5 Must-Watch Ducks Games in 2022-23

The Anaheim Ducks aren’t done rebuilding yet, but their new stars demand an audience. With the recent release of the NHL’s United States national television schedule, the Ducks were awarded with 14 broadcasts across ESPN and TNT platforms. While that may be a lot for a team that ultimately finished in the bottom 10 of the league last season, their ascending star power is hard to ignore. Trevor Zegras finished second in the Calder Trophy voting last year and is now on the cover of a video game. Mason McTavish just tore up the World Junior Classic and will be a Calder front-runner this season. Throw in the breakout potential of Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale, and Max Comtois, and suddenly the Ducks are a compelling team to watch, even if the roster isn’t completely fleshed out. Here are five can’t-miss Ducks games that will appear on national television this season.

Oct. 23 vs. Detroit Red Wings (ESPN)

The Ducks will end a 5-game Eastern Conference road trip with a visit to Little Caesars Arena. The Detroit Red Wings are in a similar situation as Anaheim, as years of mortgaging the future to extend their competitive window have come home to roost. After an unprecedented 25-year streak of playoff seasons, the Red Wings have failed to make the postseason in the last six. Similarly, the Ducks have failed to make the postseason in each of the last four seasons after appearing in 12 of the previous 15.

Related: Anaheim Ducks: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

Both franchises are in better shape today than they were entering their playoff droughts, and the similarities between the two run deep. Detroit sees future success in their young forward and defenseman tandem of Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, very similarly to how Anaheim views Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. Not to mention, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek was hired from the Red Wings organization, a sign that Detroit’s rebuilding plan has a seal of approval in Anaheim. While this interconference game may not have any far-reaching effect this season, both teams have eyes on the future. It’s never too early to preview the 2026 Stanley Cup Final.

Oct. 26 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (TNT)

Another early-season game on national television brings the Tampa Bay Lightning to Anaheim for their yearly visit. The two small-market clubs may share a similar climate, but their recent history couldn’t be more different. While the Ducks have been rebuilding, the Lightning have been historically great. In the last four seasons, the Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in three trips, as well as one of the best regular seasons in the league’s history back in 2018-19. Tampa’s recent run is the closest to a dynasty that the league has seen in the salary cap era.

Corey Perry Tampa Bay Lightning
Corey Perry, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite the usual wear-and-tear of trying to keep a title contender together year in and year out, the Lightning remain in a class above the Ducks. While this presents a great opportunity to see some of the younger Ducks players take on one of the elite teams in the NHL, this game will also have sentimental value. Longtime Duck Corey Perry is in the final year of his contract with the Lightning. As an Eastern Conference opponent and at 37 years old, this is likely the last time Perry plays in Anaheim. Hopefully, the TNT broadcast recognizes the importance of this sentimental matchup, as the moment won’t be lost on the Honda Center-faithful.

Jan. 13 vs. New Jersey Devils (ESPN+/Hulu)

Trevor Zegras and Jack Hughes are budding superstars. The two friends from the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) have taken tremendous strides since being top-10 picks in the 2019 Entry Draft. Hughes, the top pick from that draft class, has developed into a point-per-game player and has earned an 8-year, $8 million per year contract to stay in New Jersey. Zegras, the ninth overall pick from the same draft class, has established himself as one of the most creative puck-handlers in the league, and his tendency to pull these tricks off has landed him on this year’s NHL 23 cover.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

These two stars are fun to watch, and they’re clearly motivated by each other. In a game against the Chicago Blackhawks last season, Hughes scored an overtime winner and lofted his stick into the crowd as a celebration. A month later, Zegras scores an overtime winner against the Washington Capitals, and he tossed his stick in the crowd just like Hughes. With two of the brightest stars trying to one-up each other, the Devils and Ducks will be must-see television.

Feb. 17 vs. Los Angeles Kings (ESPN)

The Freeway Faceoff rivalry is the strongest it’s been in several years. Both teams have spent the better part of the last half-decade rebuilding, but the Kings look like they’re ready to emerge as a contender. Last season marked the first trip to the playoffs in several years for the Kings, and they would have made it out of the first round had it not been for Connor McDavid willing the Edmonton Oilers to a series victory. Their offseason acquisition and extension of Kevin Fiala signals that the rebuild is effectively over, and they’re entering this season with the expectation that they’ll return to the playoffs.

Related: Ducks & Kings Rivalry Renewed After Rebuilds

The Ducks have made great progress in their rebuild, but they’re likely another year or two away from competing with the Kings in the Pacific Division standings. But as a divisional rival, the Kings will be a yearly hurdle to make the postseason. The Kings and Ducks have rarely been good at the same time. In fact, they’ve only played each other in the playoffs once in 2014. As both teams come out of their rebuilds with stacked lineups and lofty expectations, the Freeway Faceoff will become one of the premiere rivalries in the NHL.

March 7 vs. Seattle Kraken (ESPN+/Hulu)

After a modest inaugural season, the Kraken still have a lot going on for them. Their debut season was derailed by inconsistent goaltending and infrequent scoring. While they’ve addressed goaltending by signing Martin Jones, the offense could get a spark from Matthew Beniers and Shane Wright, their top picks from each of the last two drafts.

As another Pacific Division opponent geared for the future, this is a great barometer for the Ducks. With a handful of divisional opponents looking to compete over a span of several years, Anaheim needs to make sure their roster isn’t just built to compete with current division powerhouses like Edmonton and Calgary but also with future competitors like Los Angeles and Seattle. Along with these tests, a handful of nationally televised games against Eastern Conference opponents will also show how the Ducks size up to the elite teams in the NHL, as well as other up-and-comers.

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