IRVINE, Calif. — Troy Terry and Sam Steel were among several of the Anaheim Ducks’ top prospects called up ahead of schedule last season because of injuries and inconsistent play.
But based on their performance during the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff, the growing pains felt as the Ducks missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011-12 might result in immediate returns when training camp opens on Friday.
The Ducks used seven young players who played in 10 or more NHL games last season in their 5-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday to finish the tournament, and it was two of the most experienced forwards in Terry and Steel who led the way. Terry scored two goals on his 22nd birthday and Steel, 21, scored the winning goal, giving them momentum in their push to earn a roster spot.
“I think they are ready to roll,” said Kevin Dineen, coach of San Diego of the American Hockey League who coached the Ducks during the tournament. “I think [they] even have a little leg up when you’re playing the rookie tournament because you’re used to a lot of summer skates, a lot of drills, but I don’t think you can in any way replicate going out there and playing in a real game. Every game was really competitive, and I think that’s a great way to walk into camp.”
Terry had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 32 games with Anaheim last season, and the confidence generated was evident against the Golden Knights, especially when he fought through a hooking penalty to score on a breakaway.
“His hands are special, but he’s got a big heart to go with it as well,” Dineen said.
Terry, selected in the fifth round (No. 148) of the 2015 NHL Draft, said his offseason workouts and play during the tournament were elevated knowing he can perform at the highest level.
“When I came in, I had people telling me, like, ‘you could play in the NHL’ or ‘you can be a good player in the NHL.’ Going into camp last year I thought that maybe I could be, but I didn’t really know what to expect,” Terry said. “I was unfamiliar with the systems. I didn’t know the guys that well. It took me a while to feel it out, and now I’m coming into camp with a lot of confidence. It’s not like I could be a good NHL player. I feel like I definitely know I can be, and I’m excited for the opportunity with this club.”
The same for Steel, who was selected with the No. 30 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft and had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 22 NHL games last season. He followed up a missed wraparound to score his second goal of the tournament.
Steel said his first NHL action was helpful in identifying parts of his game that needed to improve, and he spent the offseason developing his strength to be able to create separation.
“I think in junior after a while it gets harder to pick those points out because you are playing against younger players and stuff as you get older,” Steel said. “Once you hit the pro level you really see what you need to work on, and I think I did a pretty good job working on those things.”
With a roster that also featured forwards Max Comtois, 20, who played in 10 games for the Ducks last season; Isac Lundestrom, 19, (15 games); and Max Jones, 21, (30 games); and defensemen Jacob Larsson, 22, (49 games) and Josh Mahura, 21, (17 games), Anaheim finished with a 2-0-1 record. The loss came in overtime, 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks, who had the best record at 3-0-0.
Dineen said the performance reflected the quality of young players in the organization, and he expects them to make their presence known during training camp.
“Well, I think the future is bright,” Dineen said. “The scouting here, they’re putting good players in the system, and that depth is exciting. I think some of these guys showed very well this week.”