USATSI_9269455_154158418_lowresIn their 23rd season in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks overcame more than a few rough patches to win 46 games over the course of 2015-2016. It was good enough for 103 points, but not good enough to make a solid run in the post-season. The Ducks were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs, losing their fourth straight Game Seven.

The loss was heartbreaking enough for Anaheim to part ways with head coach Bruce Boudreau, but there were more than a few bright spots down the stretch. The Ducks finished 2015-2016 with the best penalty kill in the NHL and the second best goals-against average. Offensively, they were 19th overall in goals-per-game. Their power play was seventh overall.

The off-season has seen the arrival of some new faces, like goalie Jonathan Bernier, defencemen Nate Guenin and Jeff Schultz and forwards Mason Raymond and Jared Boll. The Ducks also have a new head coach in Randy Carlyle. They sent netminder Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for some draft picks.

Offence

Up front, this Ducks will make another run with the same essential parts. That means an attack led by Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, who still account for the team’s offensive core. Perry led the team in goals for 2015-2016, piling up 34 in 82 games. He had a dozen goals on the power play. Getzlaf led in assists, with 50 in 77 games. He also led the team in plus/minus, with a plus-14 rating.

The team looks a little thin down the left side, at least in terms of natural wingers, but Andrew Cogliano leads the way. The 29-year-old from Toronto had just 32 points in 82 games, but he had four points in an impressive post-season performance and chips in on the Ducks’ all-star PK. The hiring of Carlyle should help Cogliano bring out more of his top-tier speed, which could pave the way for some more offence.

Ryan Kesler will continue to impress. He posted 53 points last season, including 21 goals, and he’s good for about 19:30 of ice time a game. He’s can slot in on the wing if needed, but ideally he gives the team a big second unit centre behind Getzlaf. Rickard Rakell is another option down the middle, with the 23-year-old Swede piling up 43 points last season. He should see more ice time in 2016-2017.

25-year-old Jakob Silfverberg is part of Anaheim’s cluster of Swedes. He had 20 goals last season and is another quality two-way player. He reached nearly 17 minutes a game last season and seems in line for more, especially on the penalty kill. Mason Raymond is a veteran at 30 and his outside speed gives the Ducks a bit of layering on the perimeter.

Defence

In last season’s preview, we discussed the probable rise of Sami Vatanen on the blueline. And that prediction certainly bore fruit, with the 25-year-old Finnish defenceman leading the charge with 38 points in 71 games – one point more than his 2014-2015 season totals. Vatanen reached over 23 minutes of ice time in the post-season and continues to evolve into the Ducks’ top blueliner.

22-year-old defenceman Hampus Lindholm had 10 goals last season and averaged 22 minutes of ice time a game. He can produce offensively and play the part as a shutdown defenceman, which gives Anaheim some much-needed versatility on the back end. 24-year-old Cam Fowler continues to emerge, too, and his powerful stride can give the opposition fits. He had 28 points last season.

Veteran defenceman Kevin Bieksa will provide stability and leadership. He averaged 21 minutes of ice time and likes to agitate. He had 15 points in 71 games last season and added an assist in the playoff series against Nashville.

Goaltending

The Ducks will try something new for 2016-2017, the tandem of John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier holding the fort. 23-year-old Gibson had a 21-13-4 record last season, with a 2.07 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He lost two playoff games to the Predators and could stand to learn a little more about the tendencies of his opponents.

Bernier went 12-21-3 last season, with three shutouts and a 2.88 goals against average. He boasts quality reflexes and can be a confident netminder, even if he struggles in the focus department. Consistency is also an issue. Dustin Tokarski, the 26-year-old from Humboldt, is a positional goalie with a weak blocker side.

Prospects

The Ducks’ prospect pool is full of top-end players, with a significant batch of defencemen in the works. At the top of the list continues to be blueliner Shea Theodore, who saw 19 games of action last season and put up eight points. He is the most thrilling prospect in Anaheim and could get a depth chart boost if Carlyle decides to activate the Langley native on the power play.

Winger Nick Ritchie was a standout last year during summer development camp and he’ll continue to press for roster time. He played in 33 games last season and put up four points, but he plays a power forward style that may not mesh well with Carlyle’s renewed focus on speed. He plays a tough game and he’ll drop the mitts, but Anaheim may not have room for his sort of role-playing.

The Path Ahead

The Ducks will enter the 2016-2017 season with a rehabilitated focus on speed and a bit of a downgrade in net. Losing Andersen leaves them a little vulnerable, but Anaheim could still be in the market for something solid. The future looks bright, though, and the club should have no problem making the post-season. How far they’ll get once they get there remains an issue.

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