Welcome to this year’s edition of Puck Drop Preview where Last Word On Hockey gives you a detailed preview of all 31 NHL teams. It all culminates at the end where we’ll offer you our predictions of standings of each division, followed up by the conference finals and finally the Stanley Cup champs. Today’s preview is on the Anaheim Ducks.
2018-19 Anaheim Ducks Preview
2017-18: A Broken Season
Last year, the Anaheim Ducks had a rough year. They started the year without a full roster, as many players were recovering from injuries after the 2017 playoffs the previous season. Captain Ryan Getzlaf had to have surgery on his cheekbone early in the season, 30-goal scorer Patrick Eaves missed most of the season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barres syndrome and shut-down centre Ryan Kesler missed half the season with a hip injury.
Even with all the injuries, the Ducks still managed to have a good season. An early season trade with the New Jersey Devils for centre Adam Henrique filled a void that the Ducks had down the middle. They failed to win the Pacific division for the first time since 2011-12 but did manage to finish in second place spot in the division. They finished with a 44-25-13 record. Unfortunately, that was where the buck stopped for the Ducks. They were swept out of the playoffs in four games by the San Jose Sharks.
The off-season marked the retirement of Francois Beauchemin, a player who had three different stints with the Ducks. They also see the departure of veteran defensemen Kevin Bieksa. This opened up a spot in the Ducks roster for a defenseman. Luke Schenn signed a one-year deal with Anaheim. Schenn is a stay at home defensemen, that plays a very physical game, always in with the leaders of the NHL in hits per-season.
Along with Schenn, the Ducks signed right winger Brian Gibbons, winger Anton Rodin, centre Carter Rowney, centre Ben Street as well as defenseman Andrej Sustr. The Ducks are clearly gearing up down the middle in anticipation of losing Kesler for the season. With the new members of the Ducks, they also resigned a few RFA’s. Defenseman Brandon Montour, who had a breakout season was the biggest name. He spent much of the season alongside Beauchemin or Cam Fowler. Ondrej Kase also signed, he also had a very good season. He broke the 20 goal plateau, spending stints on the top line with Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. But he found a home on the third line with Henrique and Nick Ritchie.
The Projected lineup for the Ducks opening night can obviously go many different ways, they have a lot of new faces on the roster to choose from.
The top line will more than likely consist of:
This is at least 2/3’s accurate. Patrick Eaves has stated that he is ready to play and will be on the ice this season. Although they do have options for the right side. Ondrej Kase has made appearances on the top line. Corey Perry was a long-time member of the line. Although his production has slowed down in the last few years, He is still a viable option. Ryan Getzlaf is the Ducks best all-around player. It makes sense that he would be centring the top line, which has been his home since 2011. Rickard Rakell is the Ducks best goal scorer for two years running. He found a spot on the top line with Getzlaf and they should not split them up.
The second line could be interesting if Kesler takes the season off to heal. it could be as such:
The “shutdown” line of Cogliano, Kesler, and Silfverberg is ideally the line up the Ducks would like to see. Henrique can be a suitable filler for Kesler in the event that he isn’t ready to play opening night. If Henrique isn’t on the third line playing where does that leave the team?
Joseph Blandisi came to the Ducks in the same trade as Henrique. He had a short stint with the Ducks before being assigned to the AHL with the San Diego Gulls. He has solid numbers in San Diego and could come up in a bottom six role to earn some ice time in the NHL. That leaves three more spots to fill and this could be any combination of players, let’s take a look at who it could be.
This seems like the most likely lineup. All three have veteran experience in the NHL. Rowney is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Of course, these lines could be right or they could be wrong but this seems the most likely. Corey Perry playing on a fourth line seems like a waste of talent, but the chemistry of the other three lines is there and Perry would intrude on that.
The Defensive pairings seem pretty straightforward, even with the departure of some veteran leadership.
These two have been paired together for the better part of three seasons and have done absolutely outstanding together. They are the number one pairing for coach Randy Carlyle, no doubt about it.
Cam Fowler is the veteran leader of the Ducks defensive corps, and he is still just 26. Montour and Fowler seem to do well together. But Montour is interchangeable throughout all three pairings. The third pairing is the only wild card in the group. With the new faces on the roster, and the deep defensive group that the Ducks have it could be any number of pairings. On the right side of the ice Luke Schenn, Andrej Sustr, Korbinian Holzer and Andy Welinski will compete for the spot. On the left side, Marcus Pettersson and Jacob Larsson also look to make the roster.
Last season, Pettersson found a spot on the Ducks roster down the stretch and into the short-lived post season. Andy Welinski made an appearance as well, normally paired with Pettersson. Korbinian Holzer has been with the Ducks franchise for the last three seasons. He has made limited appearances with the Ducks but has been playing with San Diego. One of the right-handed defenders could be used on the right side, but its unlikely. The Ducks would more than likely want to give the younger players a shot to prove themselves.
Players to Watch
The Ducks have the talent to make this season count. They will have to juggle the players around and see who meshes. These players are the ones to keep an eye on.
Rickard Rakell has been nearly unstoppable for the past few seasons. He passed the 20-goal mark once and 30-goal mark twice. If he keeps going the way he has been he could challenge to hit the 40-goal range this year.
Ondrej Kase has potential. He unleashed a small amount of that potential last year. Coming in third in scoring goals for the Ducks behind Henrique and Rakell. He has shown spurts of pure talent. Kase can give Eaves a run for his spot on the top line.
Patrick Eaves spent most of the season sidelined with health issues. He comes back this season. After the 30-goal campaign he put up two seasons ago, he will want to do it again. If his health isn’t an issue he will definitely be a player to keep an eye on this year.
Getting a whole NHL season correct when attempting to predict it before even one game has started is nearly impossible. So many moving parts come into play. Did anyone expect the Vegas Golden Knights to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final? The Alex Ovechkin no cup jokes have been around almost as long as he’s been in the league and now he has his cup.
The Ducks are a playoff contender. They have the young talent that’s being guided by the veteran leadership. That up ice presence backed with John Gibson‘s outstanding play and Ryan Miller as his backup can go deep into the playoffs. The problem is getting over the hump. In recent years they have made two trips to the Western Conference Final and haven’t made it into the show.
The Ducks will make it into the postseason. They have the potential to make it into the final, but it will be an uphill battle, as much with themselves than almost any other team in the league.
ANAHEIM, CA – FEBRUARY 21: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm (47) skates back towards the bench with his line after Lindholm scored a goal in the first period of a game against the Dallas Stars played on February 21, 2018, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)