Saturday, August 17, 2019

Anaheim Ducks 2019-20 season preview



        It had been a recurring theme the last two or three seasons that the Ducks' window to win their second Stanley Cup was closing, as Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf turned to the wrong side of 30 years old. In 2018-19, that window completely shut. Perry had knee surgery before the season started, and when he came back, he gave the Ducks fourth line production, leading to a buyout after the season. Excluding the shortened 2012-13 season, it was Anaheim's first non 100 point season since 2011-12. Like 2011-12, they had 80 points. Getzlaf lead the team with just 48 points, and not including 2012-13, it was just the second time in franchise history without a 50 point scorer. The first time was when Paul Kariya's 39 points lead the second year Mighty Ducks in 1994-95. The rebuild is now in its second year for Anaheim, and things are looking even worse than they did last year.

        Additions: Michael Del Zotto, Nicolas Deslauriers, Chris Wideman, Anthony Stolarz

        Subtractions: Corey Perry, Andrej Sustr, Jake Dotchin, Jaycob Megna, Ben Street, Andy Welinski

        Forwards
The Ducks biggest issue last year was their offense. They were the worst in the NHL at scoring goals, finishing 31st in goals per game (2.39). With Perry and Andrew Cogliano in Dallas, plus Patrick Eaves and Ryan Kesler out indefinitely, and no veteran replacement available, the Ducks will look inward for a solution. Former World Juniors standout Troy Terry and Team Canada's captain Max Comtois are two names that come to mind. Former first rounders Sam Steel and Isac Lundestrom provide young center depth. The team decided to extend Jakob Silfverberg rather then trade him at the deadline. Silfverberg was Anaheim's only 20 goal scorer, with 24. Rickard Rakell followed up on his 34 goal, 69 point breakout season by scoring just 18 goals and 43 points. Adam Henrique's three year 20 goals streak ended in his first full season as a Duck. Henrique and Rakell both play center, but the latter will likely move back to wing. Former 10th overall pick Nick Ritchie held out to start the season, and still finished with a career high 31 points, but 14 goals in 2016-17 remains as Ritchie's peak. Ondrej Kase is the most underrated Duck, but a torn labrum ended his season early. He scored 11 goals in just 30 games. Daniel Sprong finally got a chance after a trade from Pittsburgh, and scored 14 goals in 47 games in SoCal. After coming back for Cogliano, Devin Shore scored 12 points, but was a -12 in 34 games. Nicolas Deslauriers gives the team fourth line depth. Kiefer Sherwood failed to make an impact in his rookie season. Depth centers Carter Rowney and Derek Grant return.

         Defensemen
With four good top four defensemen, the Ducks traded Brandon Montour to Buffalo at the trade deadline, a move that will prove costly in the immediate future. In year one of an eight year contract, Cam Fowler had his worst season. He played in just 59 games, was a -14 and scored just 23 points. Not counting the lockout 2012-13 season, it was Fowler's lowest point total in his career. Hampus Lindholm regressed from his 13 goal 2017-18, but his 22 assists were his most since 2014-15. Josh Manson, the fourth of those top four defensemen, also regressed from a 30 assist, +34 season, as a two minute jump in ice time hurt him. The other three spots are up for grabs, but Jacob Larsson has a good chance at getting one. In his first real taste of the NHL, the 2015 first rounder had five assists in 49 games. Brendan Guhle, acquired for Montour, played in six games with Anaheim, and 50 more in the AHL, pre-trade. Josh Mahura had a good season in the AHL, and is primed for a starting role. Michael Del Zotto was decent in 12 games for the Ducks, before being traded to St. Louis. He is back for 2019-20. Korbinian Holzer and Chris Wideman provide veteran depth on the right side.

           Goalies
John Gibson saved the Ducks in 2018-19. His .917 SV% counters his weak 2.84 GAA that was caused by their terrible skaters. He was their only all-star as well. Ryan Miller was re-signed to back him up. Miller regressed after a great 2017-18 that started his backup career. He is still very serviceable, even at age 39. Anthony Stolarz gives them goalie depth that they need, with Chad Johnson gone, and Stolarz is a better option than Kevin Boyle.

           Deep Depths
The team signed Andrew Poturalski, who led the Calder Cup winning Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with 70 points in 72 games. Sam Carrick scored 32 goals with 61 points in 61 AHL games, and earned himself an NHL cameo. AHL goalie Kevin Boyle got an NHL chance last year. Defensemen Sam Benoit and Patrick Sieloff will likely stay in the AHL all year.

           Up and Coming
The Ducks don't have an overly deep farm system, but the guys that they do have will soon be NHL regulars. 2016 first rounders Sam Steel and Max Jones both played 20-30 NHL games in 2018-19, but they didn't stand out. Steel did have 11 points in 22 games, while Jones had just five in 30 games. Troy Terry will get a good shot this season. Isac Lundestrom might still be a year away from becoming a regular. Max Comtois will get a top-nine shot. Finnish defenseman Jani Hakanpaa could see regular time.

          2019 draft class
Round 1, 9th overall: Trevor Zegras
Round 1, 29th overall: Brayden Tracey
Round 2, 39th overall: Jackson Lacombe
Round 4, 101st overall: Henry Thrun
Round 5, 132nd overall: Trevor Janicke
Round 6, 163rd overall: William Francis
Round 6, 186th overall: Mathew Hill

          Management
Dallas Eakins is the new head coach, after coaching the Ducks' AHL team, the San Diego Gulls. He was Edmonton's head coach for all of 2013-14, and the first 31 games of 2014-15. Bob Murray is still the GM, as he has been for over a decade. He is on the hot seat, so that will be an interesting story line to watch.

          Projected lineup

Nick Ritchie - Ryan Getzlaf - Troy Terry
Rickard Rakell - Sam Steel - Jakob Silfverberg
Devin Shore - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase
Max Comtois - Carter Rowney - Daniel Sprong
Extras: Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, Max Jones

             Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson
             Cam Fowler - Jacob Larsson
             Brendan Guhle - Jani Hakanpaa
Extras: Josh Mahura, Chris Wideman, Michael Del Zotto, Korbinian Holzer

                        Josh Gibson
                        Ryan Miller
Extras: Anthony Stolarz, Kevin Boyle

           Predictions
The Ducks are retooling, and while having a top 10 goalie in the league definitely helps, it is a big transition year, so you can't expect much success. Unless Terry, Steel, Guhle and Larsson become studs, then it will be another lowly year for the Ducks. I project them to finish 8th in the Pacific Division this year.

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