Our Anaheim Ducks 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
For more content, check out our weekly podcast where we cover the biggest storylines, trends, and memorable moments from around the NHL! And, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up to date with our content and league happenings.
The 2020-21 season was yet another disappointment for the Anaheim Ducks. It marked the fifth straight season that saw the team finish with a lower points percentage than the season before. Their 17-30-9 record was good enough for last in the West Division and 30th in the league, beating only the Buffalo Sabres in the standings.
There wasn’t much to be excited for either, as their leading scorer, Max Comtois, topped out at 33 points. Rickard Rakell, typically one of the team’s most dangerous scorers, scored 9 goals all season. Only 2 Ducks players scored 10 goals, one being Comtois and the other Adam Henrique. Henrique, two years into a five-year contract, unexpectedly found himself on waivers partway through the season.
The offseason for Anaheim was understandably disappointing but likely the best case scenario as the team finds its way down to rock bottom. As of the writing of this post, there are no major roster additions to speak of for the Ducks aside from draft picks and a few depth players. Max Comtois and Ryan Getzlaf re-signed with the team while Mason McTavish signed his entry level deal. And that is the summary of Anaheim’s offseason.
In my opinion, however, this is sort of an ideal gameplan for the team. Why start throwing money around (and overpaying to get players to join a struggling team) when you’re in the early stages of a rebuild? By bringing in new players to try and game out a couple extra wins or some closer games, Anaheim would be doing nothing but reducing the probability of this rebuild being a success. It sucks, but once the team bottoms out and the old core group has moved on, that is the time to start actively working on the team. Hopefully for Anaheim, last season’s .384 P% was the rock bottom.
If that is the case, we may start seeing the Ducks moving players at the deadline for prospects and draft picks who will be able to join the establishing core. This new core will be centred around Max Comtois, Trevor Zegras, and Jamie Drysdale in a few seasons once they find their footing. Rickard Rakell has garnered a ton of trade interest in recent times, but Jakob Silfverberg and Adam Henrique could also be made available.
Any success the Ducks have this season will rest on the performance of their young core. Comtois, Zegras, Drysdale, Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Max Jones headline the group for now but each have been underwhelming thus far in their careers. Will they pick up as the move into more prominent roles, possibly even as the old core gets moved out?
With how weak the forwards are for the Anaheim Ducks, there is not a lot of certainty over who plays where. The Ducks have 12 forwards who averaged around 14-15 minutes of ice time per game last season. It is quite clear that the team will rotate through players and toss things into the line blender quite regularly.
Although they only got a few games together, the combination of Max Comtois-Trevor Zegras-Troy Terry has to be looked at as the future top line. They were exciting to watch and dominant on the statline. It almost looks like an anomaly with their nearly 76 GF% while together compared to the below 50% most other combinations on this team produced. If Anaheim doesn’t want all three young players together at once, swapping Ryan Getzlaf in for Zegras somehow produced a 100 GF% in approximately 54 minutes of ice time together.
Despite seeming to have fallen out of favour with the team, Adam Henrique is still a serviceable player and one of the more offensively productive forwards on the roster. I would personally peg him to be a second liner for the team. Rickard Rakell should be a lock for somewhere in the top 6, him being the forward with the most ice time per game last season and who is usually a scoring threat. Isac Lundestrom, Jakob Silfverberg, Max Jones, and Sam Steel are the other players competing for the remaining top 6 spots.
Likely headlining the bottom 6 forwards are Max Jones and Sam Steel. Depending on who gets to centre the first line, we may start seeing an aging Ryan Getzlaf in a more reduced role playing third line. His 17 points in 48 games last season was the worst of his career. And, at 36 years old, it is not likely he will be able to keep up with the game around him as the team fills up with prospects.
There will be plenty of opportunities for young players to grab roster spots. Brayden Tracey, Jacob Perrault, Benoit Olivier-Groulx, and Mason MacTavish could very easily make this team out of training camp. They would take a bottom 6 spot for now, or get a look higher in the lineup at the trade deadline if the Ducks try to sell off some players.
Otherwise, the remainder of Anaheim’s forward spots will be taken up by Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, Alexander Volkov, and Sunny Milano.
Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm are the team’s best defenders who eat up most of the ice time and tough assignments. Fowler is a slightly more offensive presence (hard to gauge on one of the league’s worst offenses though), leading the Ducks’ defense with 23 points last season. Lindholm missed most of 2020-21 due to injury, so his return will be welcomed by the Ducks’ coaching staff. Lindholm’s most frequent partner last season, Kevin Shattenkirk, remains on the roster so I anticipate them spending most of their time together again.
Cam Fowler will be testing out new d-partners though as Jani Hakanpaa is no longer with the team. Josh Manson, who also missed a lot of time last season, is a solid option but I like the idea of Jamie Drysdale joining Fowler. It would be an amazing opportunity to give Drysdale a chance to develop alongside one of the team’s better defenders.
Jacob Larsson, Josh Mahura, and Greg Pateryn will also be in competition for some of the ice time on defense for the Ducks. Pateryn is an interesting option as he has been an excellent defensive defender in a bottom pairing role at times in his career. If he finds that niche with Anaheim, he will be a very valuable addition for the third pairing and penalty kill.
Luckily, Anaheim still has one of the best goalies in the league in John Gibson. Though his numbers haven’t been great lately, including a -5 GSAA in 2020-21, it’s hard to place too much blame on him with the team in front of him performing as poorly as they have been.
The team will be looking for a new backup goalie, however, as Ryan Miller retired this offseason. The first choice as new backup is Anthony Stolarz who put up excellent numbers in his 8 games for the Ducks last season. There is a chance too that Lukas Dostal gets a shot in Anaheim’s net. Dostal is an up-and-coming goalie who had solid numbers in the AHL. With the youth movement taking place in Anaheim, if John Gibson gets hurt at all or Stolarz struggles, the Ducks could be eager to get Dostal some NHL time.
Anaheim Ducks 2021-22 Prediction
7th-8th Pacific Division
There is not a whole lot of promise for this team to succeed in 2021-22. They might be exciting to watch if Zegras and Drysdale can inject some energy into the gameplan. But, the team’s performance trendline and the fact that they’re icing nearly the same roster as last season makes it difficult to predict that they will do much better or pose much of a threat in the division.
That concludes our Anaheim Ducks 2021-22 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2021-22 Season Preview Series.
Did you know we have a podcast? Click here to head to our episodes feed and see where you can listen to us talk hockey!