The NHL off-season is in full swing, giving us the perfect opportunity to look at each team’s prospect pools. Any player who no longer holds rookie eligibility in the NHL is considered graduated and no longer considered a prospect for the purposes of these exercises.
In this series, Tony Ferrari will dig into each team’s strengths and weaknesses, a quick overview of their latest draft class, where each team's positional depth chart stands, and who could be next in line for an NHL roster spot.
The Anaheim Ducks are in a very unique position. They are a team with young talent littering their roster, such as center Trevor Zegras and blueliner Jamie Drysdale. The Ducks have some really intriguing young prospects that are coming very soon in center Mason McTavish as well as defenders Olen Zellweger and this year’s 10th overall pick, Pavel Mintyukov. Anaheim’s prospect pool looks solid from top to bottom and has quietly become one of the more intriguing groups in the league.
At the same time, they are a sneaky “Connor Bedard” team who may very well find themselves with quite good lottery odds at the season’s end. They have notable prospects at just about every position, even when you exclude the under-22 talent on the NHL team. Rumors of John Gibson’s departure have festered over the last couple of years but they have emerging talent Lukas Dostal in net as their possible goalie of the future.
The old guard, led by former captain Ryan Getzlaf, is completely gone. The future is now in Anaheim. Are Zegras, Drysdale, and McTavish the crew to lead that group into the next era of Ducks hockey or will they look towards the top of the 2023 draft to provide that player?
2022 NHL Draft Class
Round 1 (10 Overall) - Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit [OHL]
Round 1 (22 Overall) - Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts [QMJHL]
Round 2 (42 Overall) - Noah Warren, D, Gatineau Olympiques [QMJHL]
Round 2 (53 Overall) - Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques [QMJHL]
Round 4 (107 Overall) - Ben King, C, Red Deer Rebels [WHL]
Round 5 (139 Overall) - Connor Hvidston, L, Swift Current Broncos [WHL]
Round 5 (154 Overall) - Michael Callow, R, St. Sebastien's School (Mass. H.S.)
Round 6 (178 Overall) - Vyacheslav Buteyets, G, Chelyabinsk Chelmet (VHL)
Anaheim had a very CHL-heavy draft this year with their first six picks all coming from the Canadian junior circuit, including three players from the QMJHL. Their lone pick from overseas was their sixth-round goalie prospect Vyacheslav Buteyets, who put up a solid .918 save percentage at the Russian second level last year despite statistically struggling at the junior level on a less-than-stellar squad.
Mintyukov is a puck-moving offensive defenseman who has shown flashes of absolutely dazzling talent. His stock rose throughout the year and he could be one of the most skilled blueliners in the class. Their second selection in round one was big, powerful, speedy, center Nathan Gaucher. His tools all lead you to believe that there may be more offensive upside than he’s displayed thus far but he still has room to refine things outside of his power game.
Gatineau teammates Warren and Luneau were picked within a few spots of each other in round two by the Ducks. The right-shot blueliners bring some interesting elements to the Ducks' prospect pool. Warren is a throwback defender who leads with his body and imposes his will physically, utilizing all of his 6-foot-5 frame to crush opponents along the boards. Luneau is a bit more of a skilled puck mover from his own end. Using his puck skill and agility to beat forecheckers and make an excellent first pass out of the zone. Luneau’s offensive ceiling is still a question but he is sound on the breakout and brings plenty of tools to round out his game.
The biggest strength in the Ducks’ system is that they have a bit of everything everywhere. They have big centers in McTavish and Gaucher. They have scoring wingers such as Jacob Perrrault and Sasha Pastujov. Their defensive prospects are range from skilled puck movers to defensive stalwarts. They have two goalies that seem like they may have NHL potential in Dostal and Calle Clang.
Anaheim has done a good job filling out their prospect pool at every position. The one critique of the pool could very well be that they don’t possess a true stud beyond McTavish. In fairness, they have Zegras and Drysdale in the NHL at 21 and 20, respectively. It feels like grasping for straws to come up with a legitimate weakness here. Maybe you could argue that a game-breaking winger is a need, but that'll come.
Next Man Up: C Mason McTavish
After getting a cup of coffee at the NHL level last season, McTavish is poised to take a roster spot for the Ducks this year. He may wind up starting on the wing but there is certainly room for him to play center with a lack of high-end players at the position beyond Zegras and newly signed Ryan Strome. If the Ducks want to play McTavish down the middle, could he center the third line with Max Comtois, Jakob Silfverberg or Frank Vatrano?
McTavish has an NHL-level shot already with the ability to rip the biscuit from anywhere in the offensive zone and a power game that he could use to feast on opponents' second and third defensive pairs. The young Canadian is a very underrated playmaker who can draw defenders in and make a pass with an opponent all over him. His two-way play is admirable for a player his age as well. The steps that McTavish took as a playmaker upon his return to the OHL this year seemed to be the biggest of any he took this year.
He looked a step behind the speed of the NHL at times in his short stint last year. If he can show that it’s no longer an issue, McTavish could be one of the league's most intriguing rookies this upcoming season.
Prospect Depth Chart Notables
LW: Sasha Pastujov, Brayden Tracey
C: Mason McTavish, Nathan Gaucher
RW: Jacob Perreault, Sam Colangelo
LD: Pavel Mintyukov, Olen Zellweger, Henry Thrun
RD: Tristan Luneau, Drew Helleson, Noah Warren
G: Lukas Dostal, Calle Clang
For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition!