Quick Note: This post was written before the Ducks signed Mike Santorelli. Santorelli adds even more depth to the Ducks and likely forces Max Friberg to the AHL.
Welcome everyone to part 1 of what will be a lengthy series, “Season Primers.” I’m going to be taking a look at every team around the league and their projected rosters, strengths and weaknesses, some players to keep an eye on, etc. I’ll probably be going in alphabetical order, with the exception of a few teams who might still be making moves. We’ll be starting with Anaheim, I hope you all enjoy.
The Anaheim Ducks had a very good season, as anticipated, winning their third Pacific Division title in a row and finishing on top of the Western Conference. In the playoffs, Anaheim waltzed through Winnipeg and Calgary only to run into the brick wall that is the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks jumped ahead in the series 3-2, but Chicago battled back and came away with the win in 7 games. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews later said their series against Anaheim was the toughest of the playoffs, even tougher than the finals against Tampa Bay.
Following their disappointing playoff exit, there was some speculation that head coach Bruce Boudreau would be let go and the team would move forward in a different direction, but that change never occurred. This may be Bruce’s last chance as the Ducks come into this season with yet another very strong roster.
Key Additions: C Shawn Horcoff, LW Carl Hagelin, RW Chris Stewart, RD Kevin Bieksa, G Anton Khudobin
Key Subtractions: LW Matt Beleskey, LW Tomas Fleischmann, RW Kyle Palmieri, RW Emerson Etem, LD Francois Beauchemin, RD James Wisniewski
The Ducks lost Matt Beleskey and Francois Beauchemin to free agency, two players who played significant roles on their team. Matt Beleskey will be replaced in the top 6 by Carl Hagelin, who I would consider an upgrade:
Kyle Palmieri was traded to the Devils for 2 draft picks, and the Ducks replaced him with Chris Stewart. It’s tough to compare these two players as they were in very different situations for most of the season. Stewart was on an awful Sabres team while Palmieri spent much of the season in the top 6 with the Ducks. Palmieri will be expected to take on a more significant offensive role in New Jersey, but I’m not sure if he’s a player that will be able to carry the offense. In Chris Stewart, the Ducks get a physical top 9 complimentary forward that can hopefully fit in well and produce some offense for them.
The final major change was replacing the departing Francois Beauchemin with Kevin Bieksa. These two are quite similar players, the only difference being that Bieksa will give the Ducks more depth on the right side of their defence.
All in all, this was a standard offseason for the Ducks, with no major, team-altering changes being made, which was likely the best choice to make.
Projected Lines (All Players Healthy):
Patrick Maroon – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Carl Hagelin – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Jiri Sekac – Rickard Rakell – Chris Stewart
Andrew Cogliano – Nate Thompson – Shawn Horcoff
Max Friberg – Tim Jackman
Hampus Lindholm – Kevin Bieksa
Cam Fowler – Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Roster Contenders: C Chris Mueller, C Michael Sgarbossa, LW Nick Ritchie, LW Harry Zolnierczyk, RW Chris Wagner, RW Brian McGrattan, LD Shea Theodore, LD Shane O’Brien, LD Joe Piskula, RD Josh Manson, RD Brandon Montour, G John Gibson
Let’s get something out of the way first. Ryan Kesler is overrated, and when his 6 year/$41.25m contract extension kicks in next season, he will also be overpaid.
How does everyone like the HERO Charts by the way? I think they’re one of the greatest hockey tools ever made, a quick and easy way to determine what you’re going to get out of a player.
Back to the Ducks, behind Kesler in the centre depth chart is Rickard Rakell, who I think could have a breakout season. Nate Thompson and Shawn Horcoff are both veteran centers who can handle a 4th line role.
The Ducks have decent depth on the wings, with no glaring weaknesses anywhere. On defence, the talent is spread out somewhat, with top defencemen Lindholm and Vatanen playing on seperate pairings with complementary players. Fowler and Despres will make a great second pairing to round out a very good defensive unit.
In goal, the addition of Anton Khudobin likely forces John Gibson to the AHL, and really solidifies that position for them. Goaltending is the last thing that will be an issue for the Ducks this season.
The team has fairly good minor league depth, although most prospects of significance are defenders, with the exception being Nick Ritchie, and of course, John Gibson. I have Max Friberg on the starting roster as a 14th forward, although anyone else could very easily take that spot, or perhaps it will be given to an 8th defenceman. I believe the defence for the Ducks is set for the most part, unless one of their top defence prospects is clearly a better option than a current roster player. That could be a mid-season addition to the roster.
I anticipate the Ducks again being at or near the top of the Western Conference and again being a contender for the Stanley Cup. Next time we’ll look at a team at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Arizona Coyotes. Thanks for reading!