NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the Anaheim Ducks.
The Anaheim Ducks are hoping the addition of a Stanley Cup champion will help them return to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who signed a three-year contract with the Ducks on Oct. 9 and is entering his 11th NHL season, scored 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 70 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and helped them win the Cup.
“There’s some players who have been there … the guys that I know who have been playing in the League for as long as I have who are looked upon as … the big names on the team,” Shattenkirk said. “But then you have some younger players who it’s time for them to take the next step, and I feel in my mind just in playing against them and knowing what they have there and knowing the coach (Dallas Eakins), I feel that it’s a great group to be a part of and it was a group that I wanted to join and feel like I can bring some of that leadership to the locker room.”
With the roster largely intact from last season, the Ducks will be counting on several young forwards to take the next step in their development. Max Jones, 22, Troy Terry, 23, and Sam Steel, 22, each played at least 47 games last season, but none scored more than 22 points. Isac Lundestrom, the No. 23 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, played 15 games last season and had four assists, and Trevor Zegras, selected with No. 9 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, could make his NHL debut this season.
“I thought we went through the necessary process last year of making sure that certain young players got their reps,” said Eakins, who is entering his second season as Ducks coach. “They were very necessary reps. There was a learning curve to that. I think they’re all going to be better for it. Now we move into the part of the process where the ice time and all those types of things are going to be earned. Just because certain players got 40-50 games last year, that doesn’t mean they’ve made the team.”
Eakins said he’s looking forward to seeing what several players acquired prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline can do, including forwards Danton Heinen, David Backes and Sonny Milano, and defenseman Christian Djoos. None played more than nine games before last season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“The deals at the deadline that we got very little time with, they’re almost like these summer additions because they’re still really new,” Eakins said. “I think our additions, and I believe they’re going to be really good ones, were at the deadline. We got a little bit quicker at the deadline. … We were kind of just getting started with those guys.”
If the young players and the late-season acquisitions produce, it should help Anaheim improve offensively after ranking 29th in the NHL in scoring last season (2.56 goals per game) and last in 2018-19 (2.39). Forwards Adam Henrique (26) and Jakob Silfverberg (21) were the only players to score at least 20 goals last season, and Henrique’s 43 points led the Ducks.
“I think you’re going to see improvement with some of our young guys,” general manager Bob Murray said. “And if we get improvement with some of the young guys, which it’s time for, and you get some more consistency from the middle-aged guys, I think we can be right there fighting for a playoff spot. There’s no reason we can’t be.”
Anaheim finished with the third-worst points percentage in the Western Conference last season (.472) and were not one of the 24 NHL teams to play in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. But after a long break, the Ducks are hoping for a fresh start when training camp begins.
“We really want our team to compete at the highest level, and I think the competition here coming into this season is going to be extraordinary,” Eakins said. “This will be a fierce competition and we can’t wait to see how this plays out.”