With training camp on the horizon, it’s time to take stock of who will be lining up on the blueline for the Anaheim Ducks in 2019-20. And since the team was very inactive this offseason, it’s pretty much the same group that finished last season! Let’s take a look.
The Core Trio: Fowler, Lindholm, and Manson
You could do worse than having these three proven top-four blueliners to build around. While none are a true No. 1, they are each reliable, two-way, puck-moving defensemen who can play in any situation. The question is: will any of them take a step forward this season and grow into a bigger role, or have they all reached their potential?
There is some hope that Hampus Lindholm is given an opportunity to quarterback the power play and see if he can blossom offensively. Meanwhile, Manson can certainly improve on last season’s 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists), and Fowler can return to form and provide veteran leadership if he can stay healthy. But beyond that, there are only question marks.
Ducks Blueline: Veteran Depth
The Ducks certainly had some cap space to bring in a veteran defenseman, especially on the right side, but they instead chose to bring back Michael Del Zotto, re-up Korbinian Holzer, and finally make a splash by signing… Jani Hakanpaa?
Perhaps there is some hope that Del Zotto can return to his youth as a point-producing D-man to be flipped at the deadline for the second year in a row. Holzer should not be relied upon to play 82 games since he has yet to do so as he enters his 10th professional season. And who knows what they have in Hakanpaa, a player who, at 27, will be coming to North America for the first time since a 2014-15 campaign spent between the AHL and ECHL.
There were reports that the Ducks did indeed shoot their shot at Kevin Shattenkirk when he became available, but he chose to chase a Cup with the still-loaded Tampa Bay Lightning. So unless Ducks’ general manager Bob Murray is biding his time and waiting to help out one of the teams in a salary-cap crunch or to catch one of the many still-available veteran defensemen on a one-year deal, there will be some youths patrolling the blueline in Anaheim.
The Next Wave: Young D-men Looking to Step Up
The time is now for Brendan Guhle, Jacob Larsson, or perhaps both to seize the opportunity before them and become full-time NHL defensemen. Each big lefty could conceivably start the season in the top-six, with Holzer starting the season in the press box as the spare defenseman, a role for which he is well-suited.
Larsson is strictly a stay-at-home defenseman with potential on the penalty kill, while Guhle does have the skating ability and instincts to be a decent two-way contributor. One may even need to slot into the second pairing and eat some pretty big minutes, or else the core three are in for a long, tiring year.
Prospect-wise, that’s mostly where things end. Josh Mahura has shown flashes of potential and could be called upon during the season or even surprise in training camp and make the team, but what was once an area of organization strength is now its undeniable weakness. Just imagine how different this group would look with Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, and even Marcus Pettersson around?
All in all, it looks like star goaltender, John Gibson, will need to eat a lot of puck this season in order for the Ducks to be contenders. On the bright side, the Ducks do have a plethora of good-looking young players on the front end, which we will discuss in our next post.