The 2014 offseason has been a whirlwind for the Anaheim Ducks. The moves made after getting bounced from the post-season far too early have been well documented. As has the retirement of long-time Duck, and soon to be Hall of Fame Duck, Teemu Selanne.
With all the new Ducks joining the flock and all the attention given to Selanne, the loss of Saku Koivu hasn’t been discussed as much. The Ducks stated they wouldn’t bring Koivu back at the end of the season which was probably the right move. Koivu is getting up there in age and it showed last season that while the game gets bigger and faster, Koivu just couldn’t keep up.
But who replaces him?
So who is the answer at third-line pivot? Rickard Rakell.
Rakell has been a budding prospect for the Ducks and now it’s his time to shine. Most people had the former first round pick pegged as the fourth-line center after seeing him for some regular season and playoff games. But with the trade to bring in Nate Thompson, the fourth-line center position is locked up.
For those that don’t know too much about Rakell’s game here is the overview from eliteprospects.com:
“A hard working player with good attitude and vision. Rakell plays a solid two-way game and is fairly all-round overall. Has some interesting offensive upside and sometimes makes really nice plays while stickhandling through traffic. Capable scorer with a nice release.”
That bio is something that should translate well to the NHL. You want your centers to play a solid two-way game and having offensive upside is always a positive. In the few games I saw Rakell in the playoffs. I was impressed. He battles and uses all of his 6’2” 190 pound build. He makes the great pass and has a knack for getting to the net. He didn’t look nervous or rattled even under the biggest light of the post-season.
He has performed at every level he has played at and has been extremely consistent. During his OHL career with the Plymouth Whalers, he played in 149 games and racked up 151 points. In his one season with Norfolk last year, he played in 46 games while accumulating 37 points. Those two leagues he was either better than or close to a point a game. If he can translate that level of play and consistency at the NHL level, the Ducks will have a star on their hands.
Rakell is being thrown into the fire in every way. Had he been penciled in as fourth-line center, Rakell would have been able to take his time and feel things out a little more.
As the pivot after Getzlaf and Kesler, Rakell will need to perform and he has the tools to do it. But I believe he can succeed right off the bat. He just needs to play his game which is north and south and get the pucks where it needs to go. Put the correct wings on his line and if he can play to his level and above than at seasons end people will be talking about the Ducks 1-2-3 punch down the middle.
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