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Damian Clara in the Anaheim Ducks jersey. © Social Media

Damian Clara: Will you make it to the NHL this year?

On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Damian Clara had been signed to a three-year contract. What are the chances that the 19-year-old will play in the best league in the world next season? An analysis.

Last year, Damian Clara was the first ice hockey player from South Tyrol to be drafted in the NHL draft. The Anaheim Ducks secured the rights to the South Tyrolean with the 60th pick. After an outstanding season with Swedish second division club Brynäs IF, the Californians rewarded the 19-year-old with a so-called entry-level contract (ELC), which has a three-year term. However, this contract only starts when he begins playing in the Ducks organization.

The big question is: Will this be the case next season? Everything currently indicates that Clara will stay in Sweden and form the goalkeeper duo with Max Lagace at top team Färjestad BK. Both Swedish and North American media report this. There are two main reasons for this.

No rush

On the one hand, the Ducks and the AHL farm team San Diego Gulls (where former Red Bull Salzburg head coach Matt McIlvane is in charge) have seven goalkeepers under contract. The best known are 30-year-old John Gibson and 23-year-old Lukas Dostal, who became world champion with the Czech Republic a few weeks ago. Given this depth, Clara's move to San Diego or Anaheim is unlikely - even if a Gibson trade has been a recurring topic of late.

Damian Clara has signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks. © Social Media

What also speaks against a commitment to North America is the path that NHL teams usually take with young goalies. Dostal, for example, was drafted at number 2018 in 85. The Czech then played two and a half seasons in the top Finnish league before being sent to San Diego. He didn't make his debut for the Ducks until 2022, almost four years after the draft. It is to be expected that Clara will also be carefully built up and will only make the leap across the pond in one or two years. First, the South Tyrolean wants and has to prove himself in the best league in Europe, the SHL.

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