As the calendars turn to September, the NHL season draws closer. The Anaheim Ducks take the ice for their first preseason game on Sept. 25 as they prepare for the most important development year since the rebuild began. The 2022-23 season can go in several different ways for the Ducks. They are a young team that will have a hard time supplanting last year’s Pacific Division playoff teams, but it’s worth remembering this team was among last year’s playoff hopefuls as late as the second half of the season. Anaheim has its fair share of high-end prospects, but the roster still has gaps on defense and the bottom-6 forwards that weaken the overall product.
Here are five bold predictions for the Ducks this season. They’re meant to be reasonable, even though a “Troy Terry wins the Selke” prediction would be fun. They’re also far from guarantees, and unlikely in some cases. With much of the franchise’s focus on their youth movement, all of these bold predictions have something to do with the younger players that will usher in the next competitive era of Ducks hockey.
Mason McTavish Wins the Calder Trophy
Let’s with the only prediction that will impact the league as a whole. The third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Mason McTavish is expected to make the roster out of Ducks camp as he did a year ago. McTavish only appeared in nine NHL games last season, as he was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to continue his development. All he’s done since his last game in a Ducks uniform is make a run to the Memorial Cup Final, as well as represent Team Canada for the Winter Olympics and World Junior Championship.
There’s been no shortage of hockey for McTavish in the last calendar year, but he’s showing no sign of slowing down. We last saw him captaining the Canadian WJC team to a gold medal, scoring 17 points in eight games en route to being named the tournament’s MVP. McTavish has size and a shot that is NHL-caliber, and his game should translate to the highest level of the sport. There are a handful of exciting players that will be eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie, including Owen Power and Matthew Beniers, the two draft picks taken ahead of McTavish. Despite the stiff competition, McTavish should have the point production and opportunities usually necessary to garner Calder consideration.
Jamie Drysdale Leads Defense in Assists
Jamie Drysdale’s development has been under the microscope since his arrival to the NHL. His smaller frame and elite skating fit the mold of a new-age offensive defenseman, and he’s put up solid but not eye-popping numbers. Last season, he finished with 28 assists, second-most to Cam Fowler among Ducks defensemen; the addition of John Klingberg introduces another defender who outproduced Drysdale last season.
Klingberg will likely take the role of the lone defenseman on the top power play unit. But his tenure in Anaheim isn’t destined to be long, as the 30-year-old’s one-year contract seems likely to get moved at the trade deadline. From that point, I’d expect Drysdale to assume the top power play spot as he did for much of last season. The time on the power play combined with a breakout season could lead to one of the more productive seasons a Ducks defenseman has had in a long time. Even if he improves to 35 assists on the year, it will be the most a blueliner has put up in the last decade for the team.
Lukáš Dostal Ends the Season on the Ducks’ Roster
Lukáš Dostal has been the heir-apparent to John Gibson in net for the last several seasons. He’s entering his third season with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League (AHL), and he also got a few games in the NHL last season due to injuries. The 22-year-old is young but has a bright future and will probably be ready to assume the role of a backup in the NHL shortly. His biggest hurdle is the depth chart, with Gibson manning the top spot and Anthony Stolarz proving to be a capable backup last season.
A few different scenarios could result in Dostal ending the season as the Ducks’ backup goaltender. First would be the long-rumored Gibson trade finding a proper suitor. That kind of a move seems less likely at this point or at all during the regular season simply due to the salary cap gymnastics needed with his lofty contract. The other more feasible outcome involves moving Stolarz. Stolarz is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and his $950,000 contract makes him a cheap rental for a contender in dire need of help between the pipes. If the Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov experiment doesn’t pan out in Toronto, Stolarz would be a cheap fix for the Maple Leafs. Goaltender trades aren’t common, but the likelihood that either Ducks goaltender is moved makes me believe that Dostal will be the team’s backup by the end of the season.
Trevor Zegras Nets First-Ever Hat Trick on Oct. 18
Here’s an oddly specific bold prediction, but there’s a good reason. Trevor Zegras has done a lot in his relatively short career in hockey so far. He led Team U.S.A. to the 2021 World Junior Championship and was named the tournament’s MVP. His excellent rookie season in the NHL was enough to be named runner-up for the Calder Trophy, and he’s scored so many video game-style goals that he’s now the cover athlete for NHL 23. But one feather in his cap is still missing because Zegras, by his own admission, has never scored a hat trick in his life.
Zegras is too gifted to go much longer without a hat trick, so I expect it to happen early in the season. On Oct. 18, the Ducks are in New Jersey to take on the Devils. Zegras will be close to his hometown of Bedford, New York, and it will be against his good friend from the U.S. National Team Development Program, Jack Hughes. That’s enough motivation to make me believe he’ll be looking for the back of the net that night.
Ducks Remain Captain-less for Entire 2022-23 Season
It may not register as the boldest of predictions, but it is worth noting that the Ducks have had a captain since Troy Loney was named to the role in 1993. With the retirement of Ryan Getzlaf, a void in leadership remains in his place. Cam Fowler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Adam Henrique have been alternate captains in recent years, and this trio probably remains the lettered leaders in the locker room. It seems unlikely that any of them will receive the promotion to captain, especially because the label would probably be only temporary. The next Ducks captain will likely be one of the younger players, whether that be someone like Troy Terry, Zegras, or even McTavish. Waiting at least a season to name the captain will give the more youthful group a chance to play leadership roles as the team takes a step towards competitive relevancy.
These bold predictions are meant to be fun and reasonable, and they will be worth looking back at towards the end of the 2022-23 regular season. If any of these predictions do become a reality, it’s a positive sign for the future of the Ducks franchise. If you have any bold predictions with more fire than mine, let us know in the comments.