The Anaheim Ducks held an open practice this past Thursday during their week-long development camp. This was fans’ first chance to see newly drafted prospects like Mason McTavish, Olen Zellweger and Sasha Pastujov. This was also fans’ first chance to see Jamie Drysdale live in the flesh after most of his rookie season was played without them in attendance.
Ducks general manager Bob Murray was in attendance–albeit for a brief moment–and former Duck Francois Beauchemin was on the ice, directing the young defensemen. Head coach Dallas Eakins was at the forefront of everything, of course, and he and the rest of the team thanked the fans for coming out after the open practice. Here are five takeaways from the Ducks’ development camp open practice.
It may seem obvious to some. Being a standout at development camp isn’t exactly the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining whether or not a player is ready for the NHL. But we’ve also already seen Zegras play multiple games in the NHL – 24 games, to be exact. Not only has he shown he has the ability to think two or three steps ahead of the opposition, but he also has a natural talent and ability to be able to put those thoughts into action.
There are definitely still some aspects that he needs to work on. He is just 20 years old, after all. Putting on more weight will do wonders for him as he continues to adjust to the physicality of the league and the confidence and fearlessness he plays with is a breath of fresh air compared to the anemic style of play that Ducks normally employ.
McTavish Will be in the NHL Soon
McTavish is listed at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, though in person, you could surmise that it’s a generous 6-foot-2. One thing is for sure, though; the kid is built. He has a great base and uses it well to protect the puck. This was extremely evident during 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills. McTavish isn’t afraid to get into the dirty areas either and used his strength to his advantage against his teammates, who were slighter than him.
He spent last season overseas in the Swiss second-tier league with EHC Olten and–much like Auston Matthews–will have the experience of playing in a professional league before being drafted. McTavish was the Ducks’ first-round pick in this year’s draft (third overall) but he’s unlikely to make the team right out of training camp. But he already has an idea of what the environment of playing against grown men is like and he’ll be able to take that with him moving forward.
He’s not just a big figure either, he has the playmaking ability to be an elite two-way forward and isn’t a slouch in the faceoff dot either, winning 59.5 percent of draws during the 2019-20 OHL season and 61 percent of his 92 draws for Team Canada at the IIHF under-18 world championships. He’ll need to continue working on keeping defenders on their toes as he can be a bit over-reliant on his forehand still. But the skills are there, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s in the NHL.
Bryce Kindopp Can Shoot It
Kindopp joined the Ducks organization last season after four seasons with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. He had 20 points in 39 games with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League (AHL) this past season and four points in 14 games with the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL. The winger also appeared in three playoff games for the Gulls but did not register a point.
The Ducks are fairly weak on the right side, with Troy Terry, Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg projected to be in the top-nine, but there’s not much behind them in the organization in terms of depth. Alexander Volkov did well in his short stint last season after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s a possibility to fill the fourth-line role. Vinni Lettieri and Sam Carrick also played a handful of games for the Ducks last season, though the latter is better suited for a role in the middle of the ice than on the wing.
Kindopp has an impressive shot, and it was on full display during the Ducks’ rookie camp open practice. The 22-year-old went a perfect 7-for-7 during the impromptu shootout drill and his quick release allowed him to place shots in spots that even NHL goaltenders would have difficulty stopping. He’s not quite ready for a role in the NHL just yet, but at the rate he’s developing, Kindopp will have a chance to break through.
Bo Groulx Will Get a Shot
This was Groulx’s third development camp, and it was pretty obvious that he’s been here before and knows what to do. The center had little issue adjusting to the rigors of the AHL in the 2020-21 season–his first in the AHL, playing in 42 games and putting up 29 points with a plus-14 rating. A defense-first player, Groulx was relied on heavily to defend leads late in the game for the Gulls. He was also named the top defensive forward in the QMJHL for the 2019-20 season.
Groulx said that former Gulls head coach Kevin Dineen put him in a lot of different offensive situations to give him confidence and that it gave him the confidence he needed (from ‘Ducks prospects Benoit-Olivier Groulx on embracing his possible NHL role: ‘I’m a power forward with talent’’, The Athletic, 08/10/21).
Groulx cites Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Schenn as players he compares himself to and he hopes to fill the same role in the NHL that they do, forwards who can have an impact at both ends of the ice. “I think that’s going to be my role at the next level, I’m really embracing it,” Groulx said.
While the Ducks could use some more high-octane offense given how poor their scoring numbers have been over the past few seasons, Groulx can add an element of two-way play that the Ducks really haven’t seen since Ryan Kesler’s career succumbed to a degenerative hip. Now, I’m not saying that Groulx is the next coming of Kesler, but he could play a similar role in the future as negator of the opposing top line while Zegras and McTavish wreak havoc on the rest of the team.
Young Defense after Drysdale Isn’t Ready Quite Yet
Drysdale looked head and shoulders above any of the defensemen at development camp, which makes sense. This is a kid that played 24 games in the NHL this season and 14 games in the AHL. There were points while he was in the AHL–there were instances with Zegras as well–where it seemed almost too easy for him. The transition to the NHL speed and physicality did take its toll on Drysdale initially, but he held his own for the most part. He will need to put on more weight, but that will come as he continues to mature.
The Ducks had just four other defensemen on the roster for development camp besides Drysdale, with one of them, Louka Henault, being a camp invitee. The three others were Axel Andersson, who was acquired in the Ondrej Kase-David Backes deal, Tyson Hinds and Zellweger. The latter two were both drafted this summer.
Both Zellweger and Hinds have slight frames and while they are keen to support offensively, they still have a long way to go physically. Andersson began last season in the Swedish league with Sodertaije before being assigned to the Gulls in April. He had 11 points in 51 games with Sodertaije and 5 points in 17 games with the Gulls.
Jacob Larsson and Josh Mahura have graduated from the rank of “prospect” and Brendan Guhle has been far too injured and inconsistent since he arrived in Anaheim even to consider what his future looks like. Simon Benoit did well in his short six-game stint at the end of last season, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll find himself with the Gulls or the Ducks, with Hampus Lindholm expected to be fully healthy now.
It’s really a shame that Jackson Lacombe and Henry Thrun, who were both at Development Camp in 2019, could not make the trip. Both are intriguing left-handed options that could have a chance to be in the NHL in the next few years.
The Ducks will have another open practice for their rookie camp at Great Park Ice in Irvine in a couple of weeks on Thursday, September 16, so there will be another opportunity for fans to check out the future of the Ducks. The roster has not yet been announced, but it could potentially be similar to the one the Ducks published for the Rookie Faceoff Tournament, which will be taking place at the end of the month in Arizona.
Derek has been a hockey fan for almost a decade and has been a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
He graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. He spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff (both as a reporter and editor) and is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.