Summer has arrived and that means that it's time for my annual '30 Teams in 30 Days' segment. I review the progress of each NHL team's OHL Prospects and provide some level of prognostication as well.
I started at the bottom last year with Winnipeg, but I'm going back to the top this year (don't worry Winnipeg fans, I'll alternate each year).
Here's Anaheim's review.
1. Max Jones - London Knights
Any time you can capture a Memorial Cup, it's pretty tough to consider the year a failure, or a disappointment. Anaheim's 1st rounder in 2016 definitely had a solid first year in the OHL, but there were a few hiccups. The long suspension in the playoffs probably hurt his draft stock a bit, as it prevented him from having much of an impact. Discipline is definitely the thing that Jones needs to improve upon most. He needs to find a way to walk the line of playing physical and abrasive, but not reckless. This year he had 28 goals, which was pretty impressive considering that he had only one goal in his first 8 games. Also impressive because Jones saw secondary powerplay time and scored only 4 with the man advantage all year. He also played on the 3rd line quite often. Next year someone is going to have to jump up to replace Christian Dvorak (at the very least, maybe Marner and Tkachuk too) on the top powerplay unit and first line. If Marner shifts to the middle, one of Jones or new import pick Janne Kuokkanen look like potential replacements (if either can play the right side). If Jack Roslovic is brought in, Jones could find himself back on the second PP. Either way, I'd expect production to increase to the point per game mark, at the very least. A 35/30 season is a reasonable expectation. At the end of the day, Jones needs to prove that he has the hockey sense to be a goal scorer at the next level. The shot is there, but I do wonder if the head is.
2. Julius Nattinen - Windsor Spitfires (formerly Barrie Colts)
Nattinen had a solid first season in the OHL after coming over in the Import Draft. He helped to anchor a spot in Barrie's top 6 and was quite often a member of Barrie's top powerplay unit. He shows a solid hockey sense at both ends of the ice and I was routinely impressed by his ability to work the boards and set up teammates. That said, I think there are areas of improvement for Nattinen. His skating and explosiveness needs to improve to make him more of a factor when entering the zone, a necessity for any center in today's NHL game built on speed. Consistency also needs to be better. His disappearing act in the playoffs was one of the reasons that Barrie was bounced earlier than expected this year. This offseason he's been dealt to Windsor where he will be counted on to play a similar role for the Spitfires as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup. Windsor's center depth is already excellent, so it's possible he may shift to the wing, and if not, he's going to need to be more consistent to earn top 6 ice time. He should still see first line powerplay time too. I'd expect him to be around the 80 point mark this year.
3. Jack Kopacka - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Anaheim's 4th rounder in 2016, Kopacka is an interesting player. I say that because I don't think he's nearly the sum of his parts quite yet. What type of player Kopacka becomes is a bit of a mystery at this point because he played a variety of roles in the Soo this year and played the role of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde at times. Any way that you describe Kopacka's game, the word "sometimes" needs to be attached. Sometimes a physical asset on the forecheck. Sometimes a workhorse at both ends. Sometimes a talented offensive player who looks dynamic off the rush. Next year in SSM, Kopacka will look to take on a larger offensive role. But it won't be easy. This is a very good young team with a lot of depth. He's going to have to work hard to be a part of the top 6 and to receive consistent powerplay time. I think a realistic expectation would be a 25/30 season, especially given how the Greyhounds coaching staff likes to spread the wealth when it comes to ice time. In the future, Kopacka could easily turn into a Mike Amadio type of player (who was drafted with the same type of description).