So we keep waiting for the Ducks to sign a center to fill that second line center spot that became a bit of a weakness late last season. Amid some line changes, a few different players got chances at the second line center spot. Well, they haven’t made a move yet to sign a free agent, that wasn’t already with the club at least. So, here’s a list of players that could potentially fill that spot, both from free agency and from within the club.
May 8, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski (84) passes the puck against the Boston Bruins during game four of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Leafs 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The 29-year-old Belarusian, who was born in Germany, spent the first two years of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, but has been with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past five seasons. He’s been a lightning rod of attention in his time in Toronto recently with his hot and cold streaks. He fits the stereotype of eastern european hockey players who at times can fail to back check. He also has shown a severe lack of discipline as well. However, he is a very creative playmaker and an excellent skater. The Leafs bought Grabo out with four years remaining on his five-year contract after him and head coach Randy Carlyle butted heads. He is undoubted skilled enough to fill in the Ducks’ second line center position, but the question is will they want to risk the money on a streaky, lazy player.
Another former Maple Leaf, this 32-year-old has had some major injury problems in his career. Which is probably why I haven’t seen his name being thrown around in any teams. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him not get any calls. Despite having some pretty good offensive skill, his injuries and poor play defensively deter teams away from him. He had some pretty good seasons back in his days with the Buffalo Sabres. I only think he would get any interest if a team is pretty desperate for a offensive-minded center. Even if the Ducks can’t find someone to plug in at second-line center, I don’t think the Ducks would sign Connolly and they shouldn’t either. But he’s out there, so I might as well mention him.
Again, another former Maple Leaf, this 33-year-old could also fill in at second line center. With this guy and Ryan Getzlaf centering the first two lines, you would think the Ducks would have two very physically imposing top centerman, right? Nope. Despite being 6’6″-245, Antropov never gained much of a physical aspect to his game. However, he is very versatile as he can play any forward position and has solid two-way hockey sense and instincts. However, much like Grabovski, Antropov has been known to have some mental lapses on the ice and lacks consistency. Does he fit a second-line center role? He could, but could also be better suited for a third-line center role since he lacks natural goal-scoring ability.
This former top prospect has kind of fizzled away after five NHL seasons. He was selected 8th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He burst onto the scene in his rookie year (2007-08) scoring 22 goals and tallying 32 assists for 54 points. However, he hasn’t matched that total since and the closest he’s come to is 37 points in 2009-10 when he spent time with both the Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche. He has really good offensive skill and can score as well as set guys up. His head is quite fragile, both physically and emotionally. He’s had some concussion problems and has been known to take some nights off. And much like Antropov, he doesn’t use his size to his advantage enough. He’s another guy who is high risk and the Ducks shouldn’t really go after unless they can get him for one-year and cheap.
February 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Peter Mueller (88) at the face-off circle against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, that Damien Brunner. The Damien Brunner who went pretty much unnoticed in his hockey career until just recently when he burst onto the scene for his home country of Switzerland in international play and got a NHL contract from the Detroit Red Wings. He then exploded onto the NHL scene with an incredible start, but as the year went along really cooled off. He had a good playoffs stat wise, but us Ducks fans saw first hand how he can be indecisive and just dumb. But that really shouldn’t take away from what is a talented player. He is a natural winger but can play center if called to do so. Brunner has been attracting a lot of interest from around the league and is apparently looking for a multi-year deal worth $3 or $3.5 million.
He recently resigned with the Ducks for another year, which wasn’t much of a surprise. He played well last year and has been the second-line center here before. However, is he really a second-line center anymore? I don’t think so and he wasn’t exactly a second-line center last season. He played on the third line for the Ducks and it was arguably the best the Ducks had last season. So, should the Ducks skip on all the aforementioned players and actually move a 38-year-old veteran UP in their lineup. I don’t know, but he should be kept with Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik as a good, hard-working third line.
Bones might be my favorite to get the job. The 25-year-old has continued to develop into a good-looking player. He’s a two-way player but he seems to display some pretty good offensive instincts at times. So that makes it seem that he actually has more offensive potential than everyone thought. I was really looking forward to seeing him play last season after the previous year was his best stint in the NHL, but then he suffered that lower body injury and he missed 21 games due to that. So, I will again be looking forward to his growth. He spent some time on the second line when he was healthy and I really want him to get the opportunity this upcoming season.
He had a very good year last year. But, how much of that was due to the overall play of his entire line? Maybe he does deserve a chance to get a shot at the second-line center spot. However, I would like him to stay with Koivu and Winnik.
May 10, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino (13) skates with the puck in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings in game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks acquired Lombardi at the trade deadline last season. He didn’t get much time because he suffered a shoulder injury and missed pretty much the rest of the season. It was certainly a disappointing stint with the Ducks for Lombardi. I mean stint because he is currently an unrestricted free agent. He’s more of a third-line center, however, since he has more of a defensive game than an offensive game. He’s an excellent penalty killer. He’s also got great speed and is very good in the faceoff circle. There’s no doubt he is an asset to any team, however, his name is not really being thrown around anywhere that I’ve seen. So, it appears there isn’t much isn’t out there. However, the Ducks are known for working behind the scenes, so, they could be trying to work out a deal with him and we just don’t know it.
Ok, this is a stretch. We all know he’s one of the top prospects within the organization and arguably the top center prospect within the organization. Everybody I talk to about him raves about this kid. We got a short glimpse of him when he played in four games early on in the season last year before being sent back to juniors and the Plymouth Whalers (OHL). His junior career is now over. So, it’s either to the Ducks main roster or the Admirals he goes. Is he ready to get more time in the NHL. Bigger still, is he ready to get second-line minutes. Probably not. At least maybe probably not. If he really impresses in this current conditioning camp and then in training camp, maybe he makes the roster and maybe he does get some time centering the second-line.
This is not as much as a stretch as Rakell. He’s gotten some playing time here and there over the last two years. However, is he ready for second-line duty? He averaged 11 and a half minutes TOI last year in 21 games played with the Ducks. But how BIG were those minutes? By that I mean were they in low pressure situations. You could say that. But, I’m sure there were times when he was out there in some relatively high pressure situations. But, second-line center situations? No. So, he will need to show to the Ducks during training camp that he’s ready to take that next step and become a full-time NHL centerman. Whether it’s on the second, third, or fourth line is yet to be seen.
This is much more of a stretch than Rakell. Or is it? He dominated the NCAA and won the NCAA Division Championship with the University of Yale Bulldogs last season. The 23-year-old has great size for the NHL game and was one of the top college free agents out there at the end of the season for a reason. He’s got talent. However, adjustment to the NHL game is the biggest question mark for Laganiere as he enters his first season of professional hockey. He’s got some things to work on, but I’m sure he will get a look at during training camp. As much of a look as Rakell and Holland? Probably not but a look.
So these are just a few players that could fill that second-line center spot. It could even be a guy that I didn’t list here. There are always plenty of options, it’s just, how many GOOD options are there. The Ducks may need to “settle” for somebody. However, they could give one of their young guys a chance to be their second-line center. We can only wait and see!