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Ducks capture NHL Prospect Showcase tournament title

 

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The recent 2017 NHL Prospect Showcase tournament provided a competitive edge to rookie camps being conducted by the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.

The four-team event, hosted by the Sharks Sept. 9-12, featured round-robin games between the teams, with each team playing the other once for a total of three games.

The Ducks rookies won the tournament with a 3-0 record, followed by the Sharks at 2-1, the Coyotes at 1-2 and the Avs at 0-3.

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Colorado hosted a similar three-team event last year, going undefeated against teams representing Anaheim and San Jose.

Games in this year’s expanded tournament took place at both the SAP Center and Solar4America Ice, the Sharks’ training facility.

The four-team get-together was designed to help rookie players prepare for main NHL training camps.

The Ducks, who entered the event with a highly touted lineup, outscored their opponents 16-5 and received production throughout the lineup.

Thirteen players scored goals in the showcase tournament for Anaheim. Forwards Sam Steel, Deven Sideroff and Jack Kopacka each scored two goals while forwards Maxime Comtois, Alex Dostie, Giovanni Fiore, Mitch Hults, Max Jones and Tyler Soy and defensemen Josh Mahura, Brady Lyle, Marcus Pettersson and Andy Welinski each chipped in with one goal.

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Steel, a first-round pick in the 2016 draft by the Ducks (30th overall), led the group in overall scoring with two goals and three assists in the three games.

The Ducks’ 27-man roster at the prospect showcase tournament featured 18 draft picks, including three first-round picks: Jacob Larsson (24th overall in 2015), Jones (24th overall in 2016) and Steel.

All three have signed three-year entry-level contracts with the NHL team and are now in the Ducks’s 62-man main training camp. At camp, young prospects have the opportunity to show coaches what they have done over the summer to improve their game.

With Anaheim being a Stanley Cup contender, roster spots are likely to be few, and it’s up to the rookies to earn them.

This is the second training camp for Steel and Jones, who are fighting to remain with the Ducks rather than returning to their respective junior teams. The two teenage prospects both appear up for the challenge.

Steel, 19, led the Canadian Hockey League in scoring last season with 131 points (50 goals, 81 assists) in 66 regular-season games while playing for Regina in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Jones, 19, has collected 45 goals and 88 points in 96 regular season games the last two seasons for London in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

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Both played in the Ducks’ 5-1 preseason game loss to the Arizona Coyotes Sept. 20 at the Honda Center. Jones impressed with a power-play goal while Steel posted a 71 percent success rate on seven faceoffs.

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said both players are on a “learning curve” right now that someday will likely land them in the NHL. If it’s this season, both players will need to find their game at the next level.

Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Rochester, Mich., where hockey is very much king among sports, has already gotten a taste of pro hockey after joining the Ducks’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in San Diego for its two rounds of games in the 2017 Calder Cup playoffs. He appeared in nine games with one goal and one assist. His speed contributed to the Gulls’ run to the Pacific Division Finals.

“Going to San Diego was an eye opener,” Jones admitted. “It was my first pro experience. I was just trying to keep my eyes open, ears open, mouth closed. And kind of be aware of my surroundings.

“Obviously the game is a little different, more fast. But it came to me pretty easily, pretty quickly. I started playing and producing as much as I could.

“Body wise, I’m a big guy, I’m strong and powerful. I felt I stood my ground. I put some guys down. I was playing big, strong and powerful.”

Young guns

Four of the five players the Ducks selected in this year’s NHL Draft participated in the San Jose prospect showcase tournament: Comtois (second round, 50th overall), center Antoine Morand (second round, 60th overall), right wing Kyle Olson (fourth round, 122nd overall) and goaltender Olle Ericksson-Ek (fifth round, 153rd overall).

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Comtois and Morand, a pair of high-scoring 18-year-olds from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), were linemates on the Grenadiers Chateauguay Bantam team as 12-year-olds.

Comtois racked up 48 goals and 111 points in 126 regular-season games the last two seasons with the Victoriaville Tigres.

Morand collected 42 goals and 124 points in 115 regular-season games the last two years with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Olson, 18, has appeared in 91 regular-season games with the WHL Tri-City Americans the past two seasons, collecting 23 goals and 67 points.

Ericksson-Ek, 18, ranked as the No. 2 European goaltender in this year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting, is the younger brother of Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson-Ek, a first-round pick by the Wild in the 2015 NHL Draft (20th overall) who won a gold medal with Sweden at this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championship tournament.

Olle Eriksson-Ek (6-3, 183 pounds) recorded a 2.16 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 30 regular-season games with Färjestad BK J20 in the SuperElit league last season.

Game on

The Anaheim youngsters faced off the San Jose event with a 7-1 win over the Sharks, topped the Coyotes by a score of 4-1 and remained undefeated with a 5-3 victory against Colorado.

The Ducks displayed some definite spunk by erasing three one-goal deficits in the win over the Avs youngsters.

Anaheim received goals from five players in the win over Colorado: Mahura, Lyle, Welinski, Sideroff and Comtois. Eriksson-Ek posted the win between the pipes.

The Ducks won in dramatic fashion as Sideroff, a third-round pick from the 2015 draft (84th overall), redirected a shot into the Avs net with one second left on a power play with just 17.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Anaheim then added an empty-net goal by Comtois to close out the whirlwind victory – and an undefeated showing at the tournament.

Sideroff, 20, is no stranger to collecting goals after amassing 75 goals and 187 points in 208 regular season games with the WHL Kamloops Blazers.

Kopacka, 19, a fourth-round pick from the 2016 draft (93rd overall) who racked up 35 goals 60 points in 76 games with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL last season, turned in a three-point performance (two goals, one assist) in the win over Arizona while Steel notched two goals and an assist in the win over San Jose.

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The Ducks used three goaltenders in the prospect showcase tournament, with each one picking up a victory. Kevin Boyle and Angus Redmond each allowed one goal in wins over the Coyotes and Sharks, respectively.

Boyle, 25, split time between the Ducks’ affiliates in the AHL (San Diego) and ECHL (Utah Grizzlies) last season. He appeared in 19 games with the Gulls, logging 1,111 minutes while posting a 10-5-1 record with a 2.27 GAA, .924 save percentage and one shutout. He also saw action in 16 games with the Grizzlies, recording a 9-6-0 record with a 2.73 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Redmond, 21, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks in March, led Michigan Tech to this year’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) championship. In his one year with the Huskies, he posted a 22-10-5 record, 1.85 GAA, four shutouts and .917 save percentage in 38 games.

Carlyle attended the prospect showcase tournament in San Jose. He dished out praise to young defensemen Mahura, Pettersson, Welinski and Larsson for their on-ice performances.

“They were probably at the forefront of the defense in the three games that I watched,” Carlyle said on the Ducks website. “All four figure to get extended looks throughout training camp and the preseason.”

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Welinski, 24, a third-round pick in the 2011 draft (83rd overall), has the most experience of the quartet after playing in 68 regular season games and 18 Calder Cup playoff games with the Gulls over the past two seasons.

Welinksi collected six goals and 29 points in 63 regular season AHL games last season while earning regular shifts in the Gulls lineup after wrapping up a four-year career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Larsson, 20, appeared in four regular season games each with the Ducks and Gulls in 2016-17 while also playing in 29 games with Frolunda in his native Sweden. He was scoreless in his NHL debut but picked up two assists with the Gulls.

Mahura, 19, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft (85th overall), has played the last four years in the WHL, posting 17 goals and 53 points from the blue line his last two seasons with Reed Deer and Regina.

Pettersson, 21, a second-round pick in the 2014 draft (38th overall), has played his entire career in Sweden. He garnered notice with +17 in the plus-minus ledger two seasons ago in 46 regular season games with Skelleftea AIK.

Birds of a feather

Fourteen players on the Ducks’ 27-man rookie camp roster have spent time with the AHL Gulls.

Welinski and Boyle, along with forwards Kevin Roy and Kalle Kossila and defensemen Keaton Thompson and Brian Cooper, all recorded extended playing time in the AHL last season. Dostie, Hults, Jones, Kopacka, Sideroff, Soy and Larsson all received looks, along with forward Austin Ortega.

Roy, 24, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft (97th overall), appeared in 67 regular-season games with 16 goals and 46 points. He also logged two goals and five points in 10 playoff games.

Kossila, 24, appeared in 65 regular-season games with 14 goals and 48 points, adding two goals and six points in 10 playoff games. He received a one-game call-up to the NHL last season.

Thompson, 22, a third-round pick by the Ducks in the 2013 draft (87th overall), appeared in 52 regular-season games with four goals and 16 points. He tacked on a goal and three points in 10 playoff games.

Cooper, 23, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft (127th overall), played in 37 regular-season games with four goals and 10 points to his credit. He picked up a pair of assists in the playoffs.

Ortega, 23, a San Diego County native from Escondido, appeared in six regular season games and two playoff games last season with the Gulls after tying the NCAA record with 23 career game-winning goals in 147 games during his four years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

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Ortega made the most of his opportunity by collecting four goals and five assists in the eight games. He made his NHL debut in the Ducks’ Sept. 20 preseason game — it was an event not lost on the young man, who called it “pretty special to finally put on a Ducks jersey.”

It was also a special night for a smattering of young prospects, including Fiore, a free-agent invitee who last played for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL. Fiore, who scored the lone goal in the Ducks prospect development camp scrimmage July 2 at Anaheim Ice, was paired on a line with Steel and Ducks regular Corey Perry.

Training camp cuts are expected the last week in September.

Photos/Eric J. Fowler

— Phillip Brents