The Anaheim Ducks are still showing improvement as the season is nearing its end. Their 3-3-3 record in March is far from world-beating, but it pushes their record to 13-14-6 in 2023. It’s still a losing record, but they’re finally earning points in more games than not, and it’s a sizable improvement over their 10-23-4 mark in the 2022 portion of the season.
With today’s Ducks News & Rumors, we take a look at some news involving college prospects Nikita Nesterenko and Sam Colangelo. Additionally, Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks has eliminated the Ducks from postseason contention, and the bottom of the standings is starting to unfold as we approach the final dozen games of the NHL regular season.
Nesterenko Signs, Reports to Anaheim
Anaheim and Boston College forward Nikita Nesterenko agreed to a two-year entry-level contract (ELC) less than two weeks after acquiring his signing rights from the Minnesota Wild in the John Klingberg trade. The 21-year-old is reporting to Anaheim, using the first year of his ELC and making him a restricted free agent by the 2024 off-season. This is a change in course for the Ducks, with general manager Pat Verbeek suggesting Nesterenko would be reporting to San Diego after the college season. If Nesterenko and the Ducks failed to reach a deal by the end of his college career, he would become a free agent, which would have watered-down an already underwhelming return on the Klingberg deal. With that in mind, it is possible Nesterenko’s camp used this as leverage to get him in Anaheim and closer to a second contract.
Related: Ducks 2023 Trade Deadline Grades
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Nesterenko was a sixth-round pick by the Wild in 2019. He finishes his career at Boston College with 77 points in 97 games, including 34 points in 36 games in his final season. He has an encouraging size at 6-foot-2, but he’ll need to add to his 183-pound frame for it to truly become an asset in the NHL. Expectations in his first professional games will be limited to his linemates, as Anaheim’s bottom six lacks consistent play-driving. He’s been spotted practicing on a line with Isac Lundestrom and Frank Vatrano.
Colangelo Enters NCAA Transfer Portal
Northeastern forward and Ducks prospect Sam Colangelo has entered the transfer portal. After beating Harvard to win their second consecutive Beanpot Tournament in February, the Huskies missed out on the NCAA tournament after losing to Providence College in the Hockey East quarterfinals. In addition to the disappointing exit, Colangelo’s numbers have dropped off between his sophomore and junior seasons. EP Rinkside’s J.D. Burke notes that Colangelo’s skating needs work and that along with his spacial awareness, has led him to be a spectator on the ice.
Colangelo was drafted by Anaheim in the second round of the 2020 Draft. While playing for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL), he finished with 58 points in 44 games in the 2019-20 season. That level of production combined with his 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame, makes him an exciting prospect to have in the pipeline, and he’ll have one more year to iron out the wrinkles in his game before turning pro.
Ducks Officially Eliminated and Standings Update
The loss to Vancouver on Sunday has officially eliminated the Ducks from playoff contention. They’re the fourth team to bow out, joining the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ducks have been effectively out of the playoff picture since failing to earn a regulation win until their 20th game of the season, but the NHL’s point system tends to keep every team mathematically involved until the very end.
This is Anaheim’s fifth straight season without a postseason appearance, extending their franchise record.
The Ducks (23-37-10, 56 points) have the fourth-fewest points in the NHL, trailing the Blackhawks (24-39-6, 54 points), Sharks (19-37-14, 52 points), and Blue Jackets (21-41-7, 49 points). The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets have fewer games played than the Ducks, though these games alone wouldn’t be enough to surpass them in the standings. Friday’s win against the Blue Jackets was Anaheim’s last scheduled game against any of the bottom three teams.
The Ducks have earned at least one point in six of their nine games in March. It remains unlikely they’ll climb any higher in the standings, as they are still four points behind the next group — the Montreal Canadians (27-37-6, 60 points), Philadelphia Flyers (25-32-12, 62 points), and Arizona Coyotes (27-32-11, 65 points). The NHL announced the draft lottery will be held on May 8, and one of these teams will win the right to draft Connor Bedard with the top pick on June 28.