5 Takeaways from Ducks 2022 Training Camp

The beginning of training camp signals that the regular season is fast approaching and for the Anaheim Ducks, there was certainly a lot more buzz about them heading into this season’s camp compared to last season. There was plenty to take away from the Ducks’ four days of training camp.

Last Blue Line Spot Wide Open

The Ducks’ defensive corps looks to be almost set in stone for the 2022-23 season after they added John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov to their current trio of Cam Fowler, Jamie Drysdale and Kevin Shattenkirk. The remaining spot in the top-6 comes down to one of Simon Benoit, Urho Vaakanainen or Josh Mahura.

Benoit looks to be the lead horse in the race after skating in 53 games during his first full NHL season in 2021-22. He spent a majority of the season as part of the third defensive pair with Fowler and Hampus Lindholm ahead of him. He could potentially see a similar role this season alongside Shattenkirk, whom he played with frequently last season.

Vaakanainen was acquired in the deal that sent Lindholm to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline last season and he skated in 14 games for the Ducks prior to the conclusion of last season. A good chunk of his ice time was spent paired with Drysdale, although the numbers show that the two did not exactly perform well together. The Ducks had enough faith in Vaakanainen to offer him a contract this past offseason, perhaps a more sheltered role could benefit him.

Mahura probably has the most to lose out of the three duking it out for the final top-6 spot. This will be his fifth NHL season, though he’s never skated in more than 38 games in any of those campaigns. It’s been difficult for him to find consistency, coming in and out of the lineup. For whatever reason, things just haven’t clicked at the NHL level for Mahura to become a consistent fixture. If he fails to make the team out of camp, he’ll have to pass through waivers and there’s the possibility of a team claiming him.

Fourth Line Has Plenty of Options

There was already going to be plenty of competition for the bottom end of the Ducks’ forward lines going into training camp, but the announcement that Sam Carrick had undergone hip surgery in May and wouldn’t be ready for the season opener opened up another spot on the Ducks’ fourth line. As it stands, Derek Grant looks to be the only one who’s secured a spot on that line.

Max Jones Anaheim Ducks
Max Jones, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The return of Max Jones should give a big boost to the Ducks. The forward missed all but two games last season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. It was obvious he’s been rearing to go, demonstrated by his hard work and unfazed nature in going to the dirty areas during training camp drills. The departures of Josh Manson and Nic Deslauriers have certainly taken away some of the snarl that the Ducks have had in past seasons, and Jones will look to fill part of that as best he can in 2022-23.

Rocco Grimaldi was brought in on a professional tryout (PTO) and hasn’t looked out of place. His shot is more than capable of finding the twine and though he’s undersized by a wide margin, he too is unafraid of getting to the tough areas. Three points in the Ducks’ first preseason game on Sunday won’t hurt his case either.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx made the team out of camp last season, but it was clear early on that he probably needed a bit more time in the minors before making the jump to the NHL full-time. A series of injuries cut his 2021-22 season short, but he looked impressive during training camp as well. His defensive work is his calling card and, for that reason, he may edge out some of his competitors. A natural center, he’s capable of playing on the wing and could interchange with Grant when needed.

Related: 3 Ducks’ Burning Questions for the 2022-23 Season

A dark horse candidate to make his way onto the fourth line out of camp would be Brayden Tracey. More of a scorer than a grinder, he put up 31 points in 50 games in his first full American League Hockey (AHL) season with the San Diego Gulls and appeared in one game for the Ducks. It feels like head coach Dallas Eakins will want to roll with as much experience as he can with his fourth line, but having someone who can chip in offensively as well isn’t such a bad idea.

Last but certainly not least is 2022 first-round pick, Nathan Gaucher. After winning gold with Team Canada alongside fellow Ducks prospects Mason McTavish and Olen Zellweger, Gaucher came into camp with plenty of momentum. Like Groulx, his defensive work shines brighter than his offense, though he did light the lamp 31 times last season for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMHL).

Nathan Gaucher Anaheim Ducks
Nathan Gaucher, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It wouldn’t be out of the question for the Ducks to give Gaucher a nine-game audition before sending him back to the QMJHL just like they did with McTavish at the beginning of last season. Because of how many centers the Ducks have in their system, players like Gaucher and McTavish spent a lot of time during camp playing on the wing. Perhaps a hint of what’s to come for the regular season.

Zegras + McTavish = High-Octane Offense

Speaking of McTavish, it’s clear that he’s ready to play for the big club. So much so that his linemates during camp drills and scrimmages were Trevor Zegras and veteran Jakob Silfverberg. While they weren’t able to showcase their offensive capabilities as a pair too much, McTavish grabbed the bull by the horns during a scrimmage on the first day of camp, scoring two goals, including the eventual game-winning goal.

McTavish’s release is lethal and though he likes to talk about how good his vision and playmaking are, it’s the shot that will always have people talking. What better way to complement that than to pair him with a premier playmaker like Zegras? The Ducks’ new no. 11 keeps you guessing every time he hits the ice with how creative he is with the puck sometimes. There certainly won’t be as much time and space to make things happen once the regular season begins, but something tells me these two are going to be trouble for the rest of the league throughout 2022-23.

Plenty of Prospects Knocking on the Door

There are a few names that are ever so close to cracking the roster but they either could use a bit more time in the minors or are blocked by those ahead of them. One who seems close but could use more seasoning is the aforementioned Zellweger. His skating is a thing to behold and the way he effortlessly glides up and down the ice – with and without the puck – has had Ducks fans salivating.

The question of whether he can be a consistent factor on the defensive side due to his lack of size remains to be seen, but Zellweger has already shown he knows what the smart play to make is and he’s also capable of throwing the body around when needed.

Olen Zellweger Everett Silvertips
Olen Zellweger, Everett Silvertips (Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images)

Lukáš Dostál is one who’s blocked by those ahead of him. Far and beyond the Gulls’ best player last season, he was rewarded with a call-up and four games in the NHL last season, including a win in his first game. After just two seasons in North America, it’s already clear that he’s close to becoming an NHL goaltender.

The trade rumors swirled and swirled when it came to starting goaltender John Gibson being dealt this offseason, but a true offer never came and he reiterated that he was happy with remaining a Duck. Backup Anthony Stolarz is more than capable, which leaves Dostál starting for the Gulls again, at least until the end of the season, when Stolarz’s contract expires.

Like Tracey, Jacob Perreault is another forward who can offer scoring upside to the Ducks. His 2021-22 season was also marred by injuries and may have played a part in stunting his development a bit. There’s no doubt that he has the offensive ability, but a tendency to float around the perimeter often along with lackluster defensive effort could do him in.

Noah Warren and Tristan Luneau, who were both drafted in the second round by the Ducks this summer, both showed off their skillsets during camp. The former – who stands at 6-foot-4 – not only has an imposing presence on the ice, but his shot looks to be an underrated part of his game. He also laid some bruising hits over the course of camp.

Luneau is a more than willing puck carrier and knows how to get it from his own zone into the offensive zone in a hurry. His decision-making with the puck and his shot were on display at the Rookie Faceoff Tournament earlier this month and it was clear to see during drills that he knows how to pick his spot.

Klingberg Signing Has Ripple Effect

There was a great bit of surprise when news broke that the Ducks had signed Klingberg, but general manager Pat Verbeek knew exactly what he was doing with this deal. Signed to a one-year, $7 million contract, Klingberg is not only a top-4 defenseman and power play option, but he’s also a wealth of experience for young players on the team, notably Drysdale and prospects like Zellweger, Warren and Luneau.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Zellweger was paired with Klingberg during training camp and it was a sight to see how fluid the two were together. Drysdale now has two right-handed veteran defensemen on the team to lean on in Shattenkirk and Klingberg and he could be primed for a breakout season after holding his own in 2021-22 as a 19-year-old.

How players did during training camp was the first step. With preseason already underway, the impressions that players left on the coaching staff and front office could be the difference between making the team or being left off the roster when the season starts in October.

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