The Ducks were the top team in the Pacific Division last season and they did so by being an exceptionally difficult team to play against and by the look of their additions and changes in the off-season, they will continue to operate under that model, relying heavily on their scorers to do what they do best and use their depth to grind out those extra minutes.
The crease will be a little bit more of a different story, as Frederik Andersen is now out and it is John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier's team, but the split will be an interesting one. One would look back at the last couple of seasons and say that the team groomed Gibson to be their number one guy, but at 23 years old, he may still have his streaks of good and bad play, which may give Bernier a good chunk of the split, as a seasoned keeper in the league.
I'm not completely certain that the Ducks have what it takes to do it all over again, because the margin of error in the Pacific Division is going to get a lot smaller, a lot faster. Let's see what they have in store for us.
Table last updated on August 5th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Anaheim's 1st round pick in the 2014 draft, forward Nick Ritchie, should be just about ready to take on a full-time job with the club or at least the club would hope so. The 20-year old had an up-and-down year between the big club and the AHL, where his minor league numbers were certainly decent, 30 points in 38 games in San Diego.
The big power forward has a very decent chance of cracking this season's roster, as the depth beyond the top five or six players is somewhat questionable and easily manipulated by kids with breakout years. As per my table above, I think we'll see a good deal of Ritchie and he should work out to be pool worthy, if his draft ranking has anything to do with it.
First Round Picks
Neither Ryan Getzlaf nor Corey Perry finished in the 1st round bracket last season and as much as I have their production up again, they are still not ranked among the 1st rounders in the rankings this time around. John Gibson was also close, but I'm getting the feeling that the Ducks won't repeat that tremendous season they had.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Ducks are not short on pool worthy forwards, but their impact may not be as great as it was last year, mostly because I don't think their depth improved over their opponents knowing more about their team and how to play against them. Still, Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell will all play good mid-round roles in the pool, with Silfverberg being the most likely to exceed those early expectations.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The big three, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, all have pool worthiness to them and they have some real potential to do some good for your pool team. Fowler, however, has been at the root of many trade rumours in this off-season and in order for Anaheim to improve their overall depth, there is a good chance that he gets dealt, where he can possibly do even more good. If the Ducks don't upgrade up front, their key offensive defenders may remain limited on what they can do.
When the Ducks sent Frederik Andersen to the Maple Leafs, it was acknowledging what we already knew for the most part, that John Gibson was going to take over the job as the number one guy, it was the plan all along. But a second trade with the Leafs, essentially made it Andersen for Jonathan Bernier, does cloud that think, just a little bit. I would assume that Gibson will be looked upon to be the number one guy, but taking Bernier out of the fires of Toronto, could help to improve his game and challenge Gibson for the spot. Very curious, indeed.
Team To Pick From?
I am not convinced that there are many steals to be had from the Anaheim Ducks, especially late. There are about five or six spots in their forward ranks, which are up for grabs for players in their system and that doesn't leave a lot of confidence in the team, but anything can happen in the end and they could prove to be a good team at the mid-season changes.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Ducks' Summer isn't quite done yet, as Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm are still in need of deals, as both are currently restricted free agents, who didn't have any arbitration rights. Both players have been making big contributions to the team over the past couple seasons, so they are both likely looking for reasonable deals to help compensate for their contributions.
The team has about $7.5-8 million to play with underneath the cap ceiling to get these two deals done and if the players had their way, it might not be enough. This is a sensitive situation and one that takes us back to the rumours about the team moving Cam Fowler and his contract.
It may not be a hockey pool injury, per se, but the Ducks will likely get some cap relief, if needed, from Nate Thompson and his Achilles injury. The rugged winger had surgery to repair that key tendon in his foot and his recovery will set him back well into the New Year. His $1.6 million cap hit could hit the Long-Term Injury Reserve, which could aid the team for the time he is out.