Anaheim's 2017 Rookie Camp is officially underway, as today marked Day 1 of the five-day camp that features 16 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders.
Among the 27 skaters are 18 drafted by the Ducks, including three first-round selections: defenseman Jacob Larsson (27th overall in 2015), left wing Max Jones (24th overall in 2016) and center Sam Steel (30th overall in 2016).
Expectations are especially high for Jones and Steel, who have garnered considerable attention since their draft year.
Jones says he took his offseason training to another level. The Rochester, Michigan native left home and returned to London, Ontario where he trained five days a week and skated three times a week. He also trained alongside pros, which further inspired him.
"Everything is different from last year," Jones said earlier today. "The chances of making the team were very slim. Going back to [OHL] London was what was probably going to happen. I was just getting a feel for it last year. I kept my eyes open and observed everything. This summer I amped it up a lot."
Jones exudes confidence and it shows on and off the ice. He's here for one reason and one reason only. "This is a business," Jones said. "People are fighting for jobs. I'm a very competitive person, so when I see something I want, I'm going to go out and get it. I was drafted for a reason. They like how I play, which is big, strong and fast. I'm trying to make the team now. Anything I'm doing, it has to be 110 percent."
Jones, who battled several injuries last season, played in just 33 regular-season games with the Knights but still managed to rack up 17 goals and 36 points. He also tacked on 12 points (7g/5a) in 14 playoff games. From there, he got his first taste of pro hockey with the San Diego Gulls, recording a goal and two points in nine American Hockey League playoff games.
He took part in Team USA's World Junior Summer Showcase in late July-early August, but a lower-body injury limited him to one game.
Steel, meanwhile, is the reigning Western Hockey League Player of the Year (Four Broncos Memorial Trophy) for his incredible 2016-17 season with the Regina Pats. He recorded 131 points (50g/81a) with a +49 rating to lead all Canadian Hockey League players in scoring (includes Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). Steel's 131 points were the most in the CHL by a player age 19-or-younger since Patrick Kane (145 points for London) and John Tavares (134 points for Oshawa) in 2006-07. Furthermore, Steel 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.
"I'm just coming in trying to play the best hockey I can," said Steel, who was recently named captain of the Pats for the 2017-18 season. "That's all I can really do. Once you're out there, it's all business. You need to work hard and do all the little things right."
It should be noted that the AHL isn't an option for Jones or Steel because of an existing NHL-CHL transfer agreement. This agreement specifies that if a player drafted from one of the three leagues that make up the CHL doesn't join his NHL club at the beginning of a season, that he must return to the major junior team he was selected from. The AHL isn't an option for CHL players until they turn 20.
Anaheim's rookie camp continues tomorrow at THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE, with an open practice scheduled for 10 a.m. PT. Following practice, the players will fly to San Jose for the 2017 Prospect Showcase featuring the host San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche from September 9-12. The Ducks will play three games during the 2017 Prospect Showcase beginning Saturday vs. Arizona (7 p.m. at Solar4America Ice at San Jose). Anaheim will face San Jose on Sunday (3 p.m. PT at SAP Center) before concluding the tournament next Tuesday vs. Colorado (12 p.m. PT at Solar4America Ice).