Crucial Development for Organizations Young Talent

Aug 31, 2018

Aug. 31, 2018

By Andy Zilch – Gulls Play-by-Play Announcer

The season that lies ahead will be key to the Ducks success over the next decade. This development could have a strong impact in San Diego depending on how the roster shakes out following Anaheim’s Training Camp. Regardless of where the players begin the season, five youngsters have the potential to feature this season and beyond for the Anaheim Ducks. 

Max Jones begins the list after spending the last three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Last season, the 20-year-old began the year with the London Knights., scoring  18 goals in 25 games, but was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs on Jan. 7. He concluded his tenure with London skating in 121 regular season games and posting 109 points (63-46=109). In addition, the most memorable junior hockey feat was reached as a member of the Knights’ 2016 Memorial Cup-winning team. That was the best statistical season for the Rochester, Mich. native when he complied 52 points (28-24-52) and 106 penalty minutes (PIM) in 63 regular season games. However, injuries have plagued Jones and so much to the extent where he only dressed in six regular season games with the Frontenacs. Jones did appear in nine OHL playoff games  last season, recording four points (3-1=4) and 28 PIM. Anaheim’s first round pick (24th overall) in 2016, represented Team USA in the 2018 World Junior Championships that claimed the Bronze Medal. Jones has been able to use his size, a powerful 6-3 frame, and plays an aggressive style which Gulls fans saw a glimpse of when he played nine Calder Cup Playoff games in 2017 where he scored his first professional goal and earned two points (1-1=2). 

Jack Kopacka, 20, is another name fans are will remember following his three-game stint with the Gulls during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Kopacka was originally drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft, and possesses a 6-3 presence on the wing. After three full seasons in the OHL, all with Sault Ste. Marie, he makes the jump to playing professional hockey this season. Kopacka registered personal highs in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes last season, collecting 63 points (31-32=63) and 28 PIM in 66 games. The Lapeer, Mich. native helped the team reach the OHL finals by keeping his torrid offensive pace and amassing 21 points (13-8=21) in 24 games. In his three seasons in junior hockey, Kopacka totaled 156 points (81-75=156) in 202 regular-season games. 

The attention turns from the OHL to the Western Hockey League (WHL) with prospects Josh Mahura and Sam Steel. Mahura enters his first professional season after three full seasons in the WHL split between Red Deer and Regina. Halfway through the 2016-17 season, the defenseman was dealt to the Regina Pats to join Steel, a close friend, and help carry the team to the WHL Final in 2017 and Memorial Cup Final in 2018. During the 2017 postseason run, Mahura tallied an impressive 21 points (8-13=21) in 23 games. He continued that dominance last season as the 20-year-old finished third in the league among defensemen in goals (22) and seventh in points (69). The point-producing blueliner can certainly provide a boost in the offensive zone but is also a responsible player in all three zones. This was proven with a plus-36 rating last season finishing ninth among defensemen in the WHL. A native of St. Albert, Alberta, Mahura was originally drafted by the Ducks in the third round (85th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft. 

Steel played the last four seasons with the Regina Pats amassing 338 points (123-215=338) and a plus-78 rating in 258 regular season games. His career in the postseason was just as impressive, collecting 57 points (18-39=57) and a plus-18 rating in 44 games. Steel was originally drafted by the Ducks just six selections (30th overall) after Jones in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft and hopes to make an immediate impact with quite the amateur resume. In 2016-17, the Sherwood Park, Alberta native named the WHL’s Player of the Year and won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer after earning 131 points (50G/81A) with a +49 rating in 66 games in 2016-17. Not only did he lead the WHL in scoring, but Steel led all Canadian Hockey League players with his 131 points, the most in the CHL by a player age 19-or-younger since Patrick Kane (145, London) and John Tavares (134, Oshawa) in 2006-07. He also recorded the highest points per game average (1.98) of any WHL player age 19-or-under since Jarome Iginla (2.16) of Kamloops in 1995-96. Steel continued to impress last year by winning the Gold Medal at the World Junior Championship and finished tied for fifth overall with nine points (4-5=9) in seven games. In addition, he earned the CHL Memorial Cup MVP by collecting the most points (13) during the junior hockey league’s championship tournament. He tallied five assists (all primary) on May 23 vs. Swift Current to tie a Memorial Cup record for assists in a single game, held by Jonathan Drouin (Halifax Moosehead – May 26, 2013) and Dan Hodgson (Prince Albert – May 14, 1985).

Steel has also shown great leadership qualities in junior hockey and was apart of the Pats leadership group for his final three years, including team serving as captain last season. 

The group is rounded out with players entering the professional level from college in forwards Kiefer Sherwood and Troy Terry. Sherwood, 23, completed three seasons at Miami University (Ohio) totaling 86 points (34-52=86) in 106 games. The Columbus, Ohio native finished tied for first on the team in goals in his first two seasons with 11 and 14, respectively. In his final two seasons, Sherwood finished second on the team in points with 38 and 30, respectively. Sherwood received a great honor with the RedHawks being named as the 2016-17 NCHC Scholar Athlete and was also named to the Academic All-Conference Team. The 23-year-old will look to build on his professional career after tallying two goals in 11 games with the Gulls last season after he signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Ducks on Mar. 20 and completed the season on a professional tryout (PTO) with San Deigo. The highlight of his time with the Gulls was his professional debut where he scored the overtime-winning goal on Mar. 24 at Cleveland. Gulls fans will remember his powerful bursts of speed down and energetic presence on the right wing, coupled with a knack to shoot the puck and be a trigger man on the power play. 

Terry may be the most notable household name amongst Ducks prospects having represented Team USA in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea followed by his NHL debut with Anaheim last season. That, all in addition to leading the U.S. to a World Junior Championship WJC) in 2017. The 20-year old completed three collegiate seasons and averaged a point-per-game at the University of Denver, earning 115 points (45-70=115) and a plus-56 rating in 115 games with the Pioneers . He has built up an excellent repertoire heading into his first full professional season, with his accomplishments beginning at the international level where he has already earned two gold medals, the first coming in 2014-15 at the U-18 World Junior Championship. The second was the 2017 WJC where the Denver, Colo. native had a year to remember. During the tournament, Terry was a crucial factor in the team’ success. In the semi-finals against Team Russia, the forward scored three consecutive goals in the shootout (all five-hold), including the game winner, to advance Team USA to the finals. This win gave the Americans the first-ever win against Team Russia in the medal round of the WJC. Later that year, Terry helped the Pioneers win the NCHC championship, leading  Denver to the Frozen Four Championship and an NCAA championship. Because of his elevation of play in the postseason, the forward was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. He translated that triumph into the following season to guide the Pioneers to the NCHC championship game again, while being named to the NCAA (West) First All-American Team and the NCHC Second All-Star Team. Directly following that colligate season, Terry inked a three-year entry level contract and skated in two NHL games. He dressed in two road games making his debut on Mar. 27 in Vancouver, going scoreless in 12:30 of time on ice but showing flashes of his speed and stickhandling. 

With all six players, offensive numbers can easily do the talking. What is not notable on paper is the intense off-ice work these young men have done to create such sparkling numbers on the ice. However, that workload just increased as the young group enters the rigors of professional hockey and playing against men every day. Jones, Kopacka, Mahura, Steel, Sherwood and Terry are all up to the challenge and ready to continue success at the highest possible level of hockey, starting with Anaheim’s Rookie Camp on Sept. 6, the Rookie Faceoff in Las Vegas Sept. 8-11, and then Anaheim’s main Training Camp the following week. All will have a chance to earn one of the few roster spots available in Anaheim and push one another to start in the NHL. 

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