Calgary Flames 2021-22 Season Preview

With how bad the North Division was on paper, not making the playoffs was going to be a huge disappointment for the two teams that were not the Senators. The Flames finished in fifth place, in a season which saw them dismiss Geoff Ward for Darryl Sitler, only to be a .500 team under both coaches. The Flames survived major trade rumors in the offseason and now come into training camp with a similar team. Can they defy the odds now? The division is weak again.

Offseason additions: F Blake Coleman, D Nikita Zadorov, F Tyler Pitlick, D Erik Gudbranson, D Trevor Lewis, F Brad Richardson, G Dan Vladar.

Offseason subtractions: D Mark Giordano, F Derek Ryan, F Josh Leivo, F Joakim Nordstrom, D Nikita Nesterov, F Buddy Robinson.

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau remains a Flame as he enters the final year of his contract. Gaudreau led the team with 49 points. It could be a bit concerning that Gaudreau only scored 19 goals despite riding a seventeen shooting percentage. A question may emerge on who will be his center. Sean Monahan has collapsed over the past few years. His ten goals and 28 points in 2020-21 could push him down to the third line. For a guy that had 82 points in 2018-19, this is a shocking change in events. Elias Lindholm took more face-offs than anyone in Calgary last year. He tied with Gaudreau for the team lead with 19 goals and had 47 points. There is a situation where Lindholm centers the first line with Gaudreau and maybe Matthew Tkachuk on his side. Tkachuk had 132 hits with 43 points. You do not want one of your top wingers to lead the team in penalty minutes, but Tkachuk did, with 55. Leading the team in even strength goals was Andrew Mangiapane, with 15. He added three more on special teams and had 32 points. His 19.8 percent shooting rate was certainly unsustainable. On the opposite side of the spectrum from Mangiapane was two-way center Mikael Backlund. Backlund had 50 more shots but half of the goals. His 6.3 shooting percentage has to change next year. This past season ended Backlund’s streak of earning Selke votes in four consecutive seasons. Stanley Cup champion Blake Coleman comes to Calgary. He could center the third line or play wing on the second. Coleman is an analytical darling and scored 14 goals with 31 points for Tampa last year. 2016 2nd round pick Dillon Dube had the best production of his career so far, with 11 each of goals and assists. He will get to play with a good center, no matter who it is. The Flames paid a pick to Seattle to get Tyler Pitlick, who the Kraken picked from Arizona. He is not much more than a defensive bottom-six winger who had 11 points and 81 hits in 38 games last year. With expectations all the way off, Milan Lucic was not half bad. He scored 10 goals in 56 games, for his highest scoring pace since 2016-17. He used his physically, with 139 hits. Of course, he is still overpaid, but Lucic showed that he can be good enough to be an above-average fourth line player. It will be interesting to see if Glenn Gawdin can make the starting lineup. Gawdin had had AHL success but had just 13 points in 22 games there last year. He had one assist in seven NHL games. Trevor Lewis went from a professional tryout to playing every game for the Jets. It was on the wing and averaged less than 10 minutes a game, but still unexpected. He could have a very similar role in Calgary. Veteran Brad Richardson would be a stable fourth line center. He is very good at face-offs and is a fine defensive player. Brett Ritchie is back after playing in 32 games for the Flames last year. He recorded eight points.

Defensemen

The Flames were hit as hard as anyone during the expansion draft, losing captain Mark Giordano. He was still a quality defenseman, leaving the Flames lacking a top-four defender. Chris Tanev was a revelation after coming over from the rival Canucks. He was arguably a top-five player defensively. He also cut down from 41 penalty minutes to just six. Tanev does not bring much offensively but he is still very good. Noah Hanifin is going to need to step up this year. His offensive production dipped last year but the Flames would trade that for great defensive numbers. Rasmus Andersson signed a big deal after a promising start to his career, but he lost all of that last year. His xG% dropped to 47.04. On the bright side, Andersson did have 21 points. Big defenseman Nikita Zadorov comes in after a year in Chicago. He had 190 hits for the Blackhawks and is a very good defensive defenseman. Former first-rounder Juuso Valimaki came back from a torn ACL to play in 49 games. He had a very good Corsi percentage of 54.1% with a 53.54 xG%. The Flames just gave Erik Gudbranson a one year deal for a bit under $2 million, signaling that he will play. Gudbranson is an analytical nightmare but is a very physical defenseman, leading to him continually getting NHL opportunities. Gudbranson may play over Oliver Kylington, who played in 48 games in 2019-20 but got into just eight last year. Back is Michael Stone for his sixth season as a Flame. He has been a depth defender for the past three seasons.

Goalies

The Flames signed Jacob Markstrom before the season after believing that he was a victim of awful defense in Vancouver. Well, he had his worst save percentage in his first year as a Flame since before he was a Canuck. His .904 SV% needs to get better, although his 2.66 GAA was actually an improvement. The new backup in town is…. Dan Vladar. The Flames paid a third-round pick for the third goalie of the Bruins, who has a .886 save percentage in five career NHL games. He did have a .923 in 10 AHL games and was dominant in the AHL in 2019-20, but this is still a massive risk to take on as a backup full-time.

Projected Lines

Johnny Gaudreau – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk

Blake Coleman – Mikael Backlund – Andrew Mangiapane

Dillon Dube – Sean Monahan – Tyler Pitlick

Milan Lucic – Brad Richardson – Trevor Lewis

Extras: Glenn Gawdin, Brett Ritchie

Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev

Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Andersson

Juuso Valimaki – Erik Gudbranson

Extras: Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone

Prediction

The Pacific Division is very bad, so bad that it will certainly take a top-three finish to make the playoffs. Are the Flames good enough to do that? They should be in the running, but I have them in fourth place. A very near miss is coming for them.

Buffalo Sabres 2021-22 Season Preview

The Sabres have been an absolute mess over the past few seasons. The play has been awful, the coaches have been cycled out nearly biyearly. Many key players have wanted out. Some got that this offseason. And then there is Jack Eichel. The face-of-the-franchise has requested a trade and is injured with surgery required. He will miss the first half of the season. When he returns, who will he play for? It is yet to be seen.

Offseason additions: D Will Butcher, D Robert Hagg, G Craig Anderson, G Aaron Dell, D Mark Pysyk, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F John Hayden.

Offseason subtractions: F Sam Reinhart, D Rasmus Ristolainen, G Linus Ullmark, F Riley Sheahan, F Tobias Rieder, D Jake McCabe, G Carter Hutton.

Forwards

With Eichel and Reinhart out of the lineup, the forward depth, a massive issue for Buffalo over the past few seasons, will be tested. The favorite to lead the team in points is Victor Olofsson, who came second to Reinhart in that regard last year. Olofsson is a power play specialist with a great shot. He scored 20 goals as a rookie in 2019-20, but had just 13 in roughly the same amount of games in this past season. He also got a Lady Byng vote despite an ugly plus-minus rating. Jeff Skinner’s new contract managed to look even worse in 2020-21. He once again did not play next to Eichel and could not score. Skinner’s seven goals was a half of his previous career low of 14, set in 2019-20. He should be thankful that the Ralph Krueger era is over. Former top prospect Casey Mittelstadt could win the number one center role despite really not being ready for it. Mittelstadt did have the best season of his career scoring-wise in 2020-21, with ten goals and 22 points in 41 games. Playing to that pace in 2021-22 would be acceptable. 2019 7th overall pick Dylan Cozens played in 41 games last year and because the Sabres can’t have anything nice, he couldn’t score. Cozens’ four goals and nine assists were very underwhelming. The Sabres did not do well in the Taylor Hall trade, but they still got some value. When he scored three goals with an equal amount of assists, Anders Bjork had more points in 15 games as a Sabre than he did in 30 in Boston. He is also a good defensive winger. Vinnie Hinostroza struggled to crack Florida’s lineup, so he must have been happy to be traded back to the Blackhawks. After the deal, he put up 12 points in 17 games. He’ll get a good role in Buffalo. Someone who had a crazy 2020-21 season was Arttu Ruotsalainen. He started by scoring 16 goals with 27 points in 19 games in Finland. He signed with the Sabres, was a point-per-game player over 13 AHL games and also scored five goals in 17 NHL games. The 23-year-old is someone to look out for on a barren team. Looking to secure a role as a center is Rasmus Asplund. The 2016 second-rounder played in 28 games last year and scored seven goals. The Sabres like him enough to protect him from the Kraken. The team picked up Drake Caggiula off of waivers from Arizona midseason. In 11 games, he scored twice with an assist. Big winger Tage Thompson is yet to live up to his first-round pedigree. Thompson’s eight goals in 38 games was an improvement, however. That was a career high and a 17 goal pace. The fourth line gets rough. Cody Eakin plays tough minutes but has really struggled. He had a very ugly 36.23 percent xG%. Zemgus Girgensons is an improvement, but not by much. He scored 12 goals in 2019-20 but missed all of last year with a hamstring injury. We will have to monitor how strong Girgensons is upon his return. Veteran Kyle Okposo has just two years left on his contract. He scored 13 points in 35 games last year. Another option is John Hayden, who played in 29 games for Arizona last season.

Defensemen

Besides the eventual Eichel trade, the Sabres are not done this offseason. They still have to sign RFA Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin is still very good but took a big dip in his production last year. He had just 23 points in 56 games, 17 less points than he had in three more games in 2019-20. The team is free of Rasmus Ristolainen and his awful analytics, which could help the rest of the team’s defense. Henri Jokijarju will look to make the jump to top defender. He is still just 22 years old, and played in 46 games last year, to bump his career number to 153. Colin Miller has been a very solid second-pairing defender in his career, but was healthy scratched at times in 2020-21. He should play, as when healthy he is at least the team’s third best defenseman. The Sabres took back a draft pick for some of Will Butcher’s contract in the final year of his deal. Butcher has talent but flamed out of New Jersey. He did have 11 points in 23 games last year. Coming over from Philly for Ristolainen is Robert Hagg. Hagg was not much more than a third-pairing defender with the Flyers. He did have 100 hits in 34 games and has 736 in 236 career games. Coming back to the team that drafted him in the first round in 2010 is Mark Pysyk. Pysyk is decent enough to be a sixth defenseman although his role should not grow too much larger. He also has right-wing experience. Jacob Bryson could make his way into the lineup after appearing in 38 games last year. The 23-year-old also had three assists in five AHL games.

Goalies

With both Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton both leaving town, the Sabres decided to go with more of a tank squad approach. Aaron Dell had been fine in years past until the Devils claimed him off waivers last year. Dell got into seven games, and posted a horrid 4.14 GAA and a .857 save percentage. Veteran Craig Anderson had a .915 save percentage in four games for Washington during the regular season, then got into two playoff games, where he posted a .929 save percentage. Dustin Tokarski is also an option. He actually got into more NHL games with the Sabres last year than Anderson and Dell did with their teams.

Projected Lines

Jeff Skinner – Casey Mittelstadt – Victor Olofsson

Anders Bjork – Dylan Cozens – Vinnie Hinostroza

Arttu Ruotsalainen – Rasmus Asplund – Tage Thompson

Zemgus Girgensons – Cody Eakin – Kyle Okposo

Extras: John Hayden, Drake Caggiula

Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokijarju

Will Butcher – Colin Miller

Robert Hagg – Mark Pysyk

Extras: Jacob Bryson

Craig Anderson

Aaron Dell

Extras: Dustin Tokarski

Prediction

The Sabres are very bad, as illustrated in the lineup above. Their one real hope is that either Eichel returns, plays for the team, and dominates, or whatever they get in return for him is good. The Eastern Conference is stacked. There is no room for this team, even if everyone breaks out.

Boston Bruins 2021-22 Season Preview

The big bad Bruins came into the postseason as serious Cup contenders. They finally had built a great second line and their goaltending was strong. They look amazing in their first round romp of the Capitals. But after a second round loss to the Islanders, a list of weaknesses were apparent for GM Don Sweeney to fix. He has improved the team’s depth, both offensively and defensively, But as the offseason comes to a close, the team still has one glaring problem left.

Offseason additions: G Linus Ullmark, F Nick Foligno, F Erik Haula, F Tomas Nosek, D Derek Forbert.

Offseason subtractions: F David Krejci, G Tuukka Rask, F Sean Kuraly, F Nick Ritchie, D Jeremy Lauzon, G Jaroslav Halak, F Ondrej Kase, G Dan Bladar, D Jarred Tinordi, D Kevan Miller, D Steven Kampfer.

Forwards

The good news is that the Bruins still have the best line in hockey, all of which are still on their amazing, cheap contracts. Patrice Bergeron is a year away from free agency. He will probably return to Boston but the main worry would be the jump from his $6.8 million cap hit. Bergeron had another great season on both ends of the ice. He netted 23 goals with 48 points in 54 games, while winning over 62 percent of face-offs and finishing second in Selke voting. He has won the award four times and has been a finalist in every season since 2011-12. It feels weird to say that David Pastrnak is two years from unrestricted free agency. After winning the Rocket Richard Trophy with 48 goals in 2019-20, Pastrnak scoring just 20 in 48 games felt like a disappointment. He was still a point-per-game player, one that saw his shooting percentage dip by six. Brad Marchand has the cheapest deal of the three and the one with the longest term remaining, at four years. Marchand’s 29 goals, 40 assists, and 69 points all led the team. Only Pastrnak, Bergeron, and David Krejci had more point than Marchand had assists. Overall, Marchand was third in the league in points, behind the two ridiculous Oilers. After posting a hellish 2.3 shooting percentage over 37 games in Buffalo, the Bruins bought low on Taylor Hall. The former Hart winner proceeded to score eight goals with 14 points in 16 regular season games. His five points in 11 playoff games was a bit disappointing, but the Bruins still rewarded Hall with a new four year contract. Craig Smith was the team’s big free agent signing from before 2020-21. He rewarded the Bruins by becoming a solid second-line winger as he scored 13 goals with 19 assists. You can pencil in Hall and Smith together, but who comes between them is more up in the air after Krejci went back home to the Czech Republic. Charlie Coyle is the favorite, but he took a massive step back as the third-line center in 2020-21. Coyle scored just six goals with 16 points. He was fit for the role in 2019-20 but time will tell if he still is. The alternative to Coyle is Erik Haula, who is more fit for the third line. Haula scored 21 points as a Predator last year. His face-off percentage was over 55. Veteran and former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno has made his way up to Boston. The Bruins won’t overrate Foligno like other teams may have, and will stick him on the third line. Foligno scored just seven times with 20 points in 49 games last year. He has just 34 goals over the past three seasons. Still, Foligno brings the physicality and leadership that is valuable for a third liner. It seemed like a pretty safe bet that the Bruins would move on from Jake DeBrusk this offseason, but he’s still here. Two years removed from a 27 goal season, DeBrusk netted just five in 2020-21, along with nine assists for 14 points in 41 games. He is still 24 and his shooting percentage fell off a cliff, so all is not lost yet. Coming in from Vegas is Tomas Nosek, who showed last year that he can be a solid fourth liner. Nosek’s 18 points in 38 games last year along with time on the penalty kill would have been great for Boston last season. The Bruins will give Trent Frederic a good chance to start this season. The former first rounder scored just four goals in 42 games in 2020-21, but is a very physical threat who had 65 penalty minutes. If Frederic and Nosek take two fourth line spots, then the third is up for grabs. Curtis Lazar is a very good defensive player and scored seven goals last year. Chris Wagner has been with the Bruins for longer but is not exactly an analytical darling. Karson Kuhlman can be a middle-six right winger if someone goes down, but scored just twice in 20 games last year.

Defensemen

This is really the Charlie McAvoy section, as he carried the d-core last year. He is great at both ends of the ice and finished fifth in Norris voting while putting up 30 points. McAvoy will be a restricted free agent after the season, where he should get absolutely paid. Matt Grzelcyk settled into McAvoy’s long-term defensive partner despite playing in just 37 games. He had his best offensive season yet, with 20 points for a 44 point pace. The Bruins gave Brandon Carlo a six-year extension despite having injury concerns. Carlo played in just 27 games in the regular season then missed time in the playoffs, with head injuries being the source of missed time in both occasions. When healthy, he’s a fine second-pairing defender. Boston gave Mike Reilly and Derek Forbort matching three year deals with a $3 million AAV despite there being a big difference in quality between the two. Reilly came over from Ottawa at the deadline and was a big power play threat while posting eight assists in 15 games. Forbort is a capable enough third-pairing defensive defender. He spent last year with the Jets, which was where defenders went to die. He has over 100 blocked shots in all four of his full NHL seasons. Seattle opted to take Jeremy Lauzon over Connor Clifton, keeping the right-handed shot in Boston. He solidified his role on the third-pairing and will now have to adjust with a new partner. Jakub Zboril, a 2015 first-rounder, played in 42 games during his rookie season last year. He posted nine assists. With Reilly and Forbort in the fold, it will be hard for Zboril to break into the left side of the defense.

Goalies

You may have notice Tuukka Rask’s name as one of the subtractions this offseason. As of this writing, Rask has not been brought back by Boston. They are expected to re-sign Rask, although he will be out until at least January. They brought in Linus Ullmark, who managed to put up decent numbers in Buffalo, which is saying something. His .917 save percentage in 2020-21 was a career high. Rookie Jeremy Swayman impressed during a short stint in the NHL. Swayman played in 10 games, posting a 1.50 GAA with a .945 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith

Nick Foligno – Erik Haula – Jake DeBrusk

Trent Frederic – Tomas Nosek – Curtis Lazar

Extras: Chris Wagner, Karson Kuhlman

Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort – Connor Clifton

Extras: Jakub Zboril

Linus Ullmark

Jeremy Swayman

Prediction

The Bruins improved their depth, but everything was not a boost. For the first time in years, they need a second-line center. They also need Swayman to be the real deal, while Rask could be done in Boston. There are questions, which could easily push the Bruins down in the standings. Despite a fourth place finish, I think they will make the wild card.

Arizona Coyotes 2021-22 Season Preview

No team has ever made their tanking as apparent as the Coyotes did this offseason. They lost all three of their goalies, dealt their franchise icon and two top-six forwards. The Coyotes also took on a ton of salary in exchange for all of the picks in the world. In this upcoming draft, Arizona has 8 picks in the first two rounds. Eight! Those days will probably be the best of the season for the team. The actual games look to be a struggle.

Offseason additions: D Shayne Gostisbehere, F Dmitrij Jaskin, F Ryan Dzingel, D Anton Stralman, F Jay Beagle, G Carter Hutton, F Antoine Roussel, F Andrew Ladd, G Josef Korenar, D Conor Timmins, F Travis Boyd.

Offseason subtractions: F Conor Garland, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, F Christian Dvorak, G Darcy Kuemper, G Antti Raanta, G Adin Hill, D Alex Goligoski, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, F Derick Brassard, F Tyler Pitlick, F Michael Bunting, D Jason Demers, F Drake Caggiula, F Dryden Hunt, D Jordan Oesterle.

Forwards

Only three forwards on the team are signed past this upcoming season, two of which give the team positive contributions. After a dominant rookie season that earned him a long-term contract, Clayton Keller is yet to reach that level again. In his past three seasons, Keller has not scored 20 goals or hit 50 points. 2020-21 saw his lowest production yet, partially because of the shortened season. Keller put up 14 goals with just 35 points. After Christian Dvorak was traded, the pressure is on the remaining centers. Nick Schmaltz is the most acclaimed of the bunch, although he has scored just 26 goals in 139 games in Arizona. Ten of those came last year, along with 22 assists. Veteran sniper Phil Kessel could be dealt early on in the season. He quietly led the team with 20 goals and 43 points. In 56 games, that is a 29 goal pace over 82 games, something more like the Kessel of years past. Right winger Christian Fischer scored 26 goals over his first two full seasons, but had just three last year. He is a solid defensive winger on the penalty kill. Coming in on a prove-it deal is Ryan Dzingel, the speedy winger who went back to Ottawa after a rough stint in Carolina. In 29 games with the Senators, he scored six times with three assists. He will get a lot of ice time in Arizona to boost his numbers. The pressure is on for 2018 5th overall pick Barrett Hayton. He has just seven points in 34 NHL games. In the AHL last year, he was awful. Hayton’s 10 points in 26 games was a massive disappointment. He can win the second-line center job without much competition. A former depth winger with the Blues, Dmitrij Jaskin is back in the NHL after scoring 38 goals in 59 games over in Russia. He only signed a one year deal, so a deal at the deadline seems likely. Johan Larsson has proved in the past to be an elite defensive fourth line center. He could move up to the third line this year. His 14 points was actually tenth on the team. While a 5.7 percent shooting rate played its part, Lawson Crouse was still a massive disappointment last year. He potted just four goals. The big winger is still just 24, but his development has completely stopped. Can Jan Jenik make the team? The 2018 third-rounder had 14 points in 29 AHL games. He then scored twice in the two NHL games he got into. He will be just 21 this year. Antoine Roussel is still a physical force, but he scored just once in 35 games for Vancouver. He can capture a fourth line role. So can his Canucks teammates Jay Beagle and Loui Eriksson. They combined for a goal in 37 games. Travis Boyd, another ex-Canuck, can steal the fourth-line center spot from Beagle. He scored five goals in 39 games last year despite just 23 shots. Andrew Ladd is a long shot after not even being an AHL regular last season.

Defensemen

The Coyotes really needed anyone to step up last year and Jakob Chychrun did. He blossomed into one of the league’s best defenders on an amazing contract. Chychrun was second on the team with 18 goals and 41 points. He finished 10th in the league in Norris voting. The Coyotes do not have a clear guy to play on Chychrun’s right side. It could be a bit of a stretch to say that 2019 first-rounder Victor Soderstrom is ready for the role. He put up 10 points in 32 AHL games, earning him a four-game NHL stint. Soderstrom had a goal and an assist during that period. The Coyotes took on a second-round pick with Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract. He still has offensive talent, but was often healthy scratched in Philadelphia. Nine of his 20 points in 2020-21 came on the power play. With most of last year’s right-side leaving, Ilya Lyubushkin will have an expanded role. The defensive defenseman has never played in more than 51 games in a season, but he has reached 100 hits in each of his three NHL years. Veteran Anton Stralman also comes in as part of a cap dump. He struggled over his two seasons in Florida. Stralman could really be placed anywhere in this lineup. The final spot is a fight between Conor Timmins and Kyle Capobianco. Timmins comes in from Colorado for Darcy Kuemper. He had seven assists in 31 games for the Avalanche. Capobianco could have a boost being a left-hander. He has just 14 NHL games under his belt but had 13 points in 20 AHL games last year.

Goalies

With Kuemper, Adin Hill, and Antti Raanta gone, the goaltending will be rough. Carter Hutton was brought in to become the starter/tank commander. While injured, Hutton put up a 3.47 GAA with an .886 SV% in 13 games. Coming over from San Jose for Hill is Josef Korenar. The young Czech native had an .899 save percentage in his first 10 NHL games. 2018 4th rounder Ivan Prosvetov played in NHL games last year but was still awful in the AHL.

Projected Lines

Clayton Keller – Nick Schmaltz – Phil Kessel

Ryan Dzingel – Barrett Hayton – Christian Fischer

Jan Jenik – Johan Larsson – Dmitrij Jaskin

Lawson Crouse – Jay Beagle – Antoine Roussel

Extras: Travis Boyd, Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd

Jakob Chychrun – Victor Soderstrom

Shayne Gostisbehere – Ilya Lyubushkin

Anton Stralman – Conor Timmins

Extras: Kyle Capobianco

Carter Hutton

Josef Korenar

Prediction

The prediction with the Coyotes is not whether they will make the playoffs; we already know that they won’t. But will they finish last in the whole league? Only the Sabres are a real threat. Commence the tankathon!

Anaheim Ducks 2021-22 Season Preview

California hockey is at an all-time low right now. None of the three teams are good and the battle of them is to see which one can get better quicker. After this past offseason, the Ducks have dropped in that leaderboard. They decided to be as quiet as quiet can be. They brought back captain Ryan Getzlaf, but that was about it. Anaheim has a ton of cap space, so the potential moves are never over. But for now, the team appears to be trusting a group of young players, something NHL teams rarely do.

Offseason additions: F Buddy Robinson, D Greg Pateryn.

Offseason subtractions: F Danton Heinen, G Ryan Miller, D Haydn Fleury, F Carter Rowney, F David Backes.

Forwards

So much of the hype surrounding the Ducks this year sits on the shoulders of Trevor Zegras. He posted 18 points in seven World Juniors games, then had 21 in 17 AHL appearances. This earned Zegras an NHL stint, where he scored just three goals but with 10 assists in 24 games. He will be either a first or second line center this season. He will be paired with Max Comtois, who was a World Junior star of his own. At age 22, Comtois led the Ducks with 16 goals and 33 points. However, he did ride an unsustainable 17 percent shooting rate. Finishing off a potential line of World Juniors legend is Troy Terry. He dominated the AHL and has carved out a decent path to becoming a top-nine winger. In 48 games last year, Terry scored 20 points. Back on a one year deal is Ryan Getzlaf. The franchise icon has completely dwindled down. He scored just five times last season, in the worst division in hockey. The interesting part of him going into the season is if the Ducks will trade Getzlaf. The same could be said for Rickard Rakell, who has a manageable cap hit and is a year away from free agency. The former back-to-back 30-goal scorer had just nine last season, although his 19 assists led the club. Also on the downswing is Jakob Silfverberg, which is bad because instead of trading him for a bundle, they extended him longterm a few deadlines ago. Uh oh! Silfverberg had just 16 points in 2020-21. Like Silfverberg, Adam Henrique is signed for three more seasons. He was not unloaded to Seattle like many thought after scoring 12 goals this past year. Anaheim really missed offense production from former first rounder Isac Lundestrom. He killed penalties and was fine overall defensively, but had just nine points. The very same thing could be said for Sam Steel, who finished with just 12 points. Both need big seasons as they enter the final year on their entry level deals. Max Jones, drafted with Steel, was second on the team with 100 hits. Still, his seven goals was a bit underwhelming. Derek Grant has been a great penalty killing fourth liner for a bit now. His 15 points does not stand out, but it was seventh on the team among forwards. The final spot in the lineup is between Alex Volkov and Nic Deslauriers. Deslauriers is a physical force but that is about it. Volkov emerged as a solid two-way player after being acquired at the deadline from Tampa Bay. He put up eight points in 18 games, which is saying something compared to everyone else’s numbers. Also in the mix are Buddy Robinson and Sam Carrick. Carrick had six points in 13 games last year, while Robinson had none in nine games for Calgary.

Defensemen

The struggling Anaheim defensive corps lost Haydn Fleury to Seattle in the expansion draft, weakening it even more. The healthiest of them in 2020-21 was Cam Fowler. Fowler is still a solid player, but his contract is awful. His 23 points led Anaheim defenders by eight, over Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk’s best day as a Duck so far has been his day with the Stanley Cup from his time with Tampa Bay. He was a fine two-way defender for the Ducks last season. The health of Hampus Lindholm will be key this season, especially as he will be entering free agency. Lindholm missed all but 18 games in 2020-21. Josh Manson had a rough season in 2020-21 and is also a year from the open market. Manson appeared in just five more games than Lindholm did. 2020 sixth overall pick Jamie Drysdale was rushed to the NHL last year and still put up eight points in 24 games. He is talented but should be sheltered more. A healthy Manson will help that. Jacob Larsson is yet to prove himself as a legitimate NHL defenseman. He has struggled defensively and does not put up points. Kodie Curran tore up Sweden as a point-per-game defender. He went to the AHL last season, putting him 13 points in 24 games. Josh Mahura and Brendan Guhle have been around the Ducks organization for the past few years, but neither have been outstanding.

Goalies

After a second consecutive bad season, John Gibson has fallen down the goaltending power rankings. Yes, the Ducks were awful last year. But Gibson posted much worse numbers than fellow goalies on bad defensive teams like Connor Hellebuyck, Thatcher Demko, and Cal Petersen. His .903 save percentage and 2.98 GAA were unimpressive. With Ryan Miller retiring, Anthony Stolarz will rise to the backup role. He was great in nine games last season. He posted a .926 save percentage with a 2.20 GAA.

Projected Lines

Jakob Silfverberg – Ryan Getzlaf – Rickard Rakell

Max Comtois – Trevor Zegras – Troy Terry

Sam Steel – Adam Henrique – Max Jones

Isac Lundestrom – Derek Grant – Alex Volkov

Extras: Nic Deslauriers, Sam Carrick

Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson

Cam Fowler – Kevin Shattenkirk

Jacob Larsson – Jamie Drysdale

Extras: Kodie Curran, Josh Mahura, Brendan Guhle

Josh Gibson

Anthony Stolarz

Prediction

The Ducks fell asleep this offseason. After how bad they were last year, doing that probably was not the smartest decision. They could have rented out their cap space, but chose to not get free draft picks. Anaheim could have been an even more Western Arizona, but instead will not reap the benefits. The Ducks have the talent, but the talent has not given them results yet. Will they this year? No matter what, it won’t end in a playoff birth.