Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2017-18, where LastWordOnHockey.com gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2017-18 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2017-18 Anaheim Ducks.
2017-18 Anaheim Ducks Season Preview
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the Anaheim Ducks have been one of the more consistent threats in pursuit of the league’s title. However, they have fallen short on many occasions, failing to reach the Cup Final once since the sole championship in franchise history.
After welcoming back Randy Carlyle – who coached the Ducks to their Stanley Cup win – behind the bench last season, Anaheim broke the 100-point plateau for the fourth consecutive year.
To take some weight off of the aging Anaheim core, the team enjoyed breakout seasons from young studs Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell – the latter managed 33 goals thriving alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Cam Fowler, who has long been revered as the Ducks number one rearguard, was able to take the next step. Fowler received Norris Trophy recognition for the first time in his career following his 39-point campaign this season past.
The Ducks made it back to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years, falling to the Nashville Predators in six games. All three times Anaheim has met Nashville in the playoffs, their season has ended at the hands of the Preds.
As far as the complexion of the team goes on opening night, Anaheim can expect practically a carbon copy of the team that last played in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals to dress on opening night, barring a few changes. The 2017-18 Anaheim Ducks can certainly expect to be competitive.
General manager Bob Murray had to cough up certain assets to the Vegas Golden Knights in order to maintain the forward corps. The general manager, in his ninth year calling the shots for the Ducks, can definitely be applauded for keeping the composition of his team intact. Years of shrewd drafting have yielded fine results as a perpetual contender in the Western Conference.
The Ducks core up front remains the same, minus shutdown centre Nate Thompson, who has since reunited with former head coach Guy Boucher in Ottawa.
Shea Theodore had an excellent showing in the postseason for Anaheim, the 22-year old defenseman made it clear that he is here to stay in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Ducks, it won’t be in Anaheim – Theodore will play for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights next season.
The team supplanted Bernier with Ryan Miller, who spent the last three years with Vancouver.
Preview Line Combinations
Rakell, Getzlaf, and Perry were a formidable trio all season long, and will be expected to produce in a similar fashion this upcoming season. Together, they assemble one of the top lines in the NHL.
The swift Andrew Cogliano returns for his seventh season with the team, as a valuable penalty killer and secondary offensive option. Alongside adept two-way centre Ryan Kesler, and the dangerous Silfverberg, this line should thrive the same way they did in the postseason.
Nick Ritchie has developed into a decent young power forward with a knack for goal scoring, finding the back of the net 14 times. Patrick Eaves scored 32 goals between the Stars and Ducks last season, and undeniably offers upside that he could reach the mark again, if healthy. Between them is veteran Antoine Vermette – who still offers few intangibles – such as recording a career high 62.3% in the face-off dot in 2016-17.
2014 seventh round selection Ondrej Kase showed flashes of a productive everyday NHL player, and figures to get a better look this year. Perpetual bottom sixers Logan Shaw and Dennis Rasmussen figure to round out the front 12 with the young Czech forward.
The Ducks ranked around the middle of the pack offensively last season with 223 goals, good for 17th in the NHL. With no drastic change up front, it’s not unrealistic to expect the team to sustain the mean, or fall even further. Teams such as Dallas and Carolina arguably improved offensively in the off-season, and both had either a goal total that was identical, or just shy of Anaheim.
While losing Theodore is what the team never wanted, they will recover with the existing depth muscles Anaheim has to flex on the back-end.
Systematic Swede defender Hampus Lindholm missed the first 13 games last season due to a contract dispute. Lindholm was above average in generating and suppressing shots while he was in the lineup. Josh Manson plays a game similar to his father, Dave. Together, the two young tough customers combine for a ruthless shutdown pairing.
Brandon Montour offers much of the same that Theodore did, except he shoots right – a highly-coveted attribute in today’s game. After tallying 99 points in 118 AHL games, Montour looks ready to produce full-time for the Ducks. Alongside Fowler, the Ducks should be able to see just exactly what they have in the young man.
Sami Vatanen had a relatively unimpressive year offensively, which could have been a result of being constantly entangled in the talks of trade rumours. After not being dealt – and with Anaheim losing a key piece on the back end in Theodore – Vatanen will be relied upon to regain the form which saw him produce 75 points in 138 games from 2014-16.
To spread out the talent on the back end, Vatanen will be paired with one of two veterans Francois Beauchemin or Kevin Bieksa, now 37 and 36 respectively. The two defenders best days are certainly behind them but still have the trust of Carlyle and the Ducks coaching staff to prove their value.
John Gibson saw a bit of a spike in his numbers in the postseason, but still played strong enough to get his team within two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh native went down in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals, leaving after one period. The future in goal for the United States international team will look to blossom into one of the league’s elite in his fifth season of service.
The 37-year-old Ryan Miller stays true to the old guys adage the Ducks currently deploy, but the 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner still is a servicable back-up. Miller projects to be crucial in the ongoing development of Gibson.
The Ducks allowed 200 goals, good for third best in the league last season. A testament to Carlyle’s coaching style, a stout armada of blueliners and the sharp play of Gibson. If anything holds up with the 2017-18 installment of the Ducks, it will be their ability to keep the puck out of the net.
Players to Watch
The hulking power forward turned in an impressive display through his first full season in the NHL. At 6’2″ and weighing in at 232 pounds, Ritchie is a force to be reckoned with as a 21-year-old entering September. Ritchie could benefit from becoming more disciplined, after receiving a suspension and a game misconduct in the season’s final two months. Playing physical comes at a price, but if the Orangeville, Ontario native can limit the unnecessary roughness, he could become a premier power forward in the league.
Fresh off spending three years with the Canucks, Miller finds himself in an unfamiliar position after playing the bulk of his teams games in each season since 2005-06. Miller could prove valuable if starter Gibson were to go down with an injury, especially in the postseason where Miller holds more experience than that of Bernier.
Players on the Rise
The centre piece in the Bobby Ryan deal has officially made his mark in the league, after a career year and a phenomenal postseason. Silfverberg scored seven goals in the first eight games of Anaheim’s playoff campaign, and finished with 14 points in 17 games. Already having 65 postseason games under his belt, Silfverberg should continue to see ascension in 2017-18.
The young right-handed defender showed promised while suiting up for the Ducks. Woth Theadore now done, the Ducks are looking to fill the hole left in defense. Montour might already be the better defenseman, and now will have one less defender to compete with for ice-time with.
Players on the Decline
The onus is on Perry to get back to the lethal goal scoring threat that every goaltender in the league feared whenever he was on the ice. Perry has not regressed to the point where he is starting to diminish completely, but dropping from 34 to 19 goals in just one season certainly raises some question marks. If Carlyle wants to get the offense more involved, it starts with the former 50-goal scorer.
Francois Beauchemin/Kevin Bieksa
Both defensemen will serve a similar purpose on the team this year, in a mentorship role to the team and also shuffling in and out of the lineup. While they are in the twilight of their respective careers, they are prone to making lapses of judgment in a game that is getting faster as the veteran rearguards get older.
Anaheim still presents one of the more complete teams in the league, and should have little to no problem getting back to the postseason for the sixth consecutive campaign.
The team simply needs to score more goals, and didn’t do much to add to a group that has declined in goal scoring since 2013-14 – where they ranked second in the league with 266 goals. The Ducks powerplay has suffered as a result, ranking 17th in the league.
Anaheim’s ability to defend well and keep pucks out of its own net bodes well for the upcoming season, especially with the high-octane Oilers who are ready to push it into the next gear.
Rakell will score below 30 goals, but linemate Perry will score more than 25. Silfverberg will lead the team in goal scoring.
The tandem of Gibson and Miller will be one of the league’s more formidable duos, and Gibson will be on the outside-looking-in as a Vezina Trophy finalist.
Final Prediction: Anaheim will win the Pacific Division, and handily dispose of its first-round opponent. The Ducks season will end at the hands of the team they took out in the second round of last years playoffs – the Edmonton Oilers, by simply getting outmatched by a faster, more skilled team.