Thursday, August 17, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days - Anaheim Ducks

Last summer review article. It's the Anaheim Ducks.

1. Max Jones - London Knights
Kind of a tough year for Jones. He started the year out so well, then suffered an arm injury and a lower body injury that kept him out for a few months (causing him to miss the World Juniors too). Then upon returning, he was suspended 10 games for a vicious cross check. In total he only got into 33 regular season games. The production was decent though. Tough to say he really progressed a ton as a player though. Looked a bit quicker IMO; a little more explosive to the net. And we did see an uptick in goal scoring production (per game), but I think that had more to do with a larger role (although still without key powerplay time). Jones still needs to work on dialing in his aggression and physical game. It's 100% an asset when utilized properly, but he has lapses of poor judgment. And he's got a target on his back now, with refs having a short leash or little tolerance for him. Still want to see how much more his offensive game can grow too, in particular his shot and his ability to create plays for linemates from the cycle. He likely returns to London next year (I don't think he makes Anaheim) and should finally get powerplay time, which should really increase his production. A full year, I see him being a 40 goal/80 point player. On the right track to becoming a physical force in the same vein as Nick Ritchie (although I think Ritchie's has better vision and more natural playmaking ability).

2. Jack Kopacka - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Very good year for Kopacka as he established himself as strong two-way goal scorer. He's up to 6'3, 200lbs now and even with the jump in size, he actually looked quicker. Really explodes down the wing and is aggressive at driving the net, looking for loose pucks. Operates exceptionally well off the rush. Really stepped up as a quality two-way player this year too, using that speed to chase down loose pucks and work hard on the back check. Was a big part of the Soo's excellent penalty kill. Next step for him, IMO, is to use his size more effectively in the offensive end without the puck. Working the cycle, and slowing the game down a bit. Want to see his playmaking ability and vision continue to develop too. Ultra aggressive at driving wide with speed, but having the vision to find trailers or find streaking teammates would make him that much more dangerous. Would elevate him from being more of a secondary scoring option, to being a primary one. He hit the 30 goal mark last year and jumping to 40 next year, on a strong SSM team, is certainly not far fetched. At this rate, I think it's actually reasonable to ask the question, who scores more goals next year, Jones or Kopacka?

3. Julius Nattinen - Windsor Spitfires
Disappointing season for Nattinen who saw himself fall well below the point per game mark, with his production nearly cut in half. It was not as if he didn't play with talent either, consistently seeing time with guys like Jeremiah Addison, Gabe Vilardi, and Jeremy Bracco. Now, I will say that I don't think he was as bad as the numbers would indicate. He's still a solid two-way center who controls the wall well and is effective near the crease. Excellent face-off man too. But, his lack of elite skating ability still hinders him from being a consistent threat off the rush. I think, in a way, it will limit his effectiveness as a two-way player at the next level too. Certainly not too late for this to be improved, but I don't think I saw much improvement over his two years in the OHL. He'll move on to the AHL level next year, where I would expect very modest offensive production as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game. Maybe an 8/15 kind of year on a 3rd/4th line. Likely a few years away from developing into an NHL player IMO.

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