Welcome to the fourth edition of the Anaheim Ducks‘ roundtable discussion. The Ducks’ 2020-21 season has been over for quite some time, but there’s still a lot to discuss about this past season’s performance, the 2021 NHL Draft and what to look forward to next season. I was joined by Vancouver Canucks and prospects writer Matthew Zator and Vegas Golden Knights and (newly appointed) Ducks writer, Brett Pickler.
Matthew – Max Comtois
On a team with no 20-goal scorer, Max Comtois was the most consistent Duck offensively. The 22-year-old forward scored a career-high 16 goals and ended up finishing as their leading scorer with 33 points. He was also one of only four players who finished on the right side of the plus/minus column with a plus-3.
He should be a key part of the core moving forward, especially if he can build upon his breakout season and establish himself as a prominent member of the Ducks’ top six.
Brett – Comtois
The MVP of the team was Comtois. He led the team in points and seemed to improve the most as the season went along. He has a high potential and if the Ducks are able to get some more offensive weapons, Comtois should be able to increase his production and make himself Anaheim’s next franchise player.
Derek – Comtois
It’s not difficult to have a 20-goal scorer on a bottom-2 team in the league, even if you’re dead-last in the league in goals, too. The 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings did just that, having exactly one 20-goal scorer, Tyler Bertuzzi, during their bottom-feeding season. However, not only did the Ducks finish bottom-2 and dead-last in the league in goals, they also posted the worst-ever power-play percentage in league history.
Comtois “only” managed 16 goals this season for the Ducks, but only one of those came on the man advantage. Of course, much of that can be attributed to the Ducks’ abysmal special teams unit, but it reinforces the fact that Comtois is an exceptional player at even strength. I’m not sure if he’ll eventually top out as a first-line winger, but he will be a very good top-6 forward for many years to come.
Most Disappointing Player
Matthew – Rickard Rakell
It has to be Rickard Rakell, right? The former 34-goal scorer turned in yet another season of underwhelming production where he failed to score 20 goals and should now be seen as an albatross for the Ducks and their fans. He’s not the goal scorer he used to be, and should be left unprotected for the Seattle Kraken to potentially snag.
Brett – Rakell
The most disappointing player this season was Rakell. Watching Anaheim’s games this year, it seemed he could not figure it out. Although he was always around the puck and shooting frequently, he could not seem to find the back of the net. This really hurt the Ducks on the power play and in overtime where he should be excelling.
Derek – Kevin Shattenkirk
It was difficult to narrow it down to just one player — that’s how underwhelming the Ducks were this season — but I settled on Kevin Shattenkirk, who was brought in this past offseason to help solidify the top-4 and assist the power play. He did neither of those things and, quite frankly, was outperformed by newcomer Haydn Fleury, who arrived via trade just a couple of months before the season ended.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that general Bob Murray is probably hoping — or at least trying to convince — Kraken general manager Ron Francis to select Shattenkirk in the upcoming expansion draft. Shattenkirk has two years remaining on his contract at a $3.9 million average annual value. If he remains with Anaheim through the expansion draft, he’ll need to be much better this upcoming season.
Most Surprising Player
Matthew – Trevor Zegras
After dominating the American Hockey League (AHL) to the tune of 10 goals and 21 points in 17 games, Zegras made his debut with the Ducks on Feb. 22 and proceeded to have a solid 24 games in the NHL. He ended up surprising everyone with three goals and 13 points, which included a brilliant move on his first goal and several other highlight-reel plays that just teased fans of his offensive potential.
Like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry before him, he will become an integral part of the Ducks’ attack and establish a legacy of excitement for years to come. I’m sure this won’t be the first surprising player award he will receive.
Brett – Jani Hakanpaa
At the beginning of the year it seemed like Jani Hakanpaa was going to be the seventh defenseman, but after the injury bug hit the Anaheim blue line, he got a chance to shine. He was solid for the Ducks defensively and was able to provide the team with solid play each and every night.
Derek – Hakanpaa
I didn’t expect Hakanpaa to be anything other than a seventh defenseman at best this season, someone who could fill in from time to time but wouldn’t be an everyday player. Boy, was I wrong. Injuries to both Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson early in the season forced head coach Dallas Eakins to make adjustments right away and one of those was to insert Hakanpaa into the lineup, pairing him with Cam Fowler.
The two formed a formidable duo and were two of Anaheim’s best defensemen this season. Hakanpaa’s performance was enough to earn him a relocation to a playoff-bound team in the Carolina Hurricanes, with Fleury coming back the other way.
Who Should the Ducks Draft Third Overall?
Matthew – Dylan Guenther
The Ducks need to keep adding to their forward depth, so Dylan Guenther should be their target. He would compliment the skills of uber playmaker Zegras and potentially add an elite element to the wing position. If they want to rebuild themselves into a powerhouse, they need to add more skill on the wing, especially with what they have at center right now in the aforementioned Zegras. The speed, skill and goal-scoring potential of Guenther would be the perfect fit for him and could create the NHL’s next dynamic duo.
Brett – Don’t Draft, Trade It Instead
I feel like the Ducks should be in the market to trade their pick. They have a solid youth core at both the NHL and AHL level and could use the pick to get a first-line scoring winger. With players like Zegras, Comtois, Max Jones, Sam Steel, and Jamie Drysdale, the future is bright in Anaheim.
Derek – William Eklund
Assuming Owen Power and Matthew Beniers go 1-2 in whichever order, that means the Ducks will have a handful of players to choose from. I’ve opted for Eklund, a 5-foot-10 forward from Sweden who can play on the wing or down the middle. Though a bit undersized, Eklund doesn’t shy away from physical play and he contributes at both ends of the ice. He handles the puck with ease, can play up and down the lineup and will be a key factor on special teams.
Having your first line (Zegras) and second line (Eklund) centers both averaging out below 6-foot isn’t ideal, but you can’t pass up a player like Eklund. If he eventually isn’t able to make the transition to playing center at the NHL level, shifting him to wing potentially gives you a future first-line trio of Eklund, Zegras and Comtois.
Who Will Be Selected From the Ducks by the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft?
Matthew – Rakell
If Rakell is left unprotected, the Kraken will probably swoop in and grab him. He may not be the same 34-goal scorer he used to be, but he still can score and contribute in a bottom-six role with his speed and overall two-way game. He clearly has hit a wall in Anaheim, so maybe a change of scenery will change his fortunes offensively.
Brett – Jacob Larsson
The expansion draft has been a bad memory for the Ducks. With Vegas, they lost Shea Theodore. Although this was the right decision at the time, he has come back to haunt the Ducks.
With that being said, Anaheim does have a few possible players they could leave unprotected. In my opinion, they would want Seattle to take someone like Jacob Larsson. He has seemed to struggle in Anaheim and his contract in the offseason last year came as a shock. It is a cheap option for the Kraken.
Derek – Adam Henrique
After being one of the best players on the team during the 2019-20 season, Adam Henrique fell flat to start off the 2020-21 season. He began to raise his production again after being placed on waivers and going unclaimed by every single team in the league, but still had a subpar season by his standards. Rumor is that the Ducks have him on the trade block, and it makes sense for both parties to part ways.
Leaving Henrique exposed for the expansion draft could be enticing for the Kraken as center is always a premium position. His contract isn’t the most team-friendly, so it’s unlikely the Ducks will find a suitor unless they retain salary. There’s only two likely scenarios for Henrique this summer and I don’t think either of them involve staying with the Ducks.
One Bold Prediction for the 2021-22 Season
Matthew – 20 goals, 70-plus points for Zegras
Yes, I think he will have that good of a season. If the Ducks go out and get him a legitimate goal scorer for his wing, 50 assists should be easy enough to get for a player with his elite vision and playmaking skills.
Brett – Ducks Make the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a Wild Card Team
The Ducks should see themselves back in the playoffs this next season. The development of their young players is promising. John Gibson should also see a return to form, so that combined with a more experienced youth could see good things happen down in Anaheim.
Derek – Zegras Will Win the Calder Trophy
Piggybacking off of Matthew here — I think Zegras will have a good enough season that he’s nominated for the Calder and will, in fact, win it. He’ll have some stiff competition — most notably up the interstate from Quinton Byfield — but I liked what I saw from Zegras this season, especially once he returned from his second stint in the AHL. He’s not fully adjusted to the rigors of playing center in the NHL just yet, but that will come with more playing time.
That’ll wrap up another edition of the Ducks Roundtable. Did you agree with our picks? Which position/player do the Ducks need to target in the upcoming draft and what are you looking forward to most next season? Let us know in the comments down below.
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