The Anaheim Ducks finished their preseason schedule with a 4-1-1 record, winning their last three games. The excitement is building in Anaheim as the season draws closer. However, with only a few days until the Ducks officially start the 2019-20 season, there are still some important decisions to be made to the NHL roster.
Optimism Grows After Successful Preseason
The Ducks six-game preseason schedule consisted of a pair of games against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes. It was the first look at a semi-complete Ducks roster, and the first time seeing the impact Dallas Eakins has had on the group. We’ve already heard from a few core players on the excitement surrounding the team with the arrival of Dallas Eakins.
This is probably the most excited I’ve been going into a season here. I can’t put a finger on exactly what it is. But everything feels fresh. We’ve got a new coach, some new management, and a brand new facility. – Jakob SilfverbergKyle Shohara
That excitement translated onto the ice as the new-look Ducks put together some impressive displays and finished with a 4-1-1 record in the preseason. It was a notable shift from the rigid, slow, and – I’ll just say it – boring style of hockey that Ducks fans were accustomed to under Randy Carlyle.
It wasn’t all perfect, but Dallas Eakins established a precedent for what’s to come in Anaheim this season. A fun, creative and exciting brand of hockey that is sure to get fans out to Honda Center.
Ducks’ Top Preseason Performers
Heading into the preseason it was clear there were roster spots up for grabs, and a few players stepped up to the plate. Whether it was a trio of Swedes, a young defenseman, or one of the Ducks grizzled veterans, here are the Ducks top performers from the preseason.
Rickard Rakell – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Arguably the Ducks best line in the preseason and it wasn’t even supposed to happen. Isac Lundestrom was thrust into the spotlight afterSam Steel suffered a lower-body injury in the Ducks 4-3 shootout loss to the Coyotes. Thus, the all-Sweden line was created, or “Swedenheim” line, whatever you prefer.
The chemistry was instant. Jakob Silfverberg was the shooter, Rickard Rakell the facilitator and Lundestrom the steady presence in the middle of the ice. Individually, Silfverberg was the Ducks best player in preseason, posting three goals and one assist across three games. Rakell and Lundestrom both record two assists across four games. The latter also led all Ducks’ centers in faceoff percentage at 63.64%.
The Swedes found themselves together for two of the Ducks six preseason games, their 4-1 win over the Sharks and 2-1 win over the Coyotes. Against San Jose, they were the Ducks’ most effective line, generating a team-high 10 shot attempts for and eight scoring chances for. They also combined for this beautiful tic-tac-toe goal.
They continued their success against the Arizona Coyotes, doubling the next best line in shots attempts with 15 and posting a game-high seven scoring chances for. Whether it’s the beginning of something special or just a short term experiment due to injury, it’s certainly going to give Dallas Eakins something to think about.
Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson comfortably had their names on the opening night roster before preseason even began. However, Brendan Guhle needed to have a strong showing to lock up a roster spot. With three points in four games, he went a long way in proving that he can have a breakthrough season in 2019-20. Especially when you score goals like these.
Paired primarily with Fowler, they struggled in their first preseason outing in Anaheim’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Coyotes. Allowing 14 shot attempts against while only contributing seven shot attempts.
However, their final three games were cause for a lot more optimism. Guhle and Fowler contributed 42 shot attempts for at 5v5 and only surrendered 20. The duo also dominated scoring chances while on the ice, contributing to 22 scoring chances for and only five against.
There is certainly hope that the Ducks can have two solid defense pairings this season. Something that would make Eakins’ job a whole lot easier.
Who Fell Short of Expectations?
When you go 4-1-1 in preseason it’s difficult to pick out the worst performers. It’s not so much who played bad, but more who didn’t live up to expectations.
Eakins was seemingly doing everything he could to find the right spot for Troy Terry. He played with seven different Ducks’ forwards across four games. He received several shifts with both Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique, and will likely line up alongside one of them come opening night. Unfortunately, the points didn’t come for Terry, as he posted only one assist.
Terry is looking to build off an impressive rookie season where he posted four goals and nine assists across 32 games with the Ducks. He also scored at a point per game pace in the AHL with San Diego.
It’s hard for me to judge Mahura’s preseason too critically. He spent his first two games with Jani Hakanpaa and played alongside Michael Del Zotto in his final game.
Diving into the numbers, it wasn’t a spectacular preseason from Mahura. He was on the ice for the most scoring chances against of any Ducks’ defensemen with 28. He also allowed 46 shot attempts against while only contributing 33 shot attempts for.
It’s not that he was awful, it’s just I expected more. Especially with a spot on the roster up for grabs. The Ducks once envied defense core isn’t what it used to be so I’m sure we will see Mahura up with the Ducks at some point this season. I’m just not sure his preseason performance was enough to earn one for opening night.
Ducks’ Face Difficult Decision on Forwards
With Sam Carrick and Daniel Sprong clearing waivers, the Ducks opening night roster is starting to take shape.
Despite announcing an opening night roster, there are still two or three cuts left to be made to get the Ducks down to 13 forwards. Sam Steel and Ondrej Kase are classified as injured/non-roster for now, but once they are healthy the Ducks will have two difficult decisions to make. That leaves 15 players vying for 13 spots.
Per CapFriendly, Steel, Lundestrom, Max Jones, Terry, and Maxime Comtois are all waiver exempt, making them an easier option to send down to San Diego. With Ritchie, Rakell, and Comtois taking up the top three spots of left wing and with Getzlaf, Steel, and Henrique down the middle, it would make sense if the Ducks opt to send Jones and Lundestrom down to San Diego rather than playing them on the fourth line. The decision will likely depend on how each of them play throughout the first couple games of the season.
Either way, Eakins, general manager Bob Murray and the rest of the Ducks organization still have a few difficult decisions to make once everyone returns to the lineup.
All stats from Natural Stat Trick.
If you enjoyed this article and want to hear a full breakdown of my thoughts on the Ducks opening night roster, check out the latest episode of The Forever Mighty Podcast below!
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!