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Ducks season preview: Prospects counted on to boost scoring

Young forwards, defenseman depth among concerns for new coach Eakins

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2019-20 NHL season begins Oct. 2. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the five keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lines for each of the 31 teams. Today, the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach: Dallas Eakins (first season)

Last season: 35-37-10; sixth place Pacific Division

 

5 KEYS
 
1. Impact of Eakins

Eakins was hired June 17 after coaching San Diego of the American Hockey League the past four seasons. He replaced general manager Bob Murray, who coached the Ducks for the remainder of last season after Randy Carlyle was fired Feb. 10.

Eakins hasn't coached in the NHL since 2013 with the Edmonton Oilers but is familiar with a number of the Anaheim prospects who played for San Diego and could be competing for roster spots. His challenge will be to improve the offense of a team that finished last in the NHL in goals (196) while not sacrificing anything defensively.

 

2. Improving scoring

The Ducks were shut out nine times last season and scored two or fewer goals in 45 games. Center Ryan Getzlaf led the Ducks with 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists), second-fewest among the 31 NHL team leaders (one point ahead of Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes), and forward Jakob Silfverberg's Anaheim-leading 24 goals were third-fewest. Forward Rickard Rakell and center Adam Henrique (18 goals each) were the other Ducks with more than 15 goals.

Having not acquired any free agent forwards who will be in the lineup, the Ducks will look to Sam Steel, 21, Troy Terry, 21, Max Comtois, 20, and Isac Lundestrom, 19, who have a combined 81 games of NHL experience, to make an impact.

Video: SJS@ANA: Silfverberg pots wrister 38 seconds into OT

 

3. Gibson's health

When healthy, John Gibson is one of the top goalies in the NHL. He has at least 20 wins in each of the past four seasons, his .922 save percentage ranks third in the NHL, and his 2.42 goals-against average ranks tied for seventh over that span among goalies to play at least 50 games.

But he has missed at least 10 games because of injury in each of the past three seasons (10 in 2017-18, 10 in 2018-19, 13 in 2016-17) since he became the No. 1 goalie after the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 20, 2016.

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Gibson

 

4. Defensive depth

Anaheim lost three defensemen as free agents (Andy Welinski, Philadelphia Flyers; Jaycob Megna, Vegas Golden Knights; Jake Dotchin, St. Louis Blues) and has six signed to its NHL roster (Michael Del Zotto, Cam Fowler, Brendan Guhle, Korbinian Holzer, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson).

The Ducks have several defensemen signed to an AHL contract who could play (Jacob Larsson, Josh Mahura, Chris Wideman), but could be in a difficult position if they begin the season with a bottom pair that's largely inexperienced.

 

5. Power play

Since ranking first on the power play in 2015-16 (23.1 percent), the Ducks have had three straight seasons in the bottom half of the NHL (17th in 2016-17, 18.7 percent; 23rd in 2017-18, 17.8 percent; 24th in 2018-19; 17.0 percent).

Henrique led the Ducks with eight power-play goals, and Rakell was the only other player to score more than three (six). The two each had 13 power-play points to lead Anaheim, the fewest among any of the 31 NHL team leaders.

 

ROSTER RUNDOWN

 

Making the cut

With Corey Perry departing to the Dallas Stars as a free agent and Ryan Kesler (hip) out for the season, there will be at least two forward spots open. Comtois, Devin Shore, Derek Grant, Nicolas Deslauriers and Max Jones are expected to be among those contending.

At defenseman, the Ducks have their top six set barring a trade, and whoever shows the most in camp among Larson, Mahura and Wideman likely will be the seventh.

 

Most intriguing addition

Comtois had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games after making the Ducks out of training camp last season but was sent to junior, where he scored 31 goals in 25 games for Drummondville of the Quebec Montreal Junior Hockey League. A full season in the NHL should be mutually beneficial to Comtois and the Ducks.

Video: ANA@ARI: Comtois goes five-hole for opening tally

 

Biggest potential surprise

Ondrej Kase had 20 goals and 38 points in 66 games in 2017-18 and was poised for a big season. The 23-year-old forward missed the first 18 games (concussion) and the final 34 games (shoulder) but scored 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 30 games. Kase will be counted on to help the scoring and could find himself in the top six.

Video: ARI@ANA: Kase scores second goal on deflection

 

Ready to break through

Steel made the Ducks out of training camp last season and had three points (one goal, two assists) in 13 games before he was sent to the AHL. After his return to the Ducks in February, he had eight points (five goals, three assists) in nine games, including his first NHL hat trick March 26. The forward should see a full-time role with Anaheim this season.

Video: LAK@ANA: Silfverberg dangles, feeds Steel for SHG

 

Fantasy sleeper

Comtois (average draft position: N/A) had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 NHL games playing left wing last season and could capture a top-six role with potential exposure to valuable center Ryan Getzlaf. -- Rob Reese

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

Rickard Rakell -- Sam Steel -- Jakob Silfverberg

Max Comtois -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Troy Terry

Nick Ritchie -- Adam Henrique -- Ondrej Kase

Nicolas Deslauriers -- Devin Shore -- Daniel Sprong

Hampus Lindholm -- Josh Manson

Cam Fowler -- Korbinian Holzer

Brendan Guhle -- Jacob Larsson

John Gibson

Ryan Miller

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