Our Anaheim Ducks 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
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Sitting third last in the Western Conference and 27th in the league at the end of the regular season, the Anaheim Ducks are firmly in rebuild territory. Their 29-33-9 record (67 points, .472 PTS%) was the worst season they’ve had since 2003-04. They ended 26th in goals for, tied for third worst in goals against, had the second worst powerplay, and sixth worst penalty kill. Simply put, the Anaheim Ducks had a bad season.
Dallas Eakins, in his first season behind the bench of the Ducks, wasn’t expected to turn the team around immediately. But, the team even struggled to meet the low expectations they had. One of the primary goals for this team was to develop prospects and let them shine. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. The leading scorer among their prospects was Sam Steel who had 6 goals, 16 assists (22 points) in 65 games. Troy Terry (15 points in 47 games), Max Jones (12 points in 59 games), and Max Comtois (11 points in 29 games) are the other major forward prospects for the team.
Even the team’s veterans were offensively stifled. Adam Henrique led the team with 43 points, followed by Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf at 42 points apiece. Only two skaters hit 20 goals, Henrique with 26 and Jakob Silfverberg with 21, and Rakell, Getzlaf, and Derek Grant were the only others who hit 10 goals.
The offensive struggles were not even countered by a solid defense, as the team gave up the fourth most high danger scoring chances through the regular season and the ninth most shots on goal per 60. No matter how good John Gibson performs, if the team in front of him isn’t scoring or preventing scoring chances, there is only so much he can do.
Anaheim Ducks Roster Overview
With next to no changes made to the forward group entering 2020-2021, it’s hard to anticipate much difference from the lackluster performance in the 2019-20 season. It seems as if Anaheim’s front office is content to just let things play out as is. Maybe last season was an anomaly, an underperformance, and those who struggled will break out of their slumps this season. Or, they are expecting prospects to step up and begin filling those roles as offensive contributors. The aforementioned Comtois, Jones, Steel, and Terry should be producing more and filling spots in the top-6. Then there are Trevor Zegras, Brayden Tracey, and Benoit-Olivier Groulx who will be getting close to breaking into the lineup and making an impact.
Aside from the youth infusion, Anaheim will be relying on Adam Henrique, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg to lead the way. Ryan Getzlaf’s offense has been dropping over the last four seasons and he may not be able to produce at a level that keeps him in the top-6 if trends are to be followed. That is just one more potential hole that the Ducks forward group will have to attempt to fill with the pieces that are already there. Although, the potency of the Silferberg-Rakell-Getzlaf line last season (70.79 GF%, 3.64 GF/60) may help mitigate some of that lost production individually.
The additions of Sonny Milano (5 points in 9 games) and Danton Heinen (4 points in 9 games) to Anaheim’s depth forwards at the trade deadline should help provide some secondary offense. On a weak team with lots of roster shuffling, they will also be looked at to jump up and down the lineup when needed. Although most lines on bad teams perform poorly in general, the Ducks at least have somewhat reliable players to fill out these forward spots including Carter Rowney, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Derek Grant who formed the team’s most frequently used line combination in 2019-20.
Defense is the position that Anaheim should be fine at with guys like Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson, but they still struggled here as well. With each of those players missing 10+ games throughout the last season, there was a lot of room for a lack of depth to have an impact on the Ducks’ back end. Bringing in recent redemption arc completionist and Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Shattenkirk should help, especially on the right side. And, much like in the forward group, Anaheim will need some younger defenders to take a step forward in their development and become bigger parts of the team’s lineup. Jacob Larsson, Brandon Guhle, and Josh Mahura are all hitting the years where defenders start to shine and if this rebuild is to work, those players have to capitalize on the open roster spots.
An intriguing storyline to follow on the Ducks’ blueline will be what the team does with Jamie Drysdale. Drysdale was recently selected 6th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. Now, defensemen do not usually make the NHL roster immediately out of the draft (with exceptions for top picks like Rasmus Dahlin or Aaron Ekblad). But, with a couple of open spots for defenders, the opportunity to pair him with a great veteran like Cam Fowler, and the OHL announcing they will be playing without bodychecking, the Ducks may find themselves tempted to give him a shot straight out of the draft.
As long as the Ducks have John Gibson, they are set in net. Though, I can’t imagine he is too thrilled about spending his prime years in the middle of a rebuild.
Gibson is one of the league’s best and most underrated goalies. Although his statline may not show it the last couple seasons (especially 2019-20, which was the worst of his career), a goalie can only do so much when he is facing as many high danger chances against as Gibson had.
For now, the team will be placed firmly on John Gibson’s back while the rest of the roster in front of him develops into an NHL team.
Anaheim Ducks 2020-21 Prediction
6th-8th West Division
The temporary divisional alignment for 2020-21 has placed the Ducks in a division with Colorado, Vegas, and St. Louis. So in other words, the Ducks are going to be in tough scraping together any hot streaks and points. They’ll be at the bottom competing with their California rivals and Arizona at the bottom of this division.
That concludes our Anaheim Ducks 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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