The trade deadline is quickly approaching and it is very likely the Ducks are “sellers” - with a lot of noise lately about who they could trade, who they should trade or if they can even trade anybody at all.
I would like to offer a different perspective.
Bob Murray has demonstrated at past deadlines that when he hasn't had a lot to work with (at his own doing) that he isn’t afraid to make minor league trades to either help bolster the Gulls or try find a hidden gem that could eventually help the big club.
Through my time covering the Gulls this season I have tried to pay attention to opposing teams and the players that have stood out to me the most. With this in mind, I tried to put together a “shopping list” of guys I would love to see either on the Gulls or the Ducks.
Let us begin.
Kirill Maximov - Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers)
Weight: 207 lbs
Yes a Russian, but hey Murray has to break the Russian-drought eventually right? Maximov would be a great option to do that. He has a blistering shot that can rip in a hurry, a deceptive skating game (a strong stride that isn't exactly high-end acceleration but powerful), and a commitment to the defensive side of the puck.
The Oilers are already pretty high on him despite him being selected in the fifth round of 2017, some going so far as calling him their most exciting prospect right now. He finished his junior career with 101 goals over a span of 245 games, the most by an Oilers prospect since Conor McDavid. In his final season in the OHL he volunteered to swap his ice time on the power play to help the Niagra Ice-Dogs struggling penalty killing unit and was quoted as saying “points aren’t the most important thing, it’s more important to get wins”.
This season with the Condors he has 10 points in 27 games, which may not seem like much but is very similar to Antoine Morand’s stat line of 11 points in 28 games thus far, in what I feel is a very impressive rookie campaign. Like Morand, getting on the scoresheet isn't what has impressed me about Maximov, it’s what you can see is there and what will come.
The reality is that that the Oilers potentially knowing what they have in him makes it less likely he could be acquired. But if Edmonton decides to deal him in order to bolster their lineup for the playoffs, the Gulls/Ducks have some players that could help.
He also scored the game-winning shootout move to down the Gulls last week on a very nasty move.
Joe Hicketts - Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
Weight: 181 lbs
I am a bit late to the party on this one but in my defense, owed to the way the AHL schedule is structured, the Gulls haven't seen Grand Rapids Griffins since their inaugural season in 2015.
San Diego have seen the Griffins twice this season and manged to lose both games despite holding the run of play and possession for much of those outings. Why? Partially because they struggled to beat Hicketts. There was one shift where he blocked three high danger chances on the same shift and two of them on the rush.
Hicketts was undrafted in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He was such an outside shot that he did not even feature in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings. He was invited to the Red Wings development camp after the draft and named to the roster for the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. He impressed so much that he inked an entry level deal with Detroit at the conclusion of the camp. He returned to the WHL where he played with the Victoria Royals and finished second in the league for assists by a defensemen with 53 and seventh overall in scoring with 61 points.
Over the last three seasons he has seen time with both the Red Wings and the Griffins, compiling 23 games of NHL experience with five assists over that span and amassing 231 AHL games thus far with 89 points.
I like him because he is an all-around kind of defenseman: he doesn't have any defensive weaknesses, he can rush the puck, and he chips in on offense. If anything his size might be the only thing holding back from excelling in the NHL, but the game is trending in the smaller defenseman direction anyway.
The reality: Detroit probably doesn't need to deal from any of their very deep pipeline of defense, but at the same time they are short on their right wing depth and well, the Ducks have a few wingers to spare.
Jayden Halbgewachs - San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks)
Weight: 161 lbs
Another undrafted smaller player that is making a name for himself, Halbgewachs is a speedy winger that is unafraid to go to the dirty areas. He has been a pain in the ass for the Gulls this season and consistently burns the slower defenders with his wheels. He even beat Brendan Guhle stride for stride on one play that I saw.
He was a prolific scorer in junior, totaling 101 points in 71 games in 2016-2017 and then topping that with 129 points in 72 games during his final year in the WHL as an overage player. He attended the Golden Knights development camp in July 2017 but was signed by the Sharks in December. For reference, Sam Steel had 131 points in 66 games the same year that Halbgewachs had his 101 point season.
The Saskatchewan native had 35 points in his first pro season over 64 games with the Barracuda last year and already has 20 points in 31 games this year, putting him on pace to finish with 41 points over the same span.
I like his speed and tenacity; those point totals in the AHL aren’t exactly “wow” numbers but at least they are trending upward. The only real knock to his game and concern for future potential is his size. He may need to adjust to more of a playmaker that scores his goals from the rush as the bigger defensemen will find it easy to box him out in front. But once he gets the jets going in open ice, he can be very very dangerous.
Kyle Rau - Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild)
Weight: 176 lbs
He might be too old to be a prospect and probably too old to make an impact at the NHL level, but the former Florida Panthers third round pick as put together back-to-back 50 point seasons with the Wild affiliate. He has 39 NHL games over four seasons and five points over that span.
This season he sits 18th in scoring in the AHL with 31 points in 28 games, third on his team behind Sam Anas (close to being an unfortunate surname) and Gerald Mayhew who currently sit third and fourth in scoring league-wide.
I’m not really selling him with those first two paragraphs but to be honest I didn’t realise his age, I just noticed how he always stood out whenever the Gulls face the Wild, which isn't that often. Even when Anas earned the first star and beat the Gulls with two goals in their most recent loss, Rau was still the more impressive player to me. He had the most high danger opportunities and I like his shoot-first mentality.
Ivan Chekhovich - San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks)
Weight: 176 lbs
I was going to leave him as an honorable mention due to his pro-season debut stats not looking that great thus far, but because he stood out so much to me at the Rookie Faceoff in Irvine I decided to keep him.
Chekhovich was selected in the seventh round in 2017 but absolutely destroyed the QMJHL last season in his age twenty year. He ended up finishing tied (with 2020 likely first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere) for second overall in league scoring with 105 points in 66 games.
He joined the Barracuda for their playoff run and had three points in four games last season.
Thus far he has struggled to adjust to the AHL in his first pro-year, scoring just two goals and two assists in 22 games of action. He hasn’t exactly stood out to me in the games I have seen him play the Gulls, which may be due to the glut of talented forwards on the under-performing club.
I just remember seeing him at the Rookie Faceoff and thinking “wow that kid has skill and the speed to go with it”; he was very fun to watch live.
Given his disappointing year, the shine might have gone off him somewhat so that he could be included as a side-bit in a package deal were the Ducks and Sharks to ever make the rare trade. If so, I think he would be worth taking a shot on.