Ducks conclude Rookie Faceoff Tournament with winning record

Derek Lee-The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Derek Lee recaps the Ducks' performance at the Rookie Faceoff Tournament.

HENDERSON, Nev.– The Ducks left Vegas with a 2-1-0 record following their victory over the Kings in their third and final game of the Rookie Faceoff Tournament.

They were captained by defenseman Jackson LaCombe, who made his NHL debut at the end of last season, appearing in two games. LaCombe was one of the standout performers for Anaheim during the tourney, along with alternate captain Nikita Nesterenko—who captained the team on Monday with LaCombe out of the lineup—and Leo Carlsson, whom Anaheim drafted second overall in July.

The first line of Nesterenko, Carlsson and Coulson Pitre complemented each other well, with Carlsson the main driver of play. Pitre, in particular, was a staple on the Ducks’ penalty kill and scored a shorthanded breakaway in their first game against the Golden Knights. He had another shorthanded breakaway as well later in the game but shot wide.

For Carlsson, it was the first time that he’d played on NHL-sized ice since World Juniors. But, the Swede says that he is not concerned at all with acclimating with the smaller-sized dimensions. He showed as much with his one goal of the tournament when he collected the puck on his off-wing and outwaited Kings goaltender Erik Portillo long enough to slip a delicate shot through the five hole.

The blue line was rotated heavily throughout the tournament with nine defensemen on the roster. The game against Vegas featured some of the more well-known names in Olen Zellweger, Pavel Mintyukov, Tristan Luneau and Tyson Hinds while the latter games featured some of the new draft picks from this July’s draft.

This tournament was also the first time that Noah Warren played games in a Ducks jersey in a year. The defenseman has been hampered by injuries since being drafted by the Ducks in 2022 and was unable to take part in development camp both this past summer and last summer.

He was paired with Mintyukov in both games that the two played in (they were healthy scratches for Sunday’s game against Colorado) and showed off the elements of his game that made him a second-round pick.

In net, the Ducks rotated three options between Calle Clang, Gage Alexander and camp invitee Tomáš Suchánek, with all three goaltenders getting one start apiece.

Clang stopped 23 saves in a 4-2 win against Vegas, making some key saves when the Ducks were shorthanded. Alexander struggled a bit against the Avalanche, stopping 17 shots in a 5-3 loss. Suchánek had the best performance out of the three, stopping 29 shots in a 4-2 win over the Kings. He had several big stops, especially during a penalty kill in which the Ducks were down two men.

With Sasha Pastujov and Connor Hvidston held out due to precautionary reasons, camp invite Davis “T-bone” Codd and AHL signing Kyle Crnkovic were able to play in all three games. The pair combined on a nice passing play to set up Tristan Luneau’s second goal of the game against Vegas. Codd took a puck to the face in their game against Los Angeles but returned to game action after having repairs done in the locker room.

For these prospects, they’ll now be heading to training camp in Irvine this week. It will be the first time that new signings Alex Killorn and Radko Gudas will don Ducks jerseys on the ice. With restricted free agents Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale still currently unsigned, an appearance at training camp would be unexpected at this time.