For 31 NHL teams every year, exodus day is bittersweet.

There's the joy of an upcoming summer, rest and relaxation, plus some much-needed time with family. There's the pride of completing another season at the game's highest level and the gratitude for experiencing the ride with teammates who became family.

But there's also the disappointment of falling short of the ultimate prize and, in half the league's case, missing out on the best postseason sprint in sports.

In Anaheim's case, the 2023-24 season was exciting, yet tumultuous. Encouraging for the future, yet beneath the club's rising expectations. And while several extended losing skids, a slew of injuries and some old-fashioned growing pains knocked the club early from playoff contention, Anaheim's late season surge left a reinvigorated Ducks squad already looking forward to October.

AnaheimDucks.com caught up with several Ducks this week for their thoughts on the season as a whole, the team's strong finish, the impact of a developing young core, taking the next steps towards playoff contention and more.

On the season

Troy Terry: It was a frustrating year at times. My biggest thing I've had to deal with as a player is just the mental side of it and sometimes being too hard on myself. There were some really good parts and I also think there's a lot of aspects to my game that I've really taken steps on. So I'm excited to just have a big summer, just kind of reset, and I'm already excited for next year.

Cam Fowler: There's a lot of optimism around this group for sure. I think some disappointment for how the season went...I think mentally and physically it was difficult, especially for some older players who want to win obviously, but at the same time it's up to us to help out this younger generation and help be mentors and leaders towards them. I'm proud of myself for that and all of our guys. So that's how I'm looking at it heading into the summer. 

Radko Gudas: Well, I think the season didn't go as well as we thought after the first 10, 15 games that it could have gone for us, but I also think that we're a very young group that needs the experience and needs to find out how hard it is to win in this league. And I think we did that, unfortunately sometimes a little harder of a way than we wanted. There's a lot of games that I thought that could have gone the other way and unfortunately it's a one-goal game. Sometimes the experience speaks for the two points, but I think we have a lot of guys that had growth in their personal games and I believe that they're all pumped about the way we played at the end. I thought were showing that we were a little more consistent and we're able to play with teams that are in the playoff spots and that are playing tight hockey. I think that was a great, great feeling to have in the group and I think the belief in the group became bigger and bigger.

Radko Gudas on being a leader for Ducks young defense

Mason McTavish: There are a lot of ups and downs throughout an 82 game season. I think finding that consistency is the biggest thing. We had great stretches and we had bad stretches, it's kind of part of a young, growing team. 

Ryan Strome: I think there was some good, some highs and lows. I think I had a really good start. I think in the middle I would've liked to be more productive, but towards the end I started to find my game. I think one thing I'd like to improve on is get my goal scoring back up. My totals have dropped in the last two years, so I think that's something I can address and work on in the summertime. You score 10 more goals and not only does it help the team, it helps your year. I'm always trying to find ways to get better. I think that's something I can address and hopefully fix for next year. 

And at the end of the day, I think everyone wants to be better and it's going to be put on ourselves individually to become better and I think that's just going to help the team. So that's what I'm going to do. 

Olen Zellweger: Lots of positive things I can build on. I think I grew a lot in San Diego and then to be able to come play with the Ducks and continue to work on my developing my game was really good for me. 

Leo Carlsson: Pretty good. Had a good start. Didn't play all the games and got injured twice, but I feel like I played well again after. I played some games better than others, of course. I feel like I could have had more points...[I felt a] huge difference from the first game against Dallas (his NHL debut) and then to the last game against Vegas. More confident, easier to carry the puck.

Mason McTavish reflects on his second NHL season

Killorn: I really liked the way my game was shaping up at the end of the year. Felt like I kind of came into my own at the end. I had the injuries with the broken finger and then the knee was bothering me. So after the knee surgery I felt like I had a good end of the season. 

It was a huge adjustment just in the sense that I came to a different place, all new teammates. I was kind of used to one thing and [in Tampa] I knew going into training camp what the coaching staff was going to be, who my teammates were going to be, how I was going to fit in. So in terms of that, there was a lot of unknown this year, but I feel like by the end of the year I really found a place for myself in this team and was really happy with the way that the end of the season went. 

On the team's improved play late in the season

Fowler: I think there were signs of that throughout the whole season. I think it was good that we were able to find a little consistency towards the end. I think that for our group, that was the main thing we were searching for was just the consistency because, when we had it, we felt like we could play any opponent any night, but when it slipped, that's when things kind of got off the rails for us. 

So I think we were able to put together that towards the end of the season and that should give us a lot of confidence moving forward. That was a good sign for our group. 

Frank Vatrano: We liked the way we played the last 10 or so games. I think when you're out of the playoff race you can kind of pack it in, call it quits, but as a group we met and said, 'that's not what we're doing and we want to go into next year feeling good about ourselves.' I think we can do that. Everyone's going to have a good summer and I'll be excited to come back next year. 

Gudas: Guys got a little more confident. Guys found out they can play against anybody in this league and I think it was great step for us as a group. A lot of individual guys played better as the season went on and that's what you want to see from your team just being hungrier, not to fall apart at the end of the season. I really like that from our group and I think that's something that everybody should think of when they work out in the summer coming back for next season.

Lukas Dostal:  I feel like we had good ending on a good note. We had the last couple of games where we were good, we were playing the way we wanted. Some results were there, sometimes we won the game, sometimes we lost. But throughout the year I think we made a major step and everybody went through those experiences and grew. 

McTavish: It's a good sign. It's easy for teams when they're out of the playoffs to just kind of fold over and quit, but I thought we ended really well. Obviously I was hurt, but just watching the games it looked like we were really competing hard and I was proud of the group for that.

Troy Terry on team's development, becoming a leader

Strome: I think confidence is a funny thing. I think we felt confident at different points of the year. For us it's more just the excitement towards next season. I think you start to see some of the framework of what's going to be here next year, some of the young guys coming in, what they're going to be and what hopefully another year will push them to be. I think it's our job now to go away and do what we have to do to become better and try to push this thing forward again. 

I think you could throw wins and everything out the window. I think just from the eye test, our team was much more competitive [at the end of the season]. I think our work ethic and our structure were much better and those are foundational things that are unnegotiable. So now that we've learned some of those things, hopefully we could take that next step and we can all reflect on what we need to do to be ready to go for next season. I think as much as there's disappointment or frustration, there's a ton of optimism and that's a good feeling to have. 

Zellweger: I think last 10 games there were pretty strong. We were playing more connected, playing with more energy. I think it wass visible to everyone. That's what needs to happen day in, day out. We're looking to come back ready and it's going to be really important that every guy's ready to commit to playing with that energy every game. 

Carlsson: I feel like the last 10 games we played good hockey, especially thr game against Vegas. We had a bad start in the first period and then we came back against a good team. It's fun to have that momentum for next season.

Terry: I think it's a testament to the group that we have in here, just the character and the level of compete we had all the way until the end is something that we're all proud of. I don't think we were ever that far off this year, to be honest. I think it was a lot of, not to break it down too much, but a lot of penalty trouble and it felt like every game it was just like one thing we did to sabotage ourselves and then we'd play a good game. 

So I think maybe just limiting those the last however many games and just trying to trust in each other, stay disciplined and keep that compete level that I think we've kind of developed here over the last year or so. 

Killorn: A lot of guys individually made steps with their games. As a team, we didn't do the greatest job in terms of winning, but I think there's a lot of progress that was made individually. That'll be great for us next year with players that take that step. A lot of young talent on this team, so there's a lot to be excited about with that. 

On the team's young talent

McTavish: We've got a lot of young guys here and we're all growing up together, which is awesome, and becoming really close friends. We really want to play for each other and we want to win. The biggest thing for us is just winning hockey games, getting into the playoffs and hopefully winning some Stanley Cups.

Ryan Strome reflects on second season as a Duck

Killorn: I was really impressed with a lot of the young guys. It's a tough league to play in and for a lot of guys they wait until they're 22, 23. That's when I jumped into the league when I was 22. These guys are like 19, 20, so I was really impressed with how they handled their first NHL season. It's a hard league to play in, but there is a lot of promise for a lot of these young players. 

Strome: I think those guys did such an amazing job. Leo and Mason took a ton of steps. I think [Mintyukov] and [Jackson LaCombe] were fantastic all year. Zellweger was great.

It's not easy to learn on the go. There's a lot of highs and lows, there's a lot of ups and downs and there's a lot of things to manage. Some guys come from junior and college and you're living in a dorm room or a billet house. Now you're living on your own in Southern California and you're kind of managing the ups and downs of the NHL. It's tough. So I think that everyone's going to become much better individually and if those guys just continue the same trajectory they're on, they don't have to change too much. I think they're on a good path. 

Terry: I was fortunate to play with Leo [Carlsson] on his line and played on power play with [Olen Zellweger] and [Pavel Mintyukov], so every day you see their ability. I don't think I figured it out in the NHL until I was 23 or something. It's a hard league. And to see what some of those guys are doing at such a young age, it's impressive. It's exciting for all of us. I think they can all get a little stronger and just mature, and I mean same with me. We can all get stronger, but just mature with their overall game and what's exciting to me is that I think a lot of them are really elite NHL players already and I don't think they're at their ceiling, or even close to it.

Fowler: They all did a really nice job. It's been a little while now, but I do remember those days of trying to make it as a consistent defenseman in the NHL and it's really hard. The learning curve is very steep and these guys did a really, really nice job. Just spending time with them, I saw the growth in a lot of them over the course of the season and a lot of that comes with experience and confidence. There's a lot of potential back there and those guys did a really, really good job for us this season.

Vatrano: They've been great. They were a huge part of our team all year and playing the NHL is not easy, especially at 18, 19, 20 years old. It's a tough league and those guys handled themselves really well. Now they know the ups and downs, what the NHL season's like and knowing what the expectations are next year, I think they're just going to keep making those steps forward and help our team win.

Gudas: They did great. They're 19, 20. When I got to the league I was 23, I believe. So for them to be able to step in at this young age in the league, playing these big minutes and a a huge part of our defensive core, it is nice to see them grow. They're getting better every game, every minute they play. So it's fun to be part of a group that is hungry to get better. Keeps me playing a little younger (laughs). 

Trevor Zegras:  I don't know, how many under 23-year-olds we have in the lineup, but I think it sets you up well for the future and if we can get the ship going in the right direction, it's very exciting.

Leo Carlsson on his rookie season, team's potential

Zellweger: Yeah, it's really cool when there's a big pool of young guys with lots of talent and high work ethics. It also goes a long way when you have older guys too that can help you out. I think going into the summer, all the young guys are looking to really push their game to another level so we can all push in the right direction. 

Terry: [Being a leader] is something that I've wantedsince I was in college and came into hockey. I think being a leader and doing all that stuff, it's always easier when you're winning and it's hard when you're losing. So really I'm just trying to dive into that and just trying to make sure I can be there for the young guys the way that some of the older guys like [Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler] and those guys were when I was coming into the league. 

Killorn: That was one of Leo's best games of the year against Vegas. You can see how much talent he has and what his ceiling can be. Who knows how good he can be in this league. So much promise with him. Cutter, we only got the one game, but I was really impressed. Coming from college, it's a lot different league to play against, especially Vegas in your first game. He handled himself really well and I love that he was making plays. A lot of guys might be shy in their first couple of games to make those plays and he was not afraid to make plays, which was awesome.

On taking the next steps towards playoff contention

Fowler: I think the consistency is a huge part of it. I think we have to learn even on our off nights how to find ways to win in dirty ways. They're not always going to be pretty games. You have to find ways over the course of 82 games to get those wins that are a little dirty. I think that we're working towards that and I think anybody that has watched this team or has been around this team knows that the optimism for the future is sky high, but it's up to us as players to kind of put that into action. I think this year was a difficult year, but it was a important year for us all to learn the steps that we need to take as a group to get better next year. 

Strome: I think it's managing some of the highs and lows. We're still a relatively young group and this year we really learned the value in going through those tough times. Every team's going to go through them. It's almost more important to go through the bad times than the good times. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your teammates. I think we can manage it just a little bit better and we got to find ways to win one goal games. 

Vatrano: I think everyone's obviously going to come back ready and excited. I think we've got a great great group in here. Everyone gets along and everyone's pushing for each other to get better. I think it's just going to come from us inside here internally to push each other every single day and now we know what the expectations are. We want to win now. We don't want to go through this again. 

Dostal: I'm excited for next year. For a lot of the guys, it was their first pro year and it was a learning experience for everybody, including me. We've just got to take that experience through the summer because everybody knows now what to expect from the NHL level. So we've got to practice that way and just get ready for next year. 

McTavish: Consistency. We have so many young guys who weren't really used to playing the full 82-game schedule, including myself, and I think just getting more seasoned and playing more games together as a group will benefit us. 

Terry: I mean you've seen some of the young guys we've got and I'm proud of all of them. They all played really well. I think they're all considerably better players now than they were at the start of the year and they take a lot of pride in their development, so I'm excited for them next year. I think it starts this summer just as a group staying in contact and just making sure we're all putting the work in the summer and then coming into training camp.

On one-goal games

Fowler: I do think that's a big part of it. I think you have groups that have a lot of veterans and guys that have been around for a while, and there's some comfort in playing in those tie games or one goal games. That comes with a little bit of experience, which for the most part our group doesn't really have. But now that we've gone through that this year, I think our guys understand just how thin the margin is between winning and losing. And it could be one play here, one play there, and you course that out over 82 games, those things all make a difference. So that was a good experience for our guys and I think if you look at those games that we lost by one, if those go the other way, all of a sudden our season looks a lot different. We've just got to put ourselves in those situations and we've got to learn how to come out on the other side.

Cam Fowler on Ducks taking next steps as a team

Gudas: Those are the little plays that I think everybody has to go through. I got through it in Tampa. It's learning process and those little plays and those little moments in those crucial games can cost us the two points or can win us those two points. I think it was important for us to go through those moments.

Strome: When you lose 25 or whatever games by one goal, it means you're right there in the game, but it also means that you need to be making those plays at the key moments. I think if we can just all become a little bit better we're going to make the team better. It's a little bit of a cliche answer, but I don't think we're too far off from being competitive and now it's on us to kind of go away and come back in the best shape we can be in to try to get at it again next year. 

Zegras: I feel like those one goal games more or less do with special teams. That's something I think we need to put a bigger emphasis on next year. I think the PK did a great job for the first three quarters of the season and then obviously the trade deadline hurt us a little bit in that department, but I think the PP could have been a lot better. I think a lot of those one goal games could have been obviously swung a different way if we did a better job. 

On Vatrano's career-high 37 goals

Strome: It was awesome. I think from day one he was our best player. He brought it every day. Everyone talks about the 37 goals, 60 points but. I think he led our team in hits and blocks. Maybe not hits (Vatrano finished second to Gudas), but those are two very unselfish stats that I think he takes pride in. He's not the most vocal leader, but his play and his work ethic every day leads by example. He's a huge part of this team. To be his best buddy and to get to see it firsthand for the majority of the season was awesome. He deserves everything he gets. He cares so much. He puts so much into it and it really couldn't happen to a better guy. 

I think he's a great role model for a ton of guys on our team from where his career path has gone. Hopefully he can replicate it next year. He had a great season amd hopefully I'm able to ride shotgun with him again for some of it. It was a lot of fun.

Zegras: I sit right next to him, so I got to hear all about his 37 goals or whatever he had (laughs), but Frankie's obviously one of the most loved guys in the locker room. He’s got a great attitude and great work ethic, so it's really cool to see a guy like that get rewarded with such a great season.

Vatrano: I think it had to do with an opportunity and playing with great players. I think playing with [Ryan Strome, Trevor Zegras, Alex Killorn and Mason McTavish], all those guys like to make plays and made the game a lot easier on me. For me, I was trying to just get those guys the puck and try to be in the right place at the right time. A lot of my success came from all the guys I played with this year.

Frank Vatrano on career-best season, team's growth

On summer plans

Terry: A lot of weddings. I feel like I'm kind of at that age where a lot of my college friends or my wife's friends are starting to get married, and so I got a few weddings. A few weddings that I'm in, Jonesy's wedding and all the stuff that comes with that. So we'll kind have our hands full with those trips and then just being the best dad I can while I don't have to go into the rink every day. We'll be back in Denver. All our family's there too, so that's what we're excited about. 

Fowler: Going to head off to Hawaii here in a few days, just kind of clear the mind, take my family and just enjoy it. And then I normally give myself three or four weeks before I start things back up in the gym and just work slowly into it. This summer, just going back to Michigan, spend a lot of time with family there, play some golf, get out on the water. It'll be a pretty standard summer for me, but the older I get the more I kind of need those summers to just really refocus and recenter. So I'm looking forward to that.

Vatrano: Time with family, some weddings and a lot of golf. That's pretty much it. 

Gudas: We're going to spend some time together in the backyard in Czech Republic with the grandmas and grandfathers. We're looking forward to just doing nothing and enjoying time with each other, taking care of the animals that we have at home. I know my little guy is excited for the dogs at home. Just going to be part of a big family at home and enjoy the time off, but getting ready for next season starts pretty soon too.

Dostal: I'm going to see my family. It was their first time here during Christmas time, so it was nice to have them here, have them here. So, I'm going to see my family, my friends, and to do a little bit of time back home. Then I'm going to go to Finland and going to practice there again, because it's just a great environment there, so I'll go there, practice and get ready for next year. 

Carlsson: I'm going to live at home actually this summer for first time in a while, so I'll have some home cooked meals from my mom and see my brothers again. I haven't seen them since July or August so it's going to be fun. 

Strome: I think summertime's a great time just to relax and kind of let the body heal up. I think that as you get older you realize how much of a grind 82 games is and try to just get healthy, start training again and get ready to go. Not only that, as you get older you realize how serious it becomes. A lot of training, a lot of emphasis on becoming better player for next season and sprinkling some golf in some spare time.