Welcome to The Eh Sports NHL Futures Watch Series presented by self-proclaimed prospect expert Zach Cole-Fitzpatrick. The purpose of this article series is to provide our loyal readers with a general overlook of the potential future stars or busts of the National Hockey League. Our readers can expect one release per week as we move along in the 2019/2020 NHL season.
Apologies to all our Maple Leafs fans out there as they are quite a way down the alphabetical list however we encourage fans to check in on some to remain in the know around the league. Whether it be for Fantasy Hockey reasons or sheer bragging rights, knowledge is power my friends and we hope you enjoy The EH Sports NHL Future Watch Series and first on the list; everyone's favorite Disney/Ice Hockey merger, The Anaheim Ducks.
1. Troy Terry, RW, 22
We start our look at the Anaheim Ducks with a fairly NHL ready candidate for the Ducks. Troy Terry was drafted later than most in the 2015 draft, going in the Fifth Round #148 overall. Born in Denver Colorado, Terry stayed at home to finish up to his Junior Collegiate year at the University of Denver before transitioning over to the pro game. Likely the first time you heard Troy Terry's name was when he blasted three five-hole rockets in the 2017 World Junior Championship on three back-to-back shootout attempts to seal the victory for the states.
Career Thus Far
Before this season Troy Terry has seen a decent look at the NHL with 32GP putting up four goals and nine assists for a total of 13 points. However, due to a cold streak during the early portion of last season, Terry was sent back down to the minors to ensure he was getting the proper role and usage most beneficial to his development... and boy did it work.
Terry managed to light up the American Hockey League for the San Diego Gulls during last season and finished at a point-per-game pace with 41GP, 16G, 25A for 41PTS before being recalled in the winter looking like a different player. This offensive output has left Ducks fans salivating at his potential impact on the big club this season. Unfortunately for Terry, through 16 games played he has put up just four points playing alongside fellow future watch teammate Sam Steel and banger Nick Ritchie on the Ducks third line. It will be interesting to follow Terry's usage at the NHL level and see if some chemistry between him and steel can be developed this season as the ducks will need all the scoring help they can get.
Troy Terry is a highly-skilled winger and has been described as having an NHL caliber wrist shot as early as 2016. With a set of really good hands, Terry can maintain good puck control in the tight areas around the net and the offensive zone corners. Coupled with these silky mitts is great vision, especially in the offensive zone, and because of this Terry has developed quite the playmaking ability.
As with the majority of young players coming into the league, Terry's size could be an issue since he relies so heavily on his small area skills, larger NHL competition may be more difficult to maintain puck control in those areas. Early concerns surrounded his defensive side of the ice with many missed assignments, however it appears that time in the minors has made Terry a serviceable defensive end winger at this stage of his career.
In my estimation, Terry should be a staple in this season's edition of the Anaheim Ducks. An NHL ready prospect such as himself has already gone through a long portion of an NHL season, and should be ready to take a step forward this year for the big club. In my estimation, Troy Terry, along with the Anaheim Ducks fan base, should be satisfied with approximately 30-35Pts this season as I imagine his small stature may still be an issue until he finds a way to use it to his benefit.
2. Trevor Zegras, C, 18
This year's draft was far more open than in years past, and because of this Anaheim was given a gift in the form of 18-year-old, U.S National Team Development Program alumni Trevor Zegras. The only reason why Zegras isn't No.1 on this list is the fact that he has a slightly longer timeline to the NHL but I imagine, once that time comes he will be a treat for Ducks and Hockey fans alike. On some draft boards, Zegras was projected to be picked as high as 3rd or 4th overall only behind the likes of Hughes and Kakko. However, due to some unforeseen draft choices, Zegras fell as far as 9th and Anaheim, as per usual, was not going to make any mistakes at the draft table.
Career Thus Far
There isn't much to say in terms of a career for an 18-year-old but I'll do my best. Zegras most notably played for the United States development team throughout the previous two seasons where he has made a name for himself as an uber-creative playmaker with a stellar ability to create something out of what seems to be virtually nothing. In his U-17 season, Zegras showed a lot of potential maintaining a point-per-game pace with 56GP 20G 39A for 59Pts. This was only the beginning for Zegras as he doubled down the next season, proving to scouts that his playmaking ability was elite. In 60GP Zegras put up 26G 61A for 87Pts.
Interestingly enough however, he also increased his PIM number to a whopping 94almost tripling his numbers from the year prior. Could this be a discipline issue? Or potentially he is trying to do too much too often? We will have to wait and see. Zegras has committed to Boston University in the NCAA and has already produced one assist in his first game as a freshman.
Playmaker, 200-Foot-Game, Agitator. These are some of the words which have been used to describe Zegras. His unique way to be creative and dynamic in the offensive zone coupled with his natural skating ability allows him to drive play in the offensive zone; he also possesses a knack for driving the play towards high danger scoring opportunities for his team. He is extremely adept for a player of his age in the defensive zone and can position himself in a way that forces opponents into the half wall where he is extremely strong on the puck and players alike. He also isn't afraid to get in the kitchen of opposing players and on a nightly basis is a pain for the opposition to play against. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic shifts in the coming years after playing at the collegiate level.
Zegras may be a few years out, however in my estimation he may be closer to NHL ready than most are giving him credit for. Although some of his fellow young ducks may have required a season or two in the American Hockey League for Seasoning after stepping out of College or Junior. I can realistically see Zegras stepping right into the National Hockey League after 2-3 seasons at the College level and be impactful almost immediately for the 2021/2022 season.
3. Sam Steel, C, 21
The next NHL ready prospect on our list is the Canadian born Sam Steel. Despite having a hard as nails name, he is one of Anaheim's most prized future assets to boot. Steel was taken by the Ducks in the first round of the 2016 draft #30th overall out of the Regina Pats Organization of the Western Hockey League after a solid 70 points in 72 games. Rumblings of Sam being a potential draft 'steal' started after blowing up the WHL in his Draft +1 year with 50G 81A in 60GP, however those discussions have started to taper off as of 2019. Regardless, Steel is an intriguing player, to say the least.
Career Thus Far
Steel has seen a nice steady progression in his pro career thus far. As previously mentioned his most productive season after being drafted came in 2016-2017 year with the Regina Pats. Although these point totals were not matched again in his junior career, Sam Steel has been progressing nicely through Anaheim’s minor league system. So much so that Anaheim felt he was ready to play a contributive role on the Ducks to start the 2018-19 season however this didn't necessarily go as planned.
Due to an immense number of injuries on their wing positions, Steel was required to play with more depth wingers and his production suffered. GM Bob Murray, in turn, felt it was best for Steel's development to complete the year in San Diego on Anaheim's farm team where he managed to obtain for profitable ice time. Steel finished his American League Season with 20 goals, 21 assists in 53 games played. Another positive for Steel's development was the integral role he played on the Gulls lengthy run in the Calder Cup Playoffs where Steel had 6 goals and 7 assists in 16 games. Looking forward to the 2019 season, Steel in primed for a full-time role in the NHL.
Similarly to fellow prospect Troy Terry, Steel is considered an undersized forward by NHL standards however has great vision and hockey IQ. His creativity and strength in tight make it extremely difficult for defenders to reduce his offensive capabilities. Steel has a deceptively strong wrist shot which gives him an added dimension of goal scoring on top of his playmaking abilities. Steel has been a strong 5-on-5 contributor throughout his career with a knack for scoring big goals in big games.
Steel is an extremely defensively responsible centerman for his young age and has already developed into a decent penalty killer at the pro level. As with most young players, steel could use some additional lower body strength to aid him in better puck protection in the offensive zone, but I feel this will come with time.
Steel should be an Anaheim Duck staple as early as this year, and will be a welcome sight for Ducks fans. ‘Turning of the page’ is a good description of the feeling in Anaheim with their new crop of youngsters finally making the jump to the NHL and Steel headlines this wave of new NHLers. Although he may never live up to the high expectations placed after his Draft +1 year in the WHL, Steel should turn out to be a high offensive contributor fitting in well on Anaheim’s Second Line for the coming years. Time will only tell if he can live up to more than this but he will be someone to keep our eyes on for years to come.
4. Isac Lundestrom, C, 19
Our first European native on the list, Lundestrom is somewhat of a mysterious case due to his 2018 draft year. Although Lundestrom's ceiling may not be as high as other fellow Ducks prospects, his readiness to step into the professional game one year after the draft speaks volumes when compared to how long the process was for Terry and Steel. Isac Lundestrom was taken 23rd in the first round out of the Lulea HF program of the Swedish Elite League. His ability at the age of 17 to perform consistently amongst men was something that NHL scouts took notice of early in 2018.
Career Thus Far
Similarly to other young prospects coming out of the SHL, Lundestrom has been groomed through the Lulea HF Junior program since 2013, and has been a part of Lulea HF at the professional level since the 2015 season. Since this time he has participated in 108 games and has accumulated 11 goals and 19 assists for a total of 30 points. Although these numbers may be laughable to those posted by Steel in the WHL it is crucial to keep in mind the level of competition Lundestrom has faced since he was 16 years of age.
He initially saw his first piece of NHL action in October of 2018. Although this move was mostly forced by early-season injuries which plagued the Anaheim squad, Lundestrom impressed in Rookie camp and preseason leaving a lasting impact on management. In that season he was penciled into 15 games and managed to accumulate two assists playing a crucial depth role for the Ducks. After some injury problems cleared up, Lundestrom was sent back to the American Hockey League to continue developing in their minor league system. He was essential to assist the Gulls in their deep Calder Cup run.
Currently, Lundestrom has played a handful of games for both the Ducks and Gulls, therefore, it is unclear whether he should be expected to have a full-time NHL job this season.
Most of Isac Lundestrom's skills are described as those which you cannot teach. His patience with the puck is extremely mature for his age, and he rarely forces a play that isn't there. Although some may argue this decreases his potential offensive output, Lundestrom is a reliable defender in his end and a great asset for a middle-six forward role. This, however, does not mean Lundestrom is a one dimensional forward. Due to his high puck skills, Lundestrom can play alongside the top-six forwards and not look out of place one bit. These combined attributes make Lundestrom a coach's dream providing whatever is most needed to the lineup any given night.
Similar to last season, Lundestrom may be forced to step into roles with the big club as injuries arise throughout the season but ideally 2019-2020 should be another season of development in San Diego for Lundestrom. Anaheim’s team has had a drastic shift in personnel over the past season and Lundestrom may benefit from more structure and a greater veteran presence to rely on. A full season at the AHL level is likely for the Swedish forward to help boost some offensive output and confidence before stepping into the NHL next season. It is generally accepted that Lundestrom should provide Anaheim with a strong 2nd-3rd line center within the next few years
5. Maxime Comtois, LW, 20
Mad Max Comtois is the last player on our list of the Anaheim Ducks future watch. Max excited Ducks fans after an explosive start to his NHL career scoring his first goal less than a minute into his first NHL game against the Sharks in 2018. After a social media whirlwind post world juniors last year, Comtois responded with an amazing end to his Junior hockey career and is poised to make a full-time spot on the Anaheim ducks a reality during the 2019-2020 season. Be on the lookout for Comtois this season as he should be a pivotal winger on the Ducks depth chart.
Career Thus Far
Maxime (sorry just can't let that first name slide) is a product of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Victoriaville is where he has spent the majority of his junior career however was traded to serious Memorial Cup contender Drummondville before the 2018-2019 season. In 25 GP that season, Comtois was almost at a two points per game pace posting 31 goals and 17 assists for 48 points.
Looking deeper into this season for Comtois, it began in Anaheim after impressing in camp. It’s hard to say why a demotion was determined after recording seven points in 10 games however I do have a theory. It was likely determined by General Manager Bob Murray that Anaheim was bound to have a slight regression from their perpetual years of success, and that playing back in the Quebec League would be of much benefit to Comtois’ development.
On top of this, it would allow him to participate in the World Junior Championship that same season. Despite some off ice issues after the tournament, Comtois lit it up to finish his time in junior and like many other Ducks prospects, he assisted the Gulls in the Calder cup playoffs.
Comtois is a big body power forward who excels along the walls of both ends of the ice. Due to his exceptional work in these areas of the ice, transitioning to the high professional level should be much easier than more finesse style players. Early career metrics see Comtois as a solid offensive driving force for his fellow linemates and this is likely a result of his excellent wall work. Grinding play out in the gritty areas to gain possession allows those sharing the ice to find open space where he can find them for offensive opportunities. For those involved in Fantasy hockey, Comtois began the season with 12 hits in three games displaying his willingness to be hard on defenders and does not shy away from finishing on his opportunities to be physical.
Comtois will be a full-time NHLer as soon as this season. He began by playing one game with the Gulls however was called up almost immediately. Despite being scratched earlier in the season, Comtois has had a decent start to his season playing in 11 games and has found the back of the net twice to go along with three helpers. Many projections see Comtois as a potential Top six winger after a few years in the league, and he’s an integral piece for the Ducks if they hope to have quick turnaround back into contention for a Stanley Cup. His ability to play alongside top liners could see Comtois receiving some opportunities in that role as well as some powerplay. He is a young powerful winger most teams would love to have on their depth charts.
Anaheim has a brighter future than most hockey fans realize. They have been in desperate need of high-quality forward prospects recently and it appears they have addressed this issue in recent drafts. With a crop such as those listed (as well as those who missed the cut), Ducks fans should be excited for both the present and future as many appear to be close to NHL ready. We hope you enjoyed the first rendition of our Futures Watch series and you can be on the lookout for our next stop taking a deep dive on everyone's favorite desert dogs the Arizona Coyotes.