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2016-17 Player Review: The New Guys

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

When July rolled around, the Ducks were actively filling their roster with free agent signings. The biggest, of course, being goaltender Ryan Miller, whom the Ducks locked up for two years. However, they also added depth throughout the lineup by signing centers Derek Grant and Dennis Rasmussen, and defenseman Steve Oleksy.

Grant and Oleksy were signed on July 2 - Grant receiving and one-year contract and Oleksy taking a two-year deal. Rasmussen, meanwhile, inked his one-year contract five days later.

Grant has recorded seven assists and 30 penalty minutes in 86 career NHL games with the Ottawa Senators (2012-14), Calgary Flames (2015-16), Buffalo Sabres (2016-17) and Nashville Predators (2016-17). He established several NHL career highs last season with Buffalo and Nashville, including points (4), assists and games played (46). The 27-year-old brings size (6-3, 212 pounds) and plenty of American Hockey League experience, having played in 315 career games earning 181 points (99g/82a) with a +10 rating and 196 penalty minutes.  

Rasmussen, meanwhile, is coming off his first full NHL season. The 27-year-old spent the entire 2016-17 campaign with the Chicago Blackhawks where he recorded eight points (4g/4a) and 12 penalty minutes in 68 games. He made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut last April and scored his first career postseason goal against Pekka Rinne in Game 3 of the First Round on April 17 at Nashville. The 6-3, 205-pound center was just one of three Hawks to score in the series.

With the departure of veteran Nate Thompson, Grant and Rasmussen will likely be among a handful of players jockeying for a bottom-six center role with the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler will anchor the top two lines and veteran/faceoff specialist Antoine Vermette is locked in for one more year. There is also Rickard Rakell, who began his NHL career as a center but has since flourished at left wing. Let's not forget about Chris Wagner and Logan Shaw, who each saw time down the middle with Anaheim. In other words, Grant and Rasmussen will have their work cut out for them at the center position once training camp begins next month.

Oleksy, too, will face stiff competition in September. The 31-year-old defenseman has collected 20 points (3g/17a) with a +17 rating and 110 penalty minutes in 73 career NHL games with the Washington Capitals (2012-15) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2016-17). He appeared in 11 regular-season games last season, earning one assist with a +2 rating and 24 penalty minutes. Oleksy has spent most of his professional career in the AHL, where he has amassed 87 points (13g/74a) with a +47 rating and 652 penalty minutes in 319 games. He spent the majority of last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Toronto Marlies, earning 14 points (4g/10a) and 55 penalty minutes in 36 AHL games.

Oleksy joins a Ducks team with a bevy of right-handed shooting defensemen, which includes Brandon Montour, Josh Manson, Sami Vatanen (injured), Kevin Bieksa and Korbinian Holzer. There is also prospect Andy Welinski, who had himself a solid rookie season with the San Diego Gulls in 2016-17, earning 29 points (6g/23a) in 63 games. Welinski, 24, was drafted in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

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