of the season has completely washed out those plans and I have less of a read on whether or not he would look to stick around and see if he can get a spot on the Ducks next year or test the market to see if he can find a team in need of a speedy winger. Given the play and emergence of Max Jones and Troy Terry this year - I could see him heading to a team on the rebuild with an already exciting young core of players like Vancouver, Carolina or even Montreal.
As desperate as the Ducks are for right shooting blue-liners, I do not believe Welinski will be back. He has had numerous auditions with the big club and although he had some more lengthy stays over this past year and a half, he has been unable to stick. Similarly I can see another team making him an offer with promises of guaranteed 1-way money simply because he is a right shooting point man who can man a power play. Looking at teams with the worst Man Advantage percentages in the NHL right now and potentially with room on their blue line, Vancouver, Detroit and Philly jump out at me as potential destinations.
The Gulls have three separate opponents in four days starting tonight with the Barracuda. They then face the Condors Friday night and the Heat Saturday night. The Barracuda have dropped their last two games after blowing away the Eagles 9-0 last weekend. They sit just two points below the Gulls in third place and if the playoffs began today - would be their first round opponent. The Condors have played twice since their last meeting with the Gulls - annihilating the Reign by a score of 7-0 and then losing to them the next night 5-4 in a shootout. Their grip on first place in the Pacific has lessened slightly and the Gulls could feasibly still take it - but again, I would rather the Gulls stay where they are in 2nd and take the Barracuda in the first round.