Ducks draft pick Henry Thrun opting for free agency

Harvard defenseman Henry Thrun, a Ducks fourth-round draft pick in 2019, won’t be signing with the organization, general manager Pat Verbeek confirmed to the Register on Wednesday.

The Ducks were recently notified of Thrun’s decision, which was always a possibility because of a collegiate loophole. Teams drafting a player out of college retain the rights to the prospect for four years, and if a contract is not reached, then the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Most notably, that’s roughly what happened with the Ducks and defenseman Justin Schultz, a snub not forgotten by Ducks fans. Schultz signed with the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2012.

This is different in that the Ducks were convinced at several junctures that Schultz would be signing with them. Also, the Ducks retain the rights to Thrun, 21, until Aug. 15. By knowing of Thrun’s decision this early, Verbeek potentially could use that asset in a trade.

A good recent example of that is when Carolina traded Adam Fox’s rights to the New York Rangers when it became clear that was the only NHL team Fox wanted to play for. Not many defensemen are at Fox’s level, but Thrun may have some value as a trade chip.

The blow was softened somewhat, however, when another prospect – University of Minnesota defenseman Jackson LaCombe – notified the Ducks that he will be signing with them once his collegiate season ends.

“He’s having a great season,” Verbeek said of the 22-year-old LaCombe.

Thrun and LaCombe are left-shot defensemen and took part in the Ducks’ development camp this past summer. LaCombe, of Eden Prairie, Minn., is a Hobey Baker nominee and has 27 points in 30 games with the Gophers this season. He was selected by the Ducks in the second round (No. 39) of the 2019 draft. Thrun, who is Harvard’s captain, has 24 points in 24 games and was taken 101st overall in the same draft.

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The good news is the Ducks’ defensive prospect pipeline is brimming with potential, and includes Olen Zellweger, a second-round pick (No. 34) in 2021, Pavel Mintyukov, a first-round pick (No. 10) in 2022, and Drew Helleson, acquired in the Josh Manson deal with Colorado and playing with the San Diego Gulls in the AHL.

The Ducks also have 2020 first-round pick Jamie Drysdale, who made his Ducks debut March 18, 2021, but has missed most of the season with an injured shoulder.

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