The 2022-23 season is finally here. For the second straight campaign, the Anaheim Ducks open their season at home to take on the Seattle Kraken. Home openers have been rare in Ducks’ franchise history, as this will only be their eighth in nearly 30 years.
For as rare as home openers have been for the Ducks, wins are equally hard to come by. Anaheim is 9-19 all-time in season openers, with the loss column buoyed by a seven-year winless span from 1993-1999. Despite the challenges the rebuild has presented in recent years, they have managed to win four of their last five.
Meet the New Ducks
A season opener is the first chance to see the new faces integrated into the lineup in a meaningful way. With the recent announcement of their opening night roster, eight newcomers to the organization will join 15 returning Ducks players. Those players are:
- Frank Vatrano, right wing
- Ryan Strome, center
- Pavol Regenda, left wing
- Colton White, defenseman
- John Klingberg, defenseman
- Dmitry Kulikov, defenseman
- Nathan Beaulieu, defenseman
- Brett Leason, right wing
Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek had a productive first offseason with the franchise. Several of the free agent signings will bolster the top of both position groups, with Vatrano and Strome expected to be among the top six forwards. The free agent signing of Klingberg and trade for Kulikov give the defensive group a significant boost in NHL experience and creates flexibility within the top two defensive pairings.
Brett Leason is the most recent addition to the roster, as the 6-foot-5, 218-pound forward was claimed off waivers from the Washington Capitals this week. The former second-round pick appeared in 36 games for the Capitals last year, putting up six points in a fourth-line role. He will likely stay in a depth role in Anaheim, but his size will be a unique asset on this Ducks’ roster and Verbeek felt he was worth the waiver claim.
Kraken Scouting Report
The NHL’s newest franchise will enter its second year after a difficult inaugural season. The Kraken were a trendy playoff pick in their first season, as the same expansion rules for the Vegas Golden Knights five years prior were capable of building an immediate contender. Even after their expansion draft ended with less strong-arming compared to Vegas’, Seattle’s defense and goaltending were thought to be good enough to compete in an underwhelming Pacific Division. The season served as a reality check, and the Kraken finished 27-49-6. Their 60 points were the lowest in the division and third lowest in the NHL. They were doomed by a league-low .880 save percentage (SV%) in combination with the fourth-fewest goals per game (2.60). The Kraken will enter the 2022-23 season with eyes on the future, beginning with centers Matthew Beniers and Shane Wright.
Beniers and Wright will begin their rookie campaigns on opening night. Beniers was taken with the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, one pick before the Ducks selected Mason McTavish. He played two years of college hockey for the University of Michigan and scored 67 points in 61 regular season games. He then joined the Kraken for 10 games at the end of last season and managed three goals and six assists.
Wright was the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. After spending most of his draft year as the expected number-one pick, his slide down the draft board means that the Kraken will possess a dangerous one-two punch at the center position for years to come.
Players to Watch
Anaheim Ducks: Pavol Regenda
Regenda isn’t the most familiar name on the Ducks roster, but his presence there is no mistake. He signed with the Ducks in the summer after a breakout season in his home country of Slovakia, leading all skaters under the age of 23 in scoring in the country’s top league. He’s made the most of his chances since arriving in Anaheim, leading all Ducks players in goals and points while appearing in all but one exhibition game. He’ll likely join Max Jones and Derek Grant on a tenacious fourth line.
Seattle Kraken: Andre Burakovsky
While it can be easy to talk about Beniers or Wright again, the Kraken have a few interesting players worth watching. One of their bigger acquisitions of the offseason, Andre Burakovsky was brought in by Seattle to provide more scoring. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is coming off career-high statistics across the board while playing for the Colorado Avalanche. While he won’t be surrounded by the high-end talent that he was last season, there are exciting pieces in play that should help him become a primary scoring option.
- With Josh Mahura being claimed off waivers by the Florida Panthers, the battle for the third left defenseman position is now between Beaulieu and Simon Benoit. When Urho Vaakanainen returns from injured reserve (IR), the Ducks will have another decision to make.
- McTavish will begin his rookie season on the wing, where he played all of training camp. He should eventually make the transition to center, similar to Trevor Zegras’ development when he entered the league.
I was born and raised in Mission Viejo, California, and currently live in Visalia, California. Graduated from CSUF in 2016 with a B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts. I’ve been a sports fan for my entire life, rooting for the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Rams and Miami Heat. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, trying to pour a perfect cup of coffee, and testing out a local craft beer.