Identifying, recruiting and developing talented young hockey players has been a cornerstone of NHL franchises since, oh, the invention of ice, and the Ducks are no exception. General Manager Bob Murray is counting on his many good hopes to lead his rebuilding team to a better future.
The advantage of the Ducks’ lackluster play in recent seasons has been a well-stocked talent pool. They missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, marking the longest playoff drought in team history. They did, however, add several top picks.
The Ducks’ recent results on the ice and in the standings have been dismal, but the future could be bright if all goes according to plan. The Ducks have spotted and drafted well, and now comes the hard part: turning prospects into productive players capable of running a franchise.
Here’s a look at five young players to watch in 2021-2022:
Center, 6-0, 182
3 goals, 10 assists last season
He could be the Ducks’ leading center to start the season, after a whirlwind introduction to the pro ranks last season that took him from a junior world championship with the United States team in San Diego from the LAH, at the Ducks, back in San Diego and finally back with the Ducks. It has been a busy five months of hockey for him.
Left winger, 6-2, 215
16 goals, 17 assists
He led the Ducks in goals and points in 2020-21 and expectations are for another productive season. The Ducks could certainly use whatever he can offer, given their poor offense. They have scored 126 goals in 56 games in the coronavirus-cut season, the least in the NHL. Their historically bad power play clicked just 8.9%.
Defender, 5-11, 175
3 goals, 5 assists
His skills as a skater and playmaker have given him constant change over the last few weeks of last season, but there were some concerns about his defensive play against more established and experienced opponents. Defensemen often take longer than forwards to become useful NHL players, and he’s already got a pretty good head start.
Wing left / center, 6-1, 207
9 goals, 2 assists with Olten (Switzerland)
He appeared to have turned 18 during training camp, and that may have been due to his experience playing in Switzerland when the Ontario Hockey League was closed due to the pandemic last season. The Ducks took him with the third pick overall in July, and he could stay until the World Junior tournament in December.
Goalkeeper, 6-2, 174
15-9-0 with San Diego (AHL)
He performed well in his first season in North America after arriving from Europe, and there is no doubt that he could one day become the number one goalie in the NHL. For now, he has a ticket to San Diego to be the Gulls starter. He also rose to third in the Ducks’ chart behind No.1 John Gibson and No.2 Anthony Stolarz.