ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Ducks were recently ranked No. 1 by The Athletic’s NHL Pipeline Rankings. Today, I’m taking a look at eight of the Ducks’ forward prospects.
Leo Carlsson, 18
6-foot-3 | 194 pounds | Shoots left
To the surprise of many draft analysts and fans alike, the Ducks opted for the big, Swedish center Carlsson over Adam Fantilli, who in his own right, also has size. Fantilli took home the Hobey Baker this past season as a freshman, deemed the best collegiate player in the nation.
Carlsson is no slouch though, as someone who won Swedish Junior Player of the Year and put up impressive numbers in the SHL as a teenager. His 25 points in 44 games were the fifth-highest for a draft-eligible player in SHL history behind Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Elias Lindholm and Nicklas Backstrom.
Carlsson was also part of the Sweden team that competed at the IIHF World Championships this summer—alongside Jakob Silfverberg—and became the youngest player ever to score a goal for Sweden (18 years, 138 days).
With Isac Lundeström suffering an Achilles injury that will have him out until at least January, the pathway to an opening night spot in the lineup appears plausible for Carlsson. A lot of that may come down to whether new head coach Greg Cronin wants Ryan Strome back at center again, but the ability to roll out a trio of Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Carlsson down the middle could come much sooner than later.
Sasha Pastujov, 20
6-foot-1 | 187 pounds | Shoots left
A minor calf injury he sustained this offseason while training kept Pastujov out of development camp but the 20-year-old had another impressive OHL season prior to that. After a bit of a slow start to the season with Guelph (19 points in 14 games), he ramped up his numbers (79 points in 46 games) after being traded to a Sarnia team with plenty of firepower.
He was snubbed of a roster spot on the United States World Juniors team, but that didn’t stop him from showing up big in the OHL Playoffs later in the season with 19 points (six goals) in six games.
The expectation is that he will be one of the many new faces at Matt McIlvane’s disposal down in San Diego. There have been concerns about Pastujov’s skating dating back to when he was first drafted, but he has a knack for putting the puck in the net regardless of the fact. The Gulls could really use a scorer like him in their lineup.
Nathan Gaucher, 19
6-foot-3 | 207 pounds | Shoots right
What a year for Gaucher. Not only was he part of the gold-winning Team Canada cohort at World Juniors, he also won the QMJHL Playoffs and the Memorial Cup with the Quebec Remparts.
Gaucher may not be the flashiest player but the roles he played for both teams didn’t require him to be. Taking on the toughest matchups and making sure the opposition’s best players didn’t get on the scoresheet is a responsibility that Gaucher revels in and he did it with aplomb.
Lundeström’s injury leaves the door open for Gaucher to potentially get his feet wet in the NHL as the fourth line center job could come down to a battle between him and Benoit-Olivier Groulx. Sam Carrick could also fill that role as well.
If Gaucher ends up in San Diego, it isn’t the end of the world. He’ll be able to play top-6 minutes alongside a cohort of skilled playmakers and his physical style of play should bode well in the AHL.
Nikita Nesterenko, 21
6-foot-2 | 185 pounds | Shoots left
Nesterenko joined the Ducks organization in March after being acquired in the deal that sent John Klingberg to Minnesota. After his junior season with Boston College concluded a couple of weeks later, he signed his entry-level contract and reported to Anaheim, where he got nine NHL games under his belt.
Though he’s commonly listed as a center on many online sources, he is a winger through and through. Nesterenko had just one point—his first NHL goal—in those nine games, but he showed that he has a nose for the puck when forechecking.
The Ducks aren’t particularly strong on the wing aside from Troy Terry and free agent signing Alex Killorn, which means Nesterenko could make the Opening Night roster if he has a good training camp. He does need to put on a bit more weight to fill out his frame, but what he showcased in his brief stint should improve with more ice time.
Jacob Perreault, 21
6 feet | 196 pounds | Shoots right
The last few years have done a number on Perreault’s development, and not in a good way. He didn’t set the world on fire after making the jump from Sarnia in the OHL to the AHL during the 2020-21 season with the CHL shut down due to the pandemic.
The 2021-22 season was more of the same, generating points at a 0.64 point per game rate. Perreault did make his NHL debut though, getting called up for one game in January 2022 when the Ducks had a handful of players out due to COVID-19 protocol.
However, this past season was by far his worst. He mustered just 19 points in 48 games and was even a healthy scratch on a number of occasions. An argument can be made that perhaps the jump to the AHL, though no fault of his own, was too early for Perreault, who could have used another year in the OHL.
Having three different head coaches in three seasons doesn’t help either and some of that can be attributed to why Perreault’s development has stagnated as well.
Perreault is still just 21 and will have an influential mentor in new Gulls head coach Matt McIlvane. The hope will be that McIlvane can help unlock the young winger and get him back on the right path, which is playing regularly and putting up points while doing so.
Brayden Tracey, 22
6-foot-1 | 186 pounds | Shoots left
Another player whose development has suffered a bit in San Diego the last few years is Brayden Tracey. He too transitioned from the CHL to the AHL during the 2020-21 COVID season but played just 12 games for the Gulls before being reassigned to Victoria in the WHL. He did not register a single point with the Gulls prior to being reassigned.
While Tracey put up a near-point-per-game pace once he returned to Victoria, that success didn’t translate when he became a full-time Gull the following season. He too made his NHL debut just like Perreault, playing in one game but registering less than three minutes of ice time for the entire game.
Tracey’s point-per-game rate has actually been worse than Perreault’s in two seasons with San Diego, but he has shown glimpses throughout the past two seasons. It’s just been a matter of producing consistently for the 22-year-old.
Like Perreault, the hope for Tracey will be that McIlvane can get him back on track as Tracey is edging dangerously close to the point of his career where he simply is what he is, and so far, he hasn’t shown much.
Artyom Galimov, 23
5-foot-11 | 176 pounds | Shoots left
Galimov became Anaheim’s first Russian draft pick in just over a decade when former general manager Bob Murray selected him in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.
Leading up to his draft selection, Galimov won a bronze medal at the World Juniors with Russia in 2019, putting up three points in seven games. He also had a promising draft-eligible season with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL but couldn’t build off of it and has pretty much plateaued in terms of production ever since.
Galimov is a very skilled player and has shown as much in spurts, but the role he plays for Ak Bars is usually in the bottom-6 as a checking forward. He missed the first few games of the preseason (presumably due to an injury), but he has been back in the lineup recently, lining up at all three forward positions.
It’s certainly a long shot that Galimov will ever depart Russia for the NHL at any point, especially now given the political landscape.
Jack Perbix, 22
6-foot-1 | 200 pounds | Shoots right
It’s been a busy last few seasons for Perbix, who has entered the transfer portal twice in the last three seasons.
After playing three seasons at the University of Minnesota alongside fellow Ducks prospects Jackson LaCombe and Blake McLaughlin, he transferred to Western Michigan prior to last season before transferring to Northern Michigan ahead of this upcoming season.
Perbix was drafted in the fourth round in 2018, fresh off his final year of high school. He put up 61 points in 25 games at Elk River High in Minnesota and then scored 28 points in 17 games for Team Northwest in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League (UMHSEHL).
A full season in the USHL with Green Bay and Des Moines followed, where his point-per-game average hovered around 0.78. Whether it was simply being on a Minnesota team that was too deep talent-wise or not being able to acclimate to the collegiate style of play, Perbix struggled during his time with the Golden Gophers. A leg injury cost him the final month of his freshman season as well, which slowed his development.
Because Perbix was in school during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was granted an extra year of eligibility. This upcoming season will be his final year playing collegiate hockey and the last season that the Ducks will hold his rights.
Though he’s increased his point production in every season since leaving Minnesota, it’s been by minimal increments. It’s highly unlikely at this time that Anaheim plans to sign him and the most likely scenario is that Perbix’s rights will be released next summer.