Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2019-20, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2019-20 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series begins with the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks.
2019-20 Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks 2018-19 season was a difficult one for fans. Through the first half of the season, the Ducks lacked consistency. They were mired in stretches which saw them exchange lengthy winning streaks for losing streaks. One of their top scorers, Corey Perry, was also sidelined for the first five months of the season recovering from knee surgery. That led to a 12-game winless streak that bridged into the new year, where they picked up just four points. The slide resulted in the firing of Head Coach Randy Carlyle, which was the final nail in the coffin of a season that saw the Ducks finish 13th in the Western Conference with a 35-37-10 record.
It was a season of frustration for Anaheim’s core players. Ryan Getzlaf recorded just 48 points which is his lowest point total since his rookie season. Jakob Silfverberg was the only player to record over 20 goals, scoring 24. The Ducks sniper was the second-leading scorer behind Getzlaf with 43 points.
The Ducks managed to stay relevant in the standings for the first half of the season thanks to goalie John Gibson’s play. Fresh off an off-season contract extension, the American goaltender posted an admirable 2.84 goals-against and a .917 save percentage in 57 starts. While the season may have been a painful one for both players and fans, it allowed the Ducks to admit that they were ready for a rebuild.
Trades & Free Agency
Ducks GM, Bob Murray, was dead quiet on the trade front this off-season, with no swaps being made. The most notable off-season move on the ice was the buy-out of Perry, which freed up $8.625 million in cap space. Anaheim has used that space to distribute the money among many players. Michael Del Zotto was brought back to California after being on the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup-winning roster. The 29-year-old defenseman was signed to a one-year deal worth $750,000 to add some experience to the blueline. The Ducks also signed, Ryan Miller, Korbinian Holzer and Derek Grant each to one-year contracts in June.
The biggest off-season change for the Ducks came off the ice, with the naming of a new coaching staff. Anaheim named promoted Dallas Eakins to the head coaching role of the Ducks after leading their AHL affiliate since 2015. They also named Darryl Sutter as an advisor to the coaching staff in July.
Given the results of their season, the Ducks knew they needed to have a strong draft. They had the ninth overall pick awarded to them through the lottery. They also had the 29th overall pick which originally belonged to the San Jose Sharks.
While many were calling for one of those first-rounders to be a defenseman, Bob Murray elected to go with centreman Trevor Zegras with the ninth overall pick. Zegras will play at Boston University in the NCAA this upcoming year after torching the USA Men’s Development Program with 87 points in 60 games. Then, Anaheim selected Brayden Tracey with the 29th pick. Tracey will likely play with the Moose Jaw Warriors again this season, where he put up 36 goals and 45 assists in 65 games last year.
The Ducks had two firsts, two sixths, and no third or seventh-round picks. They have eyes on American talent, with five of their seven picks coming from the USHL.
For a complete view of the Ducks Draft day, check out our Draft Grades.
Projected Lineup for 2019-20
Extras: Patrick Eaves, Derek Grant
Aside from the top line, the rest of these combinations are difficult to predict. The Ducks have a bountiful crop of young prospects who they’re hoping to give solid minutes to this season. Youngsters like Comtois, Steel and Jones will be fighting for their spot on the Ducks roster after each spending time with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL last season.
The top line can play with anyone in the league. While Getzlaf’s foot speed has decreased, his hockey sense makes up for it. He will be able to produce points playing alongside up-and-coming players like Rickard Rakell and Ondrej Kase.
Jakob Silfverberg is always a threat and will be looking to prove his worth after signing a long-term contract extension in the spring.
The Ducks will also be without the services of Ryan Kesler, who is expected to miss this season recovering from hip surgery.
The only jobs that are certain on the Ducks blueline belong to Lindholm, Manson and Fowler. They are hoping that Larsson, Mahura and Guhle will all take the next step after each playing seasons split between the NHL and AHL last year.
There are plenty of other players who will be quick to fill the role should the young players not be ready. Holzer, Chris Wideman, and Del Zotto all have more experience in the NHL and will likely be cycled through playing alongside the prospects.
John Gibson has proven to be among the elite goaltenders in the league since taking the starting job a few years ago. Miller has proven to be a solid backup goalie in the twilight of his career, electing to re-sign with the Ducks for one year. Anthony Stolarz has also been given a two-year contract, perhaps to be Miller’s understudy should the original tandem not pan out.
Players to Watch
In recent years, Kase has quietly turned into a productive NHL player. Kase played in only 30 games last season, picking up 11 goals and nine assists. His season-ending shoulder injury coincided with the Ducks decline in play. This was partially due to Kase having a strong Corsi rating of 56.6 percent, which is identical to his Fenwick rating of 56.1 percent. In other words, when Kase is on the ice, his team is getting more offensive opportunities that aren’t getting blocked.
Kase could be poised to have a career year. His career-high in points is just 38, which he reached in 2017-18. At only 23-years old, Kase now has an opportunity to play top-line minutes alongside one of the top passers in the league. Barring injury, he could be poised to break 60 points.
Also slated to play on the top line this year, Rakell is in a similar situation to his projected linemate, Kase. The difference with Rakell is that he is looking to have a bounceback year after one of the lowest-scoring seasons of his career. Rakell had 18 goals and 29 assists for 43 points in 69 games last year. The Swedish winger had one particularly ugly stretch last season where he did not score a goal in 14 straight games.
Rakell can be a formidable scorer in the NHL. In 2017-18, he posted 34 goals and 35 assists, which were both career-highs. He also represented Sweden in the World Championship that year, where he notched 14 points in 10 games. While the supporting cast may not be the greatest right now in Anaheim, playing alongside Getzlaf, and getting powerplay minutes should help Rakell return to form.
Silfverberg will be looking to prove his worth after signing a five-year, $26.25 million contract in March. He posted a career-high 24 goals last season as one of the few bright spots on the Ducks roster. As the only player to score over 20 goals last season, Anaheim locked him up with the hopes that it will be a regular occurrence.
Silfverberg has never scored more than 50 points in a season though, which is what critics of his extension will turn to. His career-high of 49 points in 2017-18 saw him score 23 goals. Silfverberg has etched himself as a solid second-line winger on any NHL team. He has a scoring touch, but can be streaky at times. A solid season with a rebuilding team fresh off a new contract will surely be what motivates Silfverberg this season.
2019-20 Anaheim Ducks Season Preview
The Anaheim Ducks are in a rebuild, so they should play like they are. So far, they have rebuilt correctly. They cleared out big contracts, they brought in new coaching staff, and they have focused on drafting. This season, the Ducks will be looking to give lots of playing time to young players, while the older players will be expected to provide mentorship.
The Ducks being in the conversation for a playoff spot is not ideal. They would like to have a good position in the draft lottery to obtain one more young player to establish their next core. With the Stanley Cup-winning days of Getzlaf and Perry behind them, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Getzlaf on the market at some point this season to finalize the rebuild. Fowler and Henrique could also get some good returns at the deadline for Cup contending teams.
The Ducks could be exciting to watch if they give their young players a shot. Their defence is young, but they have a great goaltender to bail them out. As long as the Ducks players buy into the rebuild, they are poised to be back in contention in just a couple of years.