Another summer is upon us, which means another round of player reviews. AnaheimDucks.com is featuring a different Ducks player throughout the summer (in numerical order), highlighting key stats while also keeping an eye on next season. We continue with Ducks forward Ondrej Kase.
Most didn't expect Kase to make an impact during the 2016-17 season.
Kase, who missed most of training camp with various injuries, wasn't the most popular name honing his craft down in San Diego. The Kadan, Czech Republic native skated in just 25 games with the San Diego Gulls (AHL) during the 2015-16 season, recording 14 points. The small forward was also Anaheim's seventh-round selection (205th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
He joined the Ducks in early November, making his debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins and facing the Arizona Coyotes just two days later. Kase wouldn't join the team for good until a few weeks later, getting recalled the day before a Freeway Faceoff matchup with the Los Angeles Kings.
"I'm so happy," he said, describing the recall. "I'm happy."
He'd go on to make Ducks fans happy - and provide an important spark - throughout the rest of the season.
His first highlight came on December 1 in Vancouver. After killing consecutive penalties - including a 5-on-3 for 58 seconds - Kase would get his chance. Ryan Getzlaf fed him a nice pass, but the rookie couldn't cleanly corral and fire the puck. He alertly carried it behind the net, emerging from the other side and throwing a shot into a mass of bodies. The puck twice deflected off Vancouver defenseman - once off Nikita Tryamkin, once off Eric Gudbranson - and into the back of the net.
Video: ANA@VAN: Kase banks puck in for his first NHL goal
"Anytime you see a guy get his first goal it's exciting," Getzlaf said after the win. "Kase has actually been one of our best players since he's been here. He works hard and he's making plays."
He'd provide the spark again on a night Anaheim needed it most.
The Ducks clawed back against the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center, scoring three goals in the third period to force overtime. The score would remain the same until the shootout, when Kase would undress Cam Ward for the eventual winning tally.
Video: CAR@ANA: Kase's smooth hands net SO winner
He'd do it again, this time against a division opponent.
Deadlocked in a 2-2 tie with the Arizona Coyotes, Kase struck in overtime. Mike Smith stopped the initial shot from Cam Fowler, but he decided to play the puck. A lucky break - literally - of Smith's stick left it sitting near the crease, and Kase chipped it by the veteran goaltender for the win.
Video: ARI@ANA: Kase takes advantage of Smith's OT blunder
Kase would end the regular season with 15 points (5g/10a) in 53 games. It was just the beginning. He'd find the spotlight again, this time under the bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kase's first goal came in the Western Conference Final, after a coaching shakeup left him skating on the top line with Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Kase buries Getzlaf's smooth dish
The goal was an important one, as it tied the game at three and put the Ducks on the path to a come-from-behind win to even the series.
He'd score again during Game 6 in Nashville, kickstarting yet another comeback effort. He finished the postseason with those two goals in nine contests.
Throughout the season, the organization alludes to its depth in San Diego, and the importance it plays in finding success. Kase was one of the shining examples of its impact. Making the most of his opportunities, he went from training camp afterthought to important depth player. Pushing through the rookie wall is important for most young players, and Anaheim will expect him to take yet another step forward in 2017-18.