Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Anaheim Ducks’ roundtable discussion. The Ducks season may be over, but we still have plenty to discuss. Fellow Ducks contributor Anthony Ciardelli and I were joined by Vancouver Canucks and prospects writer Matthew Zator and our prospect expert Josh Bell.
We discussed who should be the Ducks’ MVP of the season, our most surprising/disappointing players, memorable moments, and bold predictions for the 2020-21 season. We hope you enjoy what will be a recurring segment of our coverage!
Josh Bell – Adam Henrique
We know it wasn’t a great season for the Ducks in general, but Adam Henrique had a pretty solid season, all things considered. His 26 goals and 43 points in 71 games led the team (he also had 17 assists), his 55% in the faceoff dot led the team as well (for players with more than 100 faceoffs), and his 5.2 point shares were second on the team behind Cam Fowler (5.3). On a team that left much to be desired this season, Henrique continued at his career-average level, nearing his career-high levels – and he could very well have exceeded them. With another 11 games I don’t think there’s a question that he would have hit 30 goals and 50 points. That’s a good season for a team that struggled to score this year.
Anthony Ciardelli – Adam Henrique
My MVP is Henrique. I wrote an article about a month ago outlining my decision, but it boils down to the Henrique being the brightest offensive light on a very weak offensive team.
This season is the first time since coming to the Ducks that Henrique led them in scoring. Had the season gone the full 82 games, Henrique probably would’ve been Anaheim’s only 30-goal scorer and their first since 2017-2018.
I was most impressed by Henrique’s ability to produce with a whole slew of different linemates, but the most telling stat to me was his individual point shares or IPP. A player’s IPP is the percentage of his team’s goals that he factors into when he’s on the ice. Henrique’s IPP led the team at 69%, meaning Henrique scored or assisted on nearly 69% of Anaheim’s goals.
Ryan Getzlaf was No. 2 with an IPP of 66.67%
Eddy Jones – Adam Henrique
You could make an argument for Getzlaf, Cam Fowler or even Jakob Silfverberg, but it’s hard to ignore what Henrique brought to the table for the Ducks this season. Much like my colleagues have already mentioned, he was approaching career highs in goals and points this season. Which is pretty impressive considering how much the team struggled this year. He finished the season with 26 goals and 17 assists for 43 points in 71 games played. Leading the Ducks in both goals and points, he likely would’ve surpassed his career highs (30) and (51) respectively if he had of finished out the season. He was also the only Ducks’ player to play in all 71 games this season, following up a full 82 game campaign in 2018-19.
Matthew Zator – Adam Henrique
During another disappointing season for the Ducks, Henrique was a picture of consistency scoring 26 goals and 43 points, which was his best total since coming over in a trade with the New Jersey Devils. In addition to leading the team in goals and power-play goals, he also paced the team in faceoff-winning percentage with a 55 percent success rate. His 52 Corsi-for percentage was second on the team as well. On a team full of underachievers he was the one that contributed the most to what little success they had.
Most Disappointing Player
Josh Bell – The Young Guns
It’s really had to pick just one player here, honestly. As a guy who spends all of his time watching prospects, three players come to mind as players I really thought would take the next step: Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Max Comtois. You could make a case to include Sam Steel in this group too, but at least he had 22 points (tied for seventh on the team). The other three really didn’t grab onto an NHL role and run with it like I thought they could coming into the season. These are still young players though and I wouldn’t expect this season to be the norm for them. Watch for them to grow and succeed together – hopefully starting next season.
Anthony Ciardelli – Rickard Rakell
Rickard Rakell disappointed me the most this season. A player once thought to be the Ducks’ next big goal scorer after scoring 20, 33 and 34 goals in three consecutive seasons. Since then, he’s posted 18 and 15 goal seasons, respectively.
His assist numbers have remained relatively steady, but the Ducks need goal scorers. With Rakell not living up to his expectations, the Ducks goal scoring issues have been exacerbated that much more.
Eddy Jones – Josh Manson
If feels like an eternity since Josh Manson posted 7 goals and 37 points during the 2017-18 season. Although I never believed he would bring that level of offensive production on a regular basis, it’s been a rather steep downward spiral for Manson since then. Once considered the Ducks’ third-best defenseman behind Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, he was disappointingly outplayed by both Michael Del Zotto and Erik Gudbranson.
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Offensively, they both had better numbers than Manson and their defensive point shares, 2.5 and 2.0 respectively, were better than Manson’s (1.6). In fact, Manson was having a comparable season to Korbinian Holzer, who was dealt to the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline. Not what you want from a player who earns over $4 million per season.
Matthew Zator – Rickard Rakell
Despite putting up almost the same goal and point totals as 2018-19, Rakell hasn’t been the impact player he should be for the Ducks. After posting back-to-back seasons of 33 and 34 goals respectively in 2016-17 and 2017-18, he put together his second-worst season in the NHL in 2019-20. He only scored 15 goals, which is not good enough for a player that should be leading his team in goal scoring almost every season. He definitely has shown that he can do it in the NHL, and at 27-years-old he should be improving not starting to decline.
Most Surprising Player
Josh Bell – Adam Henrique
I’m going to have to go with Henrique here again. As I mentioned, his numbers stood out on a lowly Ducks team, leading the way for the California team. Despite playing less than 17 minutes a night, he was able to have more points than players who averaged ~two minutes more than him. Not too shabby.
Anthony Ciardelli – Nicolas Deslauriers
For me, Nicolas Deslauriers stood out the most. When he came from Montreal, I thought I’d see the outdated “true enforcer” whose role in the NHL has almost disappeared. Deslauriers led the NHL in fighting majors with 14, but he also contributed offensively, including a natural hat trick (see most exciting moment).
If you had told me before the season that Deslauriers would’ve finished 2019-20 with more goals than Sam Steel, Troy Terry and Max Comtois and one fewer than Max Jones, I’d have laughed in your face, but he proved he was more than just a pair of fists.
Eddy Jones – Erik Gudbranson
For a player who had almost zero expectations coming over to Anaheim, I don’t think anyone would have predicted the impact Gudbranson would have with the team. Along with Cam Fowler, he formed the Ducks’ best possession driving pairing to play over 200 minutes together. The pair finished the season with a Corsi rating of 52.08%. They were the third most used pairing, trailing only Lindholm/Manson and Larsson/Holzer. Gudbranson’s 2.0 defensive point shares ranked fourth among Ducks’ defensemen. He finished with four goals and five assists in 44 games played, and his four goals were tied for second among Ducks’ defensemen.
Matthew Zator – Adam Henrique
In addition to being the MVP of the Ducks this season, Henrique was also the most surprising player of 2019-20 too. He scored 26 goals playing 16 minutes per game, and only five of those were scored on the power play. In fact, he was ranked 27th in the league in even-strength scoring among players that have played at least 500 minutes of even-strength hockey. To put that into perspective, Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin are the two forwards sitting around him in those rankings. Talk about some elite company. This while playing a second-line role on a team with very little offensive pop to it.
Most Memorable Moment
Josh Bell – Nicolas Deslauriers’ Hat Trick
It’s not often that a player gets a hat trick, and that is even less likely for a player with less than 30 goals in nearly 400 games. But that’s exactly what happened for Deslauriers this season, scoring a natural hat trick against the Ottawa Senators on March 10. Not only did he score three of his season’s seven goals that night, but he did it just 11:49 into the game, marking the fastest hat trick in Ducks’ history. His time beat Teemu Selanne’s previous mark of 12:58 back in 1997.
Anthony Ciardelli – Nicolas Deslauriers’ Hat Trick
Deslauriers’ natural hat trick March 10, 2020, versus the Ottawa Senators stood out the most for me. The fact that Deslauriers’ did it certainly came as a shock, but the fact that it was a natural hat trick and the fastest hat trick in Ducks history put it over the top.
Derek Grant’s hat trick for which he earned the right to name his friends’ child came in a close second, but Deslauriers’ won out.
Eddy Jones – Nicolas Deslauriers’ Hat Trick
This could be unanimous, but in a season full of lows it was an unlikely hero who brought us the most memorable moment. Grant’s hatty came close, but with all of Deslauriers’ goals coming against a netminder, and in record fashion, it had to be him. For a player who averaged a team low in ice time of 9:47 per game, he’s not the guy you normally expect to produce a natural hat trick.
Matthew Zator – Nicolas Deslauriers’ Hat Trick
Deslauriers’ natural hat trick against the Ottawa Senators. It’s always great to see a fourth-line player score at any point, but when he scores the rare natural hat trick, you have to stop the presses and remember the moment. For a player that only has 31 goals in his entire career, he probably won’t get a chance to celebrate that ever again. So, in a season full of frustration, that has to go down as one of the most memorable moments of the Ducks’ season.
How Much Do the Ducks Improve in 2020-21?
I do think that the Ducks could be a team that takes a big step forward in 2020-21, but that will be very dependent on the youth movement. If guys like Steel, Jones, Terry, Comtois, and potentially even Trevor Zegras and the 2020 top pick, can take a big step forward, this team could start being more competitive next season.
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They have the goalie in Gibson, they still have some solid pieces up and down the lineup, and these young guns could be what bring them back to respectability. I predict that they are a playoff bubble team.
With Dallas Eakins entering his second season and Bob Murray willing to tighten the screws a little, I expect some improvement. I still don’t think they make the playoffs unless the 2020-21 season is unexpectedly shortened due to more COVID-19 issues, and the Ducks get off to a scorching start.
I think Steel, Jones, Terry and Comtois and, who knows, maybe Tracey or Zegras help bump up the Ducks’ goal-scoring numbers. The big question is, how much will the Ducks’ defense improve? I don’t see a way they suddenly become a lockdown group. I say they are ultimately a bubble team for most of the season that fades in the final months.
Much like we said for the 2019-20 season, the Ducks’ success will depend on how much their young players improve. Steel, Jones, Comtois, and Terry will be relied on to take their games to a new level. With Getzlaf’s point totals declining for a third straight season, someone has to fill the void. The Ducks will have some new blood including Zegras, Benoit-Olivier Groulx and potentially whoever they select at sixth overall, but will it be enough?
Gibson is coming off the worst season of his career and he’s bound to rebound slightly. However, with Ryan Miller’s status up in the air, it remains to be seen if Gibson will have a reliable back-up option in 2020-21. Ultimately, the Ducks miss the playoffs. By how much depends on the success of their young players and John Gibson.
If players like Sam Steel and Max Jones take a big step forward next season and start establishing themselves as solid options in the top-six, the Ducks will improve. Also, if Sonny Milano can continue his strong debut with the team (two goals and five points in nine games) after coming over from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he could be a difference-maker too. Unfortunately, if they don’t get someone to start following in the footsteps of franchise cornerstone Ryan Getzlaf, they will continue to struggle. This year’s draft will be key for adding to their prospect pool, as they have three of the top-40 picks. They would be wise to start adding more offensive pieces to their arsenal.
One Bold Prediction for the 2020-21 Season
Big surprise – the prospect writer is going to make a prediction about a prospect. Zegras is going to impress in the preseason, make the opening night roster – and stick with the team. He’s that good, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it happened. At the very least, he gets his nine-game look at the NHL level, but I could see him playing behind Getzlaf and Henrique for a season. It happens to be Getzlaf’s last season under his contract. This could be the best time for Zegras to learn from one of the best in the business before he takes this team over.
Max Jones becomes Anaheim’s best young scorer. I speculated last week about which youngster the Ducks might be willing to trade if it came to that, and I chose Terry. In that same article, I explained why I thought Jones was more valuable.
I like Jones’ size, speed, creativity and intensity. He looked confident nearing the end of the season, and I think with more playing time and a full season in the NHL, he might be the first of the group of young players to approach 20 goals.
Sam Steel more than doubles his point total from 2019-20. He finished the season with six goals and 16 assists in 65 games played. He was the third most used center on the team, averaging 15:33 in ice time. His linemates were often fellow Ducks’ youngsters and he rarely saw time with some of their top offensive contributors. Despite playing primarily on the second power-play unit, he led the Ducks with seven power-play assists and finished second on the team with eight power-play points. He’ll have to win a spot on that top unit, but if he does he’ll see a nice uptick in production. I also expect to see his 5-v-5 play improve as his linemates get better. Pencil Steel in for at least 45 points in 2020-21.
I predict that Sonny Milano will breakout and score 20 goals while playing the entire season with Ryan Getzlaf. The former first-round pick in 2014 hasn’t solidified himself as a prominent goal scorer in the NHL… yet. At times he’s shown tremendous speed, skill and creativity by scoring a few highlight-reel goals, so if he can become more consistent, I have no doubt that he could become an impact player for the Ducks. If he sees a lot of time on the power play and on the top two lines, that could definitely happen.
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That’ll do it for the first edition of the Anaheim Ducks’ roundtable discussion! We’ll be putting more of these out as the offseason rolls on, but for now, we’d like to hear your picks for the topics discussed above. Make sure to let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree with our selections!
Fan of the Anaheim Ducks for my whole life. I’m a die hard fan living in London, Ontario. Excited to be writing about the team I love. Talking all things Ducks on the Forever Mighty Podcast!