After a long summer, a new season is officially under way.
Today marked Day 1 of Ducks training camp - 2017 edition - with three groups hitting the ice from 9 a.m. to noon at THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE. Ducks leaders Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Cam Fowler were on the ice, as were newcomers Derek Grant, Dennis Rasmussen and Steve Oleksy. Mixed in with the veterans were prospects like Max Jones, Sam Steel and Jacob Larsson - all three hoping to crack the opening night roster. In all, 62 players are on the training camp roster (37 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goaltenders).
Not on the ice, however, was Ryan Kesler, who is still recovering from offseason hip surgery. Earlier today, Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray gave an update on Kesler's progress, as well as the rehab for defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen (both were on the ice today).
With injury comes opportunity, and with three key players expected to miss the start of the season, spots are available.
"We always talk about opportunity," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "There is no greater opportunity created than when you have injuries to your lineup. We're not going to replace those players with a specific player. It's going to have to be by committee. When you're dealing with injuries, you're trying to provide the people that are in the position to support an opportunity. We've conveyed that message. Now it's up to them and us to find the right people to plug in the holes."
Carlyle, who was in San Jose for the recent Prospect Showcase, praised young defensemen Josh Mahura, Marcus Pettersson, Andy Welinski and the aforementioned Larsson for their performances during Anaheim's three-game sweep over Arizona, San Jose and Colorado. "They were probably at the forefront of the defense in the three games that I watched," Carlyle said. All four figure to get extended looks throughout training camp and the preseason.
Down the Middle
Rickard Rakell was back in his once-familiar position for the first day of training camp, and it might stay that way for the near future. Despite seeing his offensive numbers skyrocket following a switch to left wing, Carlyle has been adamant about his desire - both now and long term - to use Rakell as a center. So today, Rakell took rushes with left wing Nick Ritchie and right wing Austin Ortega. Carlyle went on to say the former 33-goal scorer will play center during preseason action.
"Time will tell," said Carlyle. "Ricky is a complete player versus more than just an offensive threat. He can play both ends of the rink and it's going to give him an opportunity to be more active on the ice. He could have an expanded role even into penalty killing. We've had that discussion with Ricky."
Video: Randy Carlyle talks Ryan Miller, Kesler injury
Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin is in his third stint with the Ducks. This familiarity was one of the reasons why the 37-year-old former Cup champion decided to come back to the team he has had the most success with. Now at the tail end of his career, Beauchemin will be looked upon to provide leadership on and off the ice, while also being a key figure in the lineup, Carlyle says.
"We think there is a fit here with him for us," said Carlyle. "He feels the same way. He's not going to be the guy who was here 10 years ago. We're not expecting that, and he's not expecting that. He'll play a prominent role on and off the ice for our hockey club."
For what it's worth, Beauchemin saw time alongside rookie standout Brandon Montour today.
All-American Tandem in Net
The red, white and blue was in full effect today when John Gibson and Ryan Miller shared the crease for the first time. Gibson, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native, is coming off a career-setting season and is still only 24 years of age. The expectations are at an all-time high for Gibson, who nearly took the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final last year had it not been for an injury that prevented him from playing in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.
Pushing him will be Miller, a proven NHL veteran with 14 years (and more than 700 games) of experience. The 37-year-old East Lansing, Michigan native joins Anaheim ranked 19th all-time and third among U.S.-born goaltenders with 358 career NHL victories. In 709 career games, Miller has posted a 358-262-73 record with 39 shutouts, a 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. Since his NHL debut in 2002-03, Miller ranks fifth among NHL goaltenders in wins, second in saves (19,450) and third in appearances, and was named the MVP, Best Goaltender and an All-Star at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver as he helped lead Team USA to a silver medal.
As decorated as his career has been, one thing still eludes Miller, and that is a Stanley Cup championship. Miller says it didn't take him long to get the sense that this team is on the verge of greatness.
"I settled in last week with the guys and had some ice time," he said. "This is a really talented group. The quality of players is really high. Their drive and desire is really high, and you get the sense that they're really close to doing something special."
Training camp continues tomorrow with three on-ice sessions beginning at 9 a.m. at Anaheim ICE. At the conclusion of camp tomorrow, a public skating session will be held at Anaheim ICE from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. All fans who are wearing Ducks gear will be offered a special price of $5 to participate in that session, including admission and rentals. (The usual price is $11 for admission and $4 for skate rental.)
Video: Miller discusses joining Ducks, first day of camp
Remaining Training Camp Schedule
Saturday, September 16: Practices for Groups A, B & C run 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on both Olympic and NHL rinks
Sunday, September 17: Practices for Groups A, B & C run 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on both Olympic and NHL rinks
Monday, September 18: Scrimmage, 10:00 a.m. on NHL rink