As the offseason winds down, Anaheim seems to have all of its Ducks in a row for the 2015-2016 NHL season.
An interesting free agency for the Ducks led to the signing of Left Winger Carl Hagelin from New York. Hagelin finished his 2014-2015 season with 17 goals and 18 assists for the Rangers. Although he is not a pure goal-scorer, he will bring speed to the Anaheim bench â€” something the Ducks lacked last season. Signing Hagelin was a power move for Anaheim, and he will fit in with the rest of Anaheimâ€™s big-name line-up.
In spite of the benefit of bringing in Hagelin, losing Matt Beleskey is sure to do some damage to the 2015 Pacific Division champs. Beleskey left the Ducks franchise with 70 goals and 59 assists. He had a break through playoffs in 2015 scoring eight goals for Anaheim. During the free agency, the Boston Bruins wasted no time in signing the talented left winger for the upcoming season.
Anaheimâ€™s fourth line also took a heavy hit with the loss of Emerson Etem. The young winger spent five years in the Ducks organization, two of which were spent playing in Virginia for the Ducksâ€™ AHL affiliate in Norfolk. Etemâ€™s eight goals may seem dismal, but with 100 shots on goal, he has proven his tenacity and willingness to shoot the puck. Unfortunately for Anaheim, next season the Long Beach, California native will be displaying his efforts for the New York Rangers on the ice of Madison Square Garden.
As for goaltending, Frederik Anderson will continue as the Ducks’ No. 1 net minder.
Anderson proved last season that he is a force to be reckoned with in the western conference, and he finished first in playoff overtime wins in the NHL with three. Andersonâ€™s low .914 save percentage is a concern, but his 35 regular season wins and 11 playoff wins are comforting. Â In only his second year in the NHL, Anderson led the Ducks to the Western Conference finals where they fell to the Blackhawks, the Stanley Cup champion.
Backing up Anderson is second-year goalie John Gibson. Gibsonâ€™s numbers from last year are low, but his unforgettable performance against the Kings in the 2014 playoffs shows his potential as a viable goaltender.
The big names of Anaheim are all set for the upcoming season as well. The returns of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are sure to keep Anaheim in a scoring state of mind. Getzlaf, Perry and Keslerâ€™s 78 combined goals played a huge part in the teamâ€™s run to last seasonâ€™s playoffs.
The Ducksâ€™ season is not solely dependent on the goal-scoring abilities of the team, but on the hard-hitting, physical style of play the team brings to the ice. With only four players on the roster under six feet tall, Anaheim is certainly able to intimidate other teams purely based on size, but their biggest size advantage comes in the form of hits. In the first four playoff games last season, the Ducks averaged 40 hits per game, and during the Western Conference finals, the Ducks delivered over 60 hits on the Blackhawks in two games. The hits need to come from not only big defensemen like Clayton Stoner, but from forwards as well. Lacking a fear of hitting hard will be the Ducks’ best friend for the new season.
With the sour taste of playoff defeat still lingering in their mouths, the Ducks look more than ready to take on the Sharks on Oct. 10, 2015 to officially start off the regular NHL season.