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Lundestrom could provide Ducks with infusion of youth

Center prospect aims to take next step to NHL after strong play in WJC

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Isac Lundestrom could play a huge role in the Anaheim Ducks' quest to get younger down the middle in upcoming seasons.

The 18-year-old center was chosen by the Ducks with the No. 23 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, marking the first time Anaheim used its top selection on a center since they took Peter Holland with the No. 15 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

There may be an opportunity for Lundestrom to make his presence felt in the NHL sooner rather than later. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have centered Anaheim's top two lines in recent seasons, but each will turn 34 during the next 10 months, and each missed significant time last season; Getzlaf was limited to 56 games because of a facial fracture, and Kesler was limited to 44 games because of hip surgery.

During most of November, Anaheim's centers were Derek Grant, Chris Wagner, Antoine Vermette and Dennis Rasmussen, none of whom reached double figures in goals during the 2016-17 season.

The Ducks still hovered around .500 until trading for center Adam Henrique, 27, on Nov. 30. Getzlaf and Kesler returned in December, eventually helping Anaheim finish second in the Pacific Division, but the Ducks were swept by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round.

Lundestrom, a 6-foot, 185-pound left-handed shot, played well against men for Lulea in the Swedish Elite League the past two seasons; he had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 42 games last season.

"He plays the right way, a solid two-way player," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said.

Lundestrom was lauded for his intelligence and dedicated play at each end of the ice. Todd Marchand, director of player development for the Ducks, said Lundestrom's experience in Sweden's top league "will put him a leg up on a lot of other guys."

Murray and Marchand took a long look at Lundestrom during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, and came away impressed after seeing him score two goals in seven games for Sweden, which won the silver medal.

As the top-line center, he helped Sweden extend its winning streak during WJC round-robin play to 43 games. He scored twice in a 3-2 quarterfinal win against Slovakia and played a key role in a 4-2 semifinal victory against the United States.

"We really liked his competitive spirit," Marchand said. "He's a guy that doesn't like to get beat. He likes to be challenged, and he's got a never-die attitude."

After the draft, Lundestrom told reporters he's prepared for the speed of the NHL. He believes he has enough top-end speed to keep up with the League's fastest players, but must work on his acceleration.

"I need to improve on my starts, to be a little more explosive," he said.

Lundestrom already shares one trait with Getzlaf; each is considered a pass-first center who typically accumulates more assists than goals. Lundestrom said he can't be satisfied setting up his teammates, however.

"I know I need to improve a little bit more on my shot," he said. "Take a little bit more shots to the net."

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