The Anaheim Ducks were fortunate to get this far without major absentees, but they are now victims of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant with several players in COVID protocol.
Zegras Named Rookie of the Month for December
It was a terrific month for Trevor Zegras, who racked up 11 points (2-9-11) in nine games. That was good enough to earn “Rookie of the Month” honors, ahead of Anton Lundell, Tanner Jeannot, and fellow Calder Memorial Trophy candidates Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider.
Zegras had a four-game point streak to December and was on the scoresheet in six of nine games. Not to mention, his highlight assist on Sonny Milano’s goal against the Buffalo Sabres—are we calling it the Dishigan?— went viral on social media.
Zegras is the first Ducks player to be named “Rookie of the Month” since goaltender John Gibson in Dec. 2015 and the first Ducks skater since Bobby Ryan in Jan. 2009.
Comtois and Fowler Return, Ducks Depleted by COVID
Max Comtois exited COVID protocol, and Cam Fowler returned from an upper-body injury that kept him out of Friday’s game. But the gain came with another loss as Ryan Getzlaf entered COVID protocol on Sunday. Nic Deslauriers and Derek Grant also entered COVID protocol on Monday, meaning the Ducks were without a handful of regulars on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Ducks dearly missed Fowler on Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights as they failed to generate speed on their breakout, and the blue line was kept in check offensively. Fowler and Comtois returned with a bang on Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche and combined for a power-play goal.
The Ducks’ blue line is stronger than it has been in recent seasons, but Fowler’s return brings more stability.
Kindopp Makes NHL Debut, O’Regan Makes Ducks Debut
With all the missing regulars, a couple of players made their season debut on Tuesday night. Bryce Kindopp made his NHL debut, while Danny O’Regan, who spent time with San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres, made his Ducks debut.
Kindopp signed an entry-level deal with the Ducks on March 4, after parts of five seasons with the Everett Silvertips. Known as “Larry” by his Silvertips teammates, Kindopp has played all three forward positions this season with the San Diego Gulls in the American Hockey League (AHL). This season was the first time he’s played center; he was asked to fill in when the Gulls’ center depth went shallow.
O’Regan, an AHL veteran, joined the Ducks this offseason after spending last season with the Henderson Silver Knights, the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate. He is now one of the veteran leaders on the Gulls, and the call-up represents a big moment for him.
Niedermayer and Kariya Lead Search for New GM
After Bob Murray’s resignation earlier this season, the Ducks have been without a new general manager. Assistant general manager Jeff Solomon was promoted on an interim basis, but the Ducks are looking for a permanent option going into next season. Former Ducks Scott Niedermayer and Paul Kariya are assisting in the search, along with CEO Michael Schulman and Aaron Teats, the Ducks’ president of business operations, reports TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Niedermayer and Kariya are Ducks legends, and their opinions will be influential in hiring the team’s next general manager. Niedermayer spent time as a coach at the Ducks’ development camp, while Kariya has been away from the game for most of his retirement from the NHL but has begun to immerse himself in the game more recently.
Terry Reaches 20-Goal Mark, Gets First Career Hat Trick
After a slow start following the holiday break, Troy Terry is getting back into the swing of things. He scored his first career hat trick on Tuesday against the Flyers—en route to a 4-1 win—to bring his total to 21, the first 20-goal scorer for the Ducks since the 2019-20 season. At this pace, he has a good shot of becoming the Ducks’ first 30-goal scorer since Rickard Rakell during the 2017-18 season.
Terry is now third in the league in goals scored behind Leon Draisaitl and Alexander Ovechkin. Terry’s hat trick is just one of the many highlights the 24-year-old has compiled as part of a breakout season and incidentally came exactly five years after he scored three goals in the shootout to beat Russia and send Team USA to the gold medal game in the 2017 World Juniors. Terry would also play a part in the gold medal game, scoring the winning shootout goal to beat Canada 5-4.
Robinson Reaches Career-High in Games Played
The number of players who have entered the COVID protocol has allowed many AHLers to get an extended look and make their mark in the NHL. Sam Carrick has done that since his recall, and now Buddy Robinson may be doing the same. Robinson was recalled on Dec. 1 and played in his 10th game for the Ducks last night, which marked a career-high in NHL games played; he appeared in nine games last season for the Calgary Flames.
With Deslauriers and Grant in COVID protocol, and Sam Carrick absent on Tuesday due to a non-COVID illness, Robinson is one of the few players in the Ducks’ lineup who isn’t afraid to throw the body. He may not be the fastest or most skilled player, but he knows his role and does it well.
The Ducks didn’t look great coming out of the holiday break and their missing players haven’t helped matters. But they are turning the page and reversing course. Their 4-1 win on Tuesday was a resilient one, given how many players they had unavailable due to COVID protocol.
A solid goaltending performance from Gibson and an offensive showcase headlined by Terry’s hat trick nabbed Dallas Eakins his 100th win as Ducks head coach.
The Ducks will look to carry this momentum with them into their next game on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.
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Derek Lee is a contributor for The Hockey Writers covering the Anaheim Ducks. Derek has spent nearly two decades immersed in the world of sports and has been writing about sports for five years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication in May 2020 from UCCS in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he also spent two and a half years on staff with their on-campus student newspaper–both as a sports reporter and editor. In his free time, he enjoys playing FIFA, curating his Spotify playlists and attending concerts & sporting events