Anaheim missed out on the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. Despite that, the Ducks have cultivated a strong pipeline of prospects that will make an impact at the NHL level at some point.
The 2023-24 season will feature some of these promising talents. Anaheim did add some veteran options in NHL free agency, signing Alex Killorn and Radko Gudas. However, roster spots still remain for hopeful prospects.
Which prospects in the Ducks system have the most immediate chances to make the NHL roster? Who could shake things up with a strong performance in training camp? Let's take a look at three prospects Ducks fans should watch this fall.
3) Nathan Gaucher
Gaucher is a recent first-round pick, having heard his name called just last summer. The 19-year-old only played 44 regular season games for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2022-23. However, he scored 22 goals and 46 points while adding 16 points in 18 QMJHL playoff games.
Gaucher signed his entry-level contract this summer. He will make the jump to professional hockey. The 19-year-old likely begins in the AHL, but there could be an immediate NHL opportunity on the horizon.
Ducks center Isac Lundestrom tore his Achilles while training in his native Sweden. This creates an opportunity for someone to step up and claim a roster spot on the team's bottom six. Gaucher certainly faces an uphill battle, but an NHL job may not be entirely out of reach.
2) Pavel Mintyukov
Mintyukov played in junior last season, splitting the season with the Saginaw Spirit and Ottawa 67s. He turned in quite the performance for both teams. Altogether, the 19-year-old Russian scored 24 goals and 88 points in the regular season. He added nine assists in 11 playoff games for the 67s.
Mintyukov was highly touted coming into the 2022 NHL Draft, and he proved worthy of a top-10 pick. He seems ready to make the fast track to the Ducks roster, though the 19-year-old faces some competition for ice time.
Veteran Cam Fowler is entrenched as the team's top left-shot defenseman. Behind him, the Ducks are currently projected to play Jackson Lacombe and Robert Hagg. Lacombe, 22, is also fighting for a roster spot.
A scenario exists where both Mintyukov and Lacombe crack the roster while Hagg serves as depth. The point is, Mintyukov will be in contention for some serious ice time in the NHL this season.
1) Leo Carlsson
It may have come as a surprise to some that Leo Carlsson went second overall in the 2023 NHL Draft and not Adam Fantilli. However, that doesn't mean it was a bad selection. In fact, Carlsson has the potential to be an elite top-line center in the league.
Carlsson could play in North America as soon as this season. He did sign his three-year entry-level contract back in mid-July. However, his contract includes a European Assignment Clause, according to CapFriendly. Meaning that the 18-year-old Swede could return home to play there instead of the AHL if he fails to make the Ducks roster.
Like Gaucher, Carlsson is in contention for ice time in the wake of Lundestrom's injury. If he makes the roster, Carlsson likely plays a third-line role to maximize his potential ice time. If he can put in a good performance in training camp, then a spot in the NHL could come sooner rather than later for the 18-year-old.