The arrival of Jiri Sekac before the trade deadline served notice to the rest of the Ducks roster.
After spending half the season as one of the heaviest-hitting teams in the league, Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray acquired a player more known for his speed – and playmaking ability – than a physical presence. Gone was Devante Smith-Pelly, a key part of the previous year’s playoff run, for the speedy Sekac.
“We felt we needed to get a little faster, and a little more skill in our lineup,” Murray said after the trade. “I definitely think he’s one of these Europeans who can skate, who has skill. I think there’s good upside offensively with this guy.”
At the time of the trade, Sekac skated in 50 games with the Montreal Canadiens, posting seven goals and 16 points.
The rookie forward quickly turned heads in Anaheim.
Sekac immediately flashed speed missing from the lineup, and his vision earned him some time with the top line. Eventually, he settled in with Rickard Rakell and Emerson Etem, forming the fan-favorite “Ricky Etes Cakes” line.
The duo of Sekac and Rakell were particularly effective. In just over 105 minutes of even-strength, the two averaged almost four goals-for per 60 and a Corsi-for percentage of 67.2.
Those strong numbers eventually translated into points, as Sekac would net his first goal as a Duck in a 3-2 overtime win against Colorado on March 20.
Sekac made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, skating in all seven games of the Western Conference Final. He was held without a point while averaging over 11 minutes per game.
The Kladno, Czech Republic native remains an intriguing young player on a roster teeming with talent. During his end of the year press conference, head coach Bruce Boudreau identified him among a group of young players expected to contribute this season.
Something about the Colorado Avalanche brought out the best in Sekac. Four of his seven points with the Ducks (and both of his goals) came against the Avs, none more memorable than his breakaway tally on April 3.
Alex Tanguay fumbled a puck after crossing the Ducks blue line, and Sekac pounced on it. He quickly turned up ice, blowing by the attacking Avs in the neutral zone. Sekac opened up Reto Berra with a fake, leaving the goalie down and out before sliding it into an open net for the goal.
He would add an assist on Rakell’s goal later in the period for his second multi-point game in a Ducks sweater.