As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we will be featuring a different Ducks player throughout the coming weeks, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight from last season and an outlook for 2016-17
By Kyle Shohara
Clayton Stoner’s second season with the Ducks was unfortunately one that was marred by nagging injuries that limited him to just 50 games. The rugged defenseman posted six points (1g/5a) and a plus-4 rating with 67 penalty minutes over that span, but two separate lower-body issues, a hip flexor injury and an undisclosed injury at the end of the regular season were among the problems Stoner had to deal with in 2015-16.
The hip flexor held him out of the lineup for a 14-game span from Jan. 17-Feb. 18, but the 31-year-old returned to game action on March 2 vs. Montreal. Known more for his physical play and work in the defensive zone, Stoner co-led the team in major penalties (7) and ranked fifth on the Ducks in hits (123). He posted his highest plus/minus rating since his rookie season with Minnesota in 2010-11 (+5), and reached several milestones during the regular season, including his 300th career NHL game on Oct. 24 at Minnesota and 100th game as a Duck on Dec. 31 at Edmonton.
Stoner anchored the third pairing alongside Sami Vatanen on occasion throughout the regular season, a carryover from 2014-15 when the duo first skated together. He also served as a safety blanket for rookie Shea Theodore at times during the season. Stoner’s stay-at-home style allowed for the free-ranging Vatanen and Theodore to join the rush and often times lead the attack into the offensive zone.
His lone postseason appearance came in Game 7 of Anaheim’s First Round series against the Nashville Predators, a game that would ultimately end in a 2-1 loss on home ice. Stoner delivered four hits in 7:32 TOI.
The Port McNeill, British Columbia native recorded his lone goal of the season on Nov. 6 vs. Columbus at Honda Center. A goal is a goal no matter how it’s scored, and this one was of the empty-net variety – a lob shot from just inside his own blueline that soared through the air before landing on the edge of the goal crease and into the net with 15.3 seconds remaining in regulation. The goal put the Ducks up 4-2 and gave the club its third consecutive win to improve to 4-7-2 on the season.
Of his team-leading seven fighting majors, perhaps his best – or most admirable – came on March 18 at Honda Center when he squared up with the tallest player in the NHL, defenseman Zdeno Chara. Though Stoner is no slouch himself, standing 6-4 and weighing in at 216 pounds, the reach advantage went to the towering Chara, who’s listed at 6-9, 250. After dodging two rights from Chara, Stoner went for the takedown and stood over Chara before eventually letting him go.
With his injuries hopefully a thing of the past, Stoner will once again look to provide a stable, physical presence on the backend in 2016-17. It’ll be interesting to see who Randy Carlyle pairs with Stoner, whether that’s Vatanen, Theodore or even up-and-comer Brandon Montour, who will likely get an extended look at training camp after a stellar rookie season in San Diego of the American Hockey League.