For a lot of us, the 2018 NHL Entry Draft seems like it was a lifetime ago. Yet, for players like 21-year-old Benoit-Olivier Groulx, their professional hockey career is just getting started. Drafted 54th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2018, Groulx made his debut with the San Diego Gulls this season, giving fans a better look at the skills the French-Canadian winger brings to the ice.
After being drafted by the Ducks, Groulx returned to the QMJHL, posting two consecutive 70+ point seasons for the Halifax Moosehead and Moncton Wildcats. His career in the QMJHL was promising, showing flashes of both offensive and defensive brilliance that could benefit Anaheim down the line.
Nevertheless, all good things come to an end, and after a stellar junior hockey career, it was time for Groulx to take the next step in his journey. While the jump from the junior league to the AHL can be daunting for some players at first, BO’s transition was almost flawless. Thriving offensively, he has also continued to elevate his incredible defensive game.
Quick Developing Defensive Game
Last season, Groulx earned himself the Guy Carbonneau Trophy, given to the best defensive forward, at the conclusion of the QMJHL season. He has always stood out as a very responsible defensive player, but the fact that it has translated so well for him as a rookie in the AHL is extremely promising as he moves forward in his career.
Since stepping into his new role with the San Diego Gulls, it didn’t take long for him to earn the trust of the coaching staff as one of their most reliable and defensively sound forwards. He has been Head Coach Kevin Dineen‘s go-to in the final shifts of the game, especially when the team has the disadvantage. He has also been an important fixture on their penalty kill.
Not a lot of players his age can say their defensive side of the game has developed as quickly as it has for Groulx. However, it was something that has always come very naturally to the young forward. Some of that may be attributed to having a great teacher in his father, Benoit Groulx. Nevertheless, his independent attitude and fierce determination to keep learning and growing.
"“All I could hear when I was younger was guys being really good offensively and it would take a lot of time for them to learn the defensive side of the game. So it was always something I wanted to learn very fast in my career. I think it’s paying dividends right now at the pro level.” –Benoit-Olivier Groulx"
Reliable Offensive Production
Offensively, things started off a little slowly for the 21-year-old, going scoreless in his first five games with the San Diego Gulls. Nevertheless, he wanted to prove that he could be successful at both ends of the ice.
Putting things together, he finally scored his first AHL goal on February 17th against Bakersfield. Since then, he has posted 21 points (10g, 11a) in 34 games with San Diego. These totals have him tied for third amongst rookies in the AHL.
Ready for the Anaheim Ducks
If he continues to play as well as he has been, he could make a great case for himself to join the Anaheim Ducks in 2021-22. There are, however, a few roadblocks in his way. The most notable being Isac Lundestrom, selected 23rd overall in the same draft year and having a decent year in Anaheim. Nevertheless, out of all the current players on the San Diego Gulls roster, Groulx is quite possibly the most NHL ready according to Defend the Nest, our favorite San Diego Gulls expert:
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"“He has been the standout player this year. It feels like he has been with the Gulls for two years not just this year. He made Antoine Morand expendable with his superhuman play on the penalty kill and his offensive upside has me as a believer. He could be on the Ducks next year if Isac Lundestrom wasn’t already in the way. Another year won’t hurt him because I can see Jacob Perreault making the Ducks next year out of necessity— but he is one of the more NHL-ready of the prospects on the Gulls right now.” –@defendthenestSD"
It is easy to focus on players like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale when considering the Anaheim Ducks’ bright future. However, a player like Benoit-Olivier Groulx is also going to be a big part of that. He has thrived at every level he has played thus far, making a name for himself in the QMJHL and now the AHL. Hopefully we can see him make his mark with the big club soon. I have no doubt he will find success at the NHL level as a reliable two-way forward.
Personally, I would love to see Groulx make the roster out of training camp next year. However, we’re a ways off from that. He has always been one of my favorite prospects since the Ducks drafted him in 2018 and moving forward, I think he will be a permanent fixture on the Anaheim Ducks roster. The team could use a player like him as they set the course for their rebuild.
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