With the 39th overall selection, the Anaheim Ducks drafted defenseman Jackson LaCombe. He is going to be a project, but in the end, it could be worthwhile.
The Anaheim Ducks made two very important selections in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Trevor Zegras and Brayden Tracey. However, going into day two, the focus really needed to be on defenseman. The Ducks prospect cupboard is stocked full of incredibly talented forwards, and while they have a few great defensive prospects, this is an area they are still lacking in.
With five picks left going into day two, many thought the Ducks might take another highly touted forward like Raphael Lavoie and spend their last 4 picks on defensemen. However, the Edmonton Oilers selected him just one pick ahead of Anaheim, giving them only a few minutes to rethink and draft accordingly. At 39th overall, they selected 18-year-old Minnesota native, Jackson LaCombe.
Going into the draft, there were not two analysts who ranked LaCombe in an even remotely similar position for the draft. He was certainly not a bad draft pick by any means, but he was the kind of player that people couldn’t really get a grasp on. Going forward, he is certainly going to be a long term project that the Anaheim Ducks need to invest a lot of time in energy in if they have any hopes of him reaching his full potential with the club someday.
What Makes LaCombe Such a Work in Progress?
The young defenseman actually started off his hockey career as a forward. He switched to the blueline after his team faced a critical amount of injuries with their defensive core. After making the switch, LaCombe really found his niche and began pursuing his hockey dreams as a defenseman. His previous experience as a forward has really opened up the opportunity to put his offensive skills to good use on the blueline.
However, there are a lot of questions concerning his compete level. Playing for Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep School in the USHS-Prep circuit allowed him to be a stand out as one of the best defensemen in his league. Nevertheless, the players he has been pitted against are not an authentic representation of the players he will face at the NCAA, AHL, or NHL levels. So, the question remains, will his development flatline at the next level or will he continue to blossom into what will hopefully be a second pairing defenseman?
Another area of concern for LaCombe is his aversion to playing a physical game. He needs to be a little more aggressive, especially when battling for the puck along the boards. While he has grown over the past few seasons, he also needs to work on putting more bulk and muscle on his frame, while also working on his core strength. This will certainly help him if he hopes to find success at the NHL level.
We all know how much Bob Murray loves his physical defenseman, so there must be something really unique Murray and co. see in LaCombe if he’s willing to draft him so high. The next few years are going to be critical for him, and the Anaheim Ducks need to ensure they are keeping an eye on his progress and make sure he is being challenged in a way that is conducive to his development.
Is it Worth Taking a Risk on a Player Like Jackson LaCombe?
Drafting a player like Jackson LaCombe wouldn’t necessarily be classified as a risk. He has everything he needs to succeed at whatever level he will play at if he is placed in the proper environment to promote his development.
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He can be an offensive genius at times and isn’t afraid to both set up his teammates and get in front of the net to send the puck home. He is great on his skates, which makes him effective at making good zone entries and gives him the proper confidence to make an impact in all three zones. He has an incredible wrist shot, one that is both quick and accurate, which allows him to be efficient when joining the rush.
While, at this point, he seems more like an offensively minded defenseman, his defensive game is still strong. Again, his skating ability allows him to really thrive in his area. He uses his skills to be a terror to his opponents and force them out of areas that would be primal for scoring opportunities.
Something that John Gibson really needs is defenseman that are willing to both get between their man and the net and stay between their man and the net, and LaCombe has no issues doing that and making sure he stays tight. His great, and rather quick, stick handling skills also aid him in stealing the puck away from the opposing team, which has been extremely helpful when his team needs the upper hand.
LaCombe’s confidence at the USHS-Prep level is admirable. However, he has shown some hesitancy at higher levels. Committing to the University of Minnesota, in the NCAA, will force him to work on his confidence as he begins the transition to a higher level of hockey.
This will also force him out of his comfort zone and help him to improve upon his creativity with the puck. He has a great vision that will translate well at a higher level, but if he is able to get a grasp on both his confidence, his physical game, and his creativity, there’s no reason he shouldn’t reach his full potential.
If his development does flatline as he takes the next step, the Ducks don’t really lose much. However, the possibility that his development stalls completely is rather slim. He may become the defenseman everyone is predicting he will be, but it’s not that far of a stretch to say that he could be an impact player at the NHL level.
What are your thoughts on Jackson LaCombe? Do you think he is a good pick for the Anaheim Ducks or are you a little underwhelmed by their second-round pick? Let us know by leaving a comment down below!