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Comtois finds comfort zone with Ducks

Forward prospect hoping for chance to fulfill potential in Anaheim

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Maxime Comtois arrived at Anaheim Ducks development camp feeling more comfortable in his surroundings.

The 19-year-old forward was better skilled at navigating the busy roads and freeways near Disneyland, and he recognized several players from the camp last year. Most of all, he didn't feel like the underachiever who fell to the second round (No. 50) of the 2017 NHL Draft, but rather a former top-five prospect who was coming off one of the best seasons in junior hockey.

"A little bit less stress," Comtois said last month at Anaheim Ice.

After helping Canada win the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and finishing tied for fourth in goals (44) and fifth in points (85) in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Comtois returned to Anaheim brimming with confidence.

His recent success convinced the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Longueuil, Quebec native that an opening-night roster spot with the Ducks was a realistic goal.

"I want to show that I'm NHL ready," Comtois said. "Just let them know I can help this team."

There should be openings at left wing. Andrew Cogliano is still producing for Anaheim at age 31, but Nick Ritchie has finished short of expectations the past two seasons.

Video: Maxime Comtois recaps Development Camp

The Ducks selected Ritchie in the first round (No. 10) in the 2014 NHL Draft, one of two top 10 picks Anaheim has made since 2006. But Ritchie had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 76 games last season, similar to 2016-17 when he had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists).

Anaheim also has left wings Jason Chimera, Brian Gibbons and Joseph Blandisi, but none has the skill of a top-six forward. The Ducks also cleared room on the depth chart by trading left wing Nic Kerdiles to the Winnipeg Jets for center Chase De Leo on June 30.

A drop in production with Victoriaville during the 2016-17 season (51 points, down from 60 the previous season) factored in Comtois falling out of the first round at the 2017 draft. The Ducks took him with their first pick at No. 50.

Comtois said he was determined to make the rest of the NHL regret passing on him. At the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, he had six points (three goals, three assists) and was plus-6 in seven games. Todd Marchant, director of player development for the Ducks, said the tournament served as a "coming-out party" for Comtois.

"From the day he got drafted until the point he is now, he's just been taking huge steps forward," Marchant said. "He's a big, strong kid. He's got a nice soft touch around the net."

Comtois plays a physical, grinding style, a characteristic Anaheim implemented for several seasons under coach Randy Carlyle.

"A player in his situation, we just keep looking for him to take steps in the right direction," Marchant said. "He's definitely on the right track and he continues to impress our staff."

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