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
With a humble and respectful approach to the game, a low-key demeanor and tireless on-ice work ethic, Josh Manson won over fans throughout the course of his first full season in the National Hockey League. Manson appeared in 71 games last season, recording 15 points (5g/10a) with a +11 rating and 74 penalty minutes over that span.
The 24-year-old ranked second on the team and led Anaheim defensemen in hits (158), and also paced team blueliners in plus/minus, ranked second in penalty minutes, tied for second in appearances and tied for third among team d-men in goals. He was an anchor alongside Hampus Lindholm, and often served as a safety blanket when the high-flying Swede opted to turn on the afterburners. But the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native was much more than just a stay-at-home defenseman.
Manson is a blend of old-school and new-school. His physicality and shutdown qualities, in addition to his no-nonsense approach in the defensive end pays homage to the days of old, when burly, lumbering “defensive defensemen” still roamed the ice. But in today’s NHL, defensemen have to be mobile, they have to skate, and they have to be able to move the puck out of the zone and up the ice. For a big man [he’s a chiseled 6-3, 215], Manson can do all of those things, in addition to defending. Though not nearly as offensive-minded as his d-partner, Manson still knows when to join the rush and make smart pinches along the half-boards. His instincts paid off with a milestone, which will be noted later in this story.
Although a plus/minus rating isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of a player, to be on the right side of the ledger over the course of a season is still worth noting.
Manson’s +17 rating was tied for sixth among NHL defensemen in plus/minus following the Christmas break, and he had a plus-or-even rating in 23 of his final 27 games. And through 99 career games, Manson’s plus-minus stands at +12.
He made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in Game 1 of the First Round against the Nashville Predators at Honda Center, but unfortunately, it was one that was short-lived. He took all of nine shifts that night, which equaled 4:44 TOI before he was knocked out of the game following a hit from Predators left wing Filip Forsberg. Manson did not play for the remainder of the series because of head and upper-body injuries. One can only wonder what kind of impact he might have had if not for the injury.
As a player breaking into the league, there’s probably nothing more special (in terms of personal milestones) than scoring your first career NHL goal. For young Manson, that momentous occasion occurred on November 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Honda Center.
The following is an excerpt from an in-depth feature story written a few weeks after the goal was scored: With the Ducks leading, 2-1, and the game nearing the midway point of the third period, Manson used his big frame to carry the puck into the offensive zone. He was met just inside the blueline by Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin, but Manson’s momentum backed Tyutin below the hash marks. He left a deft little drop pass to the trailing [Ryan] Getzlaf, who then dropped it back to [Corey] Perry, who had the presence of mind to carry the puck behind the net in hopes of finding a passing lane. As Perry curled behind the net, Manson broke free from Tyutin and set up shop in the high slot, clear of any Blue Jackets player. Perry found him between the circles and Manson wristed one beneath the blocker of goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
You can expect Manson to once again be a fixture among the team's rising core of young defensemen. It'll be interesting to see who Randy Carlyle pairs Manson with, whether it be his usual partner Lindholm (who remains a restricted free agent), or other lefties such as Cam Fowler, Simon Despres or Clayton Stoner.
Is he capable of handling 20-plus minutes on a nightly basis? Will he be given the green light to join the offense more often? These are questions that will surely be answered as the season progresses. Manson, by the way, signed a two-year contract extension last summer that kicks in for the upcoming 2016-17 season.