Even though the San Diego Gulls of the AHL are a relatively new team, they’ve had a very successful entry into the AHL. In 2015, the Anaheim Ducks bought their then-AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, and moved them to San Diego so that they could be closer to the big club. In their first two seasons, they finished second in their division, and made it to the second round of the playoffs, while putting up 82 wins over their first 136 games, good for a 0.603 winning percentage, while also boasting a +51 goal differential across both seasons.
Their team is nearly filled with prospects from their parent team, the Anaheim Ducks, save for four players signed to AHL deals. The team has had current NHLers grace its roster such as Shea Theodore, John Gibson, Anton Khudobin, and Brandon Montour. What’s exciting for Ducks fans is the names that are currently on the roster, developing their game for the NHL level. Players like Kalle Kossila, Jacob Larsson, Jacob Megna, Julius Nattinen, and others are playing for the Gulls, learning the system set out by the Ducks in order to succeed in the NHL in the future.
While their team has prospects on it, and while the team’s intent is to develop those prospects, the Gulls also have some experienced veterans who lace up for them on a nightly basis. The Gulls are the 10th oldest team in the AHL, and only by 0.2 years. While the team is lead in scoring by Kossila, they have six players over the age of 30, and had 16 over the age of 25 play for them this season. The AHL is a delicate balance of developing prospects by giving them playing time, and having veterans to model the game for those same prospects. It’s one of the reasons that the Gulls took Eric Fehr on loan for 34 games; they wanted a seasoned professional of over 500 games to mentor their younger players. In fact, the team has over 1600 games of NHL experience, and both of their goalies have over 25 games of experience at the IIHF World Hockey Championships. What may be their most impressive number, however, is the nearly 4000 games of AHL experience on the roster. While the team may be new to the league, it’s players certainly aren’t.
And who gets to run this team? At the top, you have Bob Murray as the President of Hockey Operations, who is also the GM of the Anaheim Ducks. Bob Ferguson works with Murray as the GM of the Gulls, to bring it the right players, and manage the rest of the staff. Head Coach Dallas Eakins has both AHL and NHL head coaching, and assistant coaching experience with the Toronto Marlies/Maple Leafs, and the Edmonton Oilers. He’s a sound hockey mind with a knack for developing young talent, which is likely part of the reason that the Ducks have such a solid young core of players.
This season has been much of a reflection of the past success by hte Gulls. They currently sit in second place in the Pacific division, though their cross state rivals, the Ontario Reign are right behind them, with 64 points, because the AHL ranks teams by their point percentage. If the playoffs started today, they would square off with the Texas Stars, who actually have two more wins than the Gulls. San Diego faces a tough test for the rest of the season, as they need 27 more points to clinch a playoff birth, based on how their division stacks up, and they currently have 14 games left to do so. That will change as the season plays itself out, and other teams begin to slide down to the bottom of the division, but the Pacific division is strong. If history shows us anything, it’s that the Gulls will finish in a respectable position, make the playoffs, and have a strong showing from their team balanced between young NHL prospects, and AHL veterans.