With roughly two months to go until hockey returns, it’s time to take a quick look at the NHL’s 31(!!) teams. First up, the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks are coming off a disappointing 2016-2017 season, with elimination at the hands of the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Final. But the club is ready to move on and has done little in the off-season to change their essential elements, with the most significant move the acquisition of goalie Ryan Miller as the backup to John Gibson.
The Ducks coughed up defenceman Shea Theodore to the Vegas Golden Knights, but they made moves to solidify their defensive core nevertheless. Cam Fowler was signed to an eight-year deal worth $52 million on July 1, thus cementing the team’s top defenceman on the depth chart.
Centre Ryan Getzlaf produced nearly a point per game in 2016-2017 and had 19 points in 17 playoff games, so he’s still a good bet. He’s 32, which has led some to speciously suggest he’s past his prime. He’s still the anchor of Anaheim’s forward group and little will change about that in 2017-2018.
Corey Perry, on the other hand, may need a bounce-back season. His production dropped to just 19 goals after putting up at least 33 for five straight seasons. He’s also 32-years-old and his temper can be an issue, which puts him in line for bad penalties.
Rickard Rakell may be the team’s best winger in terms of raw point production. The 24-year-old Swede had 33 goals in 2016-2017 and can even play centre, which makes him one of the Ducks’ most adaptable forwards. If he sees time on the top power play unit, he’ll give the club a much-needed lift in that department.
Jakob Silfverberg is another top point-producer for Anaheim. He’s a beast in the playoffs, putting up 0.93 points per game over the past three kicks at the proverbial can. He’s a high-volume shooter and had 23 goals in 2016-2017, with an average of 18:29 of ice time per game.
Fowler heads up one of the league’s deepest defensive groups. He’s a steadfast fantasy selection, as he’ll see plenty of power play time. The 25-year-old is the recipient of a fresh new contract and scored 11 goals in 2016-2017.
Hampus Lindholm has quietly amassed quite the reputation in Anaheim. He had 20 points in 2016-2017, but his ability to police the blueline goes above and beyond simple statistical analysis. He’ll put up big minutes and plays the shutdown role, but he may not be ready for the start of the 2017-2018 season.
Sami Vatanen is in the same boat. The 26-year-old Finn had 24 points in 71 games in 2016-2017 and collected six points in the post-season, plus he was at the core of some off-season rumours involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Ducks also ensured they protected him in the expansion draft, which means they owe the Golden Knights a prospect or a pick. But like Lindholm, Vatanen could miss the start of the 2017-2018 season with a shoulder injury.
The Ducks also protected Josh Manson, who’ll step up in the face of the two aforementioned injuries and the loss of Theodore to Sin City. That could line him up for more offensive production (or it could benefit Brandon Montour). The 25-year-old American had five goals and a dozen helpers in 2016-2017, plus he clocked three assists in the playoffs.
John Gibson is the dude in Anaheim and he’s coming off a year in which he was able to thrive under the hot lights. He played in 52 games in 2016-2017. According to NHL.com’s analysis, Gibson is ranked sixth overall. That’s about right given his .924 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average. He also posted six shutouts, solidifying the idea that he thrives under pressure.
Miller should embrace his role as the backup in Anaheim. The 37-year-old put up a .914 save percentage last season in Vancouver and can step into just about any situation with a cool head, plus he’ll drive Gibson to be better. He started 54 games with the Canucks in 2016-2017, but there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t know what his role is with the Ducks.