Ducks Seek Stability With New 4th Line of Jones, Grant & Regenda

The Anaheim Ducks churned out a successful preseason, challenging players both old and young to step up and fill the holes that were deemed question marks heading into training camp. Of the more pressing issues facing head coach Dallas Eakins was putting together a fourth line capable of playing reliable minutes. Luckily for him, the solution may have stumbled upon him this past week with the emergence of the Max Jones, Derek Grant and Pavol Regenda line.

Here is what Eakins had to say after the Ducks’ final preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings: “They’re our most responsible line. They have the puck when they’re on the ice…To me, over the past couple games, they’ve been our best line. They’re committed to the way we want to play.”

The trio has gained the trust of their coach and will likely begin the season together, but how sustainable are they as a unit in the long term? Let’s crunch some numbers to determine just how far their new-found chemistry could take the Ducks’ bottom-six.

Derek Grant

Derek Grant is no stranger to having to fight his way onto an NHL roster. Now in his 11th season, he has found himself back in Anaheim for a third stint with the club where he has played the most NHL games in his career.

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The team has always enjoyed what Grant brings to the faceoff circle, as he leads all current Ducks centermen in career faceoff win percentage at 51.8 percent. This makes him the ideal candidate to line up for crucial defensive zone draws, such as on the penalty kill or in late-game situations where possession is imperative.

Last season, just a shade under 70 percent of Grant’s draws were taken in the defensive zone. The result was a breakout year, wherein he put up career highs in assists (14), points (29) and blocked shots (49) in 71 games played.

Derek Grant Anaheim Ducks
Derek Grant, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Overall, you know what you are going to get out of a player like Grant. It will be a change of pace for him to anchor his own line, as he spent most of his time on the wing with Jakob Silfverberg and Isac Lundestrom last season. Though, he has played center before and seems comfortable doing so through his first few tries in the preseason. He will be the X-factor who determines the sustained reliability of this unit going forward.

Max Jones

An underlier, Max Jones had to compete this training camp to earn a spot on the opening night roster. He is coming off a wash of a season after a torn pectoral muscle kept him on the shelf for all but two games last year. He had much to prove this September, with more than a few players competing against him for a roster spot.

Jones made a splash, scoring three goals and four points in his five preseason games, including a two-goal effort against the Los Angeles Kings back on Oct. 5. He struggled to get anything going until he was assigned as Grant’s winger. From there, the duo was a combined plus-13 with five goals and 10 points.

Jones needs to play with responsible players if he is going to carve out a greater role within the Ducks organization. If you dive into some deeper numbers on the 24-year-old, he has averaged fewer goals per 60 minutes (1.9) than he has goals against per 60 minutes (2.4) in the first three seasons of his career. It is a number that needs to improve sooner rather than later.

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

Selected in the first round of the 2016 Entry Draft (24th overall), Jones fills out his 6-foot-3 frame with 216 pounds of crash and bang. This will be the season he comes into his own.

Taking on the role of ‘fourth-line grinder’ perfectly suits Jones’ personality. In the shortened 2020-21 season, he added a physical element to his game and looked as though he was shot out of a cannon, throwing 100 hits in a single season for the first time in his career in just 46 games.

Pavol Regenda

Of the three players who have emerged to form this trifecta, Pavol Regenda is the most unproven and may not be guaranteed consistent minutes once the season kicks off despite his solid showing in the preseason. His size alone makes him favorable in almost any matchup, with a stature similar to Jones at 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds.

Signing with the Ducks as an undrafted free agent in June, the 24-year-old Slovenian inked a two-year deal after playing his entire career in his home country, most recently in the Tipos Extraliga with HK Dukla MIchalovce. He led the team in points (7) this preseason but landed a spot on the opening night roster because of his poise with the puck.

Over the course of his two seasons with the club, Regenda potted 26 goals and 61 points in 93 games, helping to push the team to a third-place finish during the 2020-21 postseason. Tipos Extraliga is considered the sixth highest in quality for competitive hockey in the world, but it is still a far cry from the NHL.

The contract he signed is at the NHL level, so he will have to clear waivers to be sent down. The Ducks have his name on the opening night roster, though it is likely Regenda will need to continue to work hard and produce to secure regular minutes on this squad moving forward.

Ducks Fourth Line Building a Model for Consistency

In all, Anaheim has put together its fourth unit with a combination of skill, size and experience — a recipe for a line that can overwhelm its opponent on four out of five nights. The Jones, Grant, Regenda line has set the standard for playing responsibly under coach Eakins’ regime. The fruits of their labor will be on full display when the Ducks open their season at the Honda Center on Oct. 12 against the Seattle Kraken.

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