Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry form one of the NHL’s best dynamic duos. They also help form one of the best first lines in the entire NHL. What could truly make their line complete is having a third player contribute on a more noticeable level.
Right now on the Ducks depth chart, Matt Beleskey is listed as the top left winger. Beleskey provides a grinding and scrapping aspect to the first line that some teams don’t have but he isn’t really an ideal first line winger. Despite putting big numbers up in the Ontario Hockey League, he has scored more than ten goals just once in his NHL career and has never recorded more than 30 points in a season. He isn’t exactly known for getting on the score sheet and that’s why he shouldn’t be on the top of their depth chart for left wingers. He fits more of a third line checking kind of role on the team. If you take away Beleskey from the first line and have him play a checking role with Nate Thompson, then you could place more of a scoring threat to play with Getzlaf and Perry and could make the Ducks first line one of the deadliest in the league.
Well the Ducks have plenty of options, plenty of depth and some forwards who can play both sides of the wing. And we have seen a ton of different players appear on that top line. So let’s start thinking about which of these players should be on this top line.
First is Devante Smith-Pelly. He is currently a restricted free agent but it shouldn’t be a problem for the Ducks to bring him back. He has a lot of potential and upside. He can play both wings, is a good skater with a lot of size being 225 pounds and has a physicality aspect to his game along with being an adequate goal scorer at the NHL level. When he played for the Mississauga Majors in the OHL, he was the first line left winger and scored a ton of goals helping lead them to the Memorial Cup final in 2011 but falling just short. With the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, Norfolk, Smith-Pelly has put up good numbers. In his first season (2012-2013) with Norfolk he scored 14 goals and 32 points in 65 games and last year with the farm team he scored 27 goals and 43 points in just 55 games. At the NHL level he hasn’t had as much success scoring wise but he showed some promise this past postseason when Bruce Boudreau shook things up putting Smith-Pelly on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry. He put up five goals in twelve games and started to show that he is blossoming at the pro level. When you look at his style of play he fits as a candidate to be on the first line especially when you think about how he played on the top line last year.
The next candidate to play on the top line is Patrick Maroon. Maroon recently re-signed in Anaheim for three years. Maroon has some similarities to the aforementioned Devante Smith-Pelly. Maroon has a lot of size at 6’3 and 230 pounds. He has scoring abilities and like Smith-Pelly has produced a lot more at the minor league level than the NHL. He saw some time on the first line last year and scored 11 goals and 29 points in 62 games played. The only major difference between him and Smith-Pelly is that Maroon is 26 compared to the age of Smith-Pelly (22) so Maroon doesn’t have nearly as much potential or upside. He has got the size and scoring ability to be a part of the first line, it is just a matter of how well he can use his abilities.
The next player that comes to mind is the player whom the Ducks took a risk signing this off season. The “All Star” Dany Heatley. We all know what Heatley is capable of and that he used to be a major scoring threat in the NHL being a former two time fifty goal scorer. We also all know that those goals were scored while he was in his prime which he is no longer in. The last two seasons with the Minnesota Wild Heatley has scored 21 and 28 points respectively. He scored the 21 points in a lockout shortened season and last year he simply had a bad season starting to show that his career is nearing the end. One of the reasons why he had such low production offensively last year in Minnesota was because of the role he played. If he wasn’t scratched from the lineup then he was playing limited minutes. Last year he averaged 11.1 minutes per game. The only argument that you could possibly make for him to be on the first line would be to think that if he was given an opportunity to play with two elite players like Getzlaf and Perry, rather than play a limited role then maybe he could at least produce more than he did last year. Maybe he could score 15-20 goals in a season playing with them.
When you look at it like that. The possible left wingers to play on the top line would be: Smith-Pelly, Maroon and Heatley. At the end of the day it’s up to Bruce Boudreau to make a decision on who to play on that top line and any choice can work simply because of the elite level of talent that you get with Getzlaf and Perry on your first line.
If I was to make a decision on who should at least start the season on the first line, I would pick Devante Smith-Pelly solely on the way he played on the first line in the playoffs and because I also think he’s starting to peak and mature as a player in the NHL. We’ve seen many different players used on that first line but if the Ducks can find one who can be consistent and keep pace with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, than it might help separate the Ducks from the rest of the league.