Right now, the Anaheim Ducks are a lousy, lousy hockey team.
Despite boasting one of the league's best goaltenders in John Gibson, the Ducks are last in the West Division, losing out to their equally poor Californian counterparts Los Angeles and San Jose. Going by points percentage, only Ottawa and Detroit (both .340) sit below Anaheim (.370). Ouch.
But that was to be expected. The Ducks finished sixth of eight teams in the Pacific Division a season ago (but first in the brutal Battle of California) and the 2021 season wasn't supposed to be better. Ducks fans have been hearing for years that their young crop was coming and would make things better - so far, Trevor Zegras has been quiet, but he's also just 19. But the rest of the young guns? Guys like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois? This was the year where they needed to show up in a big way and prove that their development wasn't lost along the way.
And for Comtois, he's been the team's biggest positive among skaters. Through 23 games, Comtois leads the Ducks in scoring with nine goals (four clear of Isac Lundestrom in second) and 15 points.
And to think, Comtois wasn't supposed to make the opening night lineup. He started on the taxi squad, but an injury allowed him in and he scored in his season debut. Coach Dallas Eakins has kept him in the lineup ever since, promoting him to the first line and reaping the rewards - even if he didn't believe in Comtois enough to give him a better shot out of the gate.
Comtois has been one of the few reasons to get excited about Anaheim's offensive core. This is the same team that put Adam Henrique - the team's top scorer from a year ago and five-time 20-goal man - on waivers earlier this season. As it stands, Comtois' 1.86 goals-per-60 is sixth among forwards with at least 200 minutes of five-a-side action and he's doing it with an average of 12:35 of 5-on-5 ice time per game.
Fans had a reason to be wary about Comtois and his development. His World Junior Championship performance in 2018 showed a lack of discipline. His first pro season was rather unremarkable. The one-time junior goal-scorer wasn't lighting things up in the way he hoped for. His NHL career started off hot with a goal 49 seconds into his first game before finishing with seven points in 10 games prior to being sent down, but then he cooled off in a way that made you wonder what his true potential was going to be.
But the numbers don't lie - he's been a monster for the Ducks.
As Zegras continues to adjust to the NHL game on a team that hasn't given him a ton of tools to work with, Comtois' emergence as the team's best forward through nearly two months of play is a pleasant surprise. Comtois' play outside of putting pucks out of the net (which, of course, is one of the most important things anyone can do in hockey) needs a bit of work, but he's working with what he's handed. Comtois' Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 is 49.54 - 242nd among 427 players with at least 200 minutes of ice time - and his defensive play can lack at times, but the physical, energy-munching winger has been undoubtedly effective on the scoresheet and that's what really matters.
Comtois currently lines up beside Ryan Getzlaf and Troy Terry on Anaheim's top line - a grouping that Daily Faceoff lists as the worst top line in the NHL right now. When Comtois was on the third line with Lundestrom and Rickard Rakell, the trio was one of the best third groups in the league with solid numbers to boot, but Comtois' play made it a good call to move him up the lineup and get him more ice time alongside veteran like Getzlaf. Again, the Ducks don't need success this year - another good prospect in the system could really spice things up in the long run. But it's good to see Eakins finally showing some trust in Comtois and what he brings to the team.
Comtois is only 22 and still in the early stages of his pro development. But this is exactly the path the Ducks were hoping to see him Comtois take and he's giving the team a bit of life. Is he Anaheim's No. 1 left winger of the future? Who knows, but he's surely playing like that right now.