Anaheim Ducks 2017-18 Overview
While not quite the same as last year, the Ducks’ blue line is still deep even after losing Shea Theodore and Clayton Stoner to Vegas.
The problem is, two of their mainstays Vatanen and Lindholm recently underwent similar shoulder surgeries and likely will start the season on injured reserve.
As a result, their initial top six looks to be Cam Fowler, Kevin Bieksa, Brandon Montour, Josh Manson and Francois Beauchemin, with Jacob Larsson and Korbininan Holzer competing for the final slot.
We’ll see what happens after the shoulders heal. If Larsson isn’t ready and/or Beauchemin has lost it, we probably have our answer.
With some rearguard uncertainty, expect Anaheim’s bruising and slow offensive pace to pick up a bit as the season opens.
With this possible strategy adjustment, not to mention them compensating for some of the wounded Ducks’ scoring, Anaheim’s top lines may see increased early-season production.
Expect usual producers Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Eaves, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell (who may see additional time in pivot as Ryan Kesler recovers from mid-June hip surgery) and perhaps even Corey Perry to generate a few more goals.
Reliable vets Andrew Cogliano and Antoine Vermette will continue to play valuable supporting roles, as should likely top-line left wing and hit machine Nick Ritchie.
Ondrej Kase, new-signee Dennis Rasmussen, Nicolas Kerdiles, Logan Shaw, Chris Wagner, WHL scoring champ Sam Steel, and enforcer Jared Boll will battle it out for remaining bottom-six and press-box duties.
After an effective (25-16-9, 2.22, .924) but injury-marred campaign, John Gibson is the clear number one.
Ryan Miller’s veteran presence and a still solid game should look awfully good playing once, sometimes twice, a week backing the Ducks’ solid defense. He’ll be valuable insurance should Gibson again get dinged up.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve? It depends on the health of Vatanen and Lindholm, how they adjust to losing Theodore and Stoner, and if Larsson develops quickly. Anaheim could again field frequent trade offers for their defensive depth, or be blue line buyers.
What rookies could make the team? Scoring demon Steel and talented prospect Larsson could pick up the slack for mending veterans. Don’t sleep on Kerdiles either.
Which player could take a step forward this season? Fowler’s minutes should increase and might lead to a scoring jump into NHL elite status. Steel, Larsson, and Montour will all have opportunities to grab full-time, crucial NHL roles and may run with them.
Which players could regress? As Getzlaf, Kesler, Bieksa and Miller age drop-off is always possible. Perry’s game has declined recently and may continue to do so, along with Eaves who Anaheim hopes will again approach last year’s career highs across the board.
Are there any training camp battles expected? Defensemen will jockey for position as the Ducks establish new pairings, and the aforementioned rookies will try to beat out veterans Boll and Wagner for bottom-six forward roles
Any additional storylines that might be of interest? Along with a perhaps re-vamped offensive approach and re-tooled defense, promising prospects should provide much intrigue as the season approaches. Steel, in particular, is a star in the making and could light a huge fire if he’s ready.
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