Rakell or Karlsson: The Battle Continues


Sep 28, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67) moves the puck down the ice defended by Los Angeles Kings left wing David Van der Gulik (36) during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we speculated on who would make the Anaheim Ducks’ opening day roster. A wrench was thrown into the mix, when it was announced that Dany Heatley and Kyle Palmieri would be placed on injured reserve.

Heatley is still recovering from a groin injury which he sustained in a preseason matchup against Los Angeles, while Palmieri continues to recover from an ankle injury which he suffered in the off-season while training.

Because these two players were placed on injured reserve, the Ducks forward group was reduced to 13. Once defenseman Shea Theodore was also placed on IR, the Ducks roster was reduced to 23, ready for the season.

We’ll miss Heatley and Palmieri in the lineup, but their absence creates an interesting opportunity for Bruce Boudreau to audition two young centermen on the NHL stage.

Rickard Rakell, the presumptive favorite to win the starting job in Anaheim started on Thursday against Pittsburgh. He centered the Ducks’ third line alongside Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly, his linemates in Norfolk for most of last year.

Sep 22, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67) follows through on a shot for a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

While this “kids line” shows some promise, they were less than impressive against Pittsburgh.

The line combined for an average CF% of only 23.13% against varied competition.

Poor defense, including some pretty poor coverage by Rakell led directly to the third goal of the first period by Pascal Dupuis.

Naturally, Boudreau decided to experiment with other options after the kids’ rough night. He decided to start William Karlsson ahead of Rakell last night against Detroit.

Karlsson has had very little AHL experience, and made his NHL debut last night. Having spent most of his young career in Sweden, there’s not a whole lot of information on him and his game.

He did look impressive in the preseason, but seemed to bring a different style of play than Rakell. Karlsson’s game is more offensive minded and less psychical than his fellow Swede.

Sep 22, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Anaheim Ducks center William Karlsson (38) warms up before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In Detroit, Karlsson was not matched up with the other ‘kids’, as Rakell was.Karlsson centered a fourth line with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg.

While the line didn’t score, they were an effective bunch, and was easily the fastest line on the ice for either team.

Karlsson had a grade-A scoring chance off of a breakaway, but his shot rang off the post and out of harm’s way.

Karlsson’s line certainly looked better, but only marginally. The line carried an average CF% of 35.1%, but they received more than 50% starts in the offensive zone, whereas Rakell’s unit only received 28% of OZ starts.

After these two games, it’s impossible to say which young center deserves the open spot more.

Karlsson had the benefit of playing alongside two established NHL players and not fellow rookies.

Rakell played against more difficult competition with less quality linemates, and has the benefit of experience. Both of their play styles are radically different.

Coach Boudreau will get at least a few more opportunities to audition the two young centermen before Heatley and Palmieri return. It will be interesting in the coming week to see how the position race between Karlsson and Rakell plays out.

Live Feed

Pacific division predictions
Pacific division predictions /

Oil On Whyte

  • Why Anaheim Ducks fans should be excited for the 2023-24 NHL seasonPuck Prose
  • Penguins News: Carl Hagelin is now retiring from the NHLPuck Prose
  • Should NHL Teams Hold Joint Practices With Other Teams Like The NFLPuck Prose
  • NHL 24: Predicting the highest rated players at every positionApp Trigger
  • Flyers Should Make a Play for Ducks RFA Trevor ZegrasBroad Street Buzz
  • Personally, I feel that if Rickard Rakell is given higher quality linemates, he will be more successful, and ultimately win the starting job. Karlsson would better benefit from another year in the AHL, but he has shown incredible potential during his short time here in Anaheim.

    Regardless of who wins the position battle, Boudreau has hopefully learned that it is best to mix up the young stars throughout the lines.

    While playing on the road, Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston smartly used his last change to set up mismatches against the young line. Rakell’s line saw considerable time against the top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist, and they were horribly outmatched.

    Detroit coach Mike Babcock did not have the same opportunity available to him. Boudreau matched up Karlsson with a good mix of experience and defensive responsibility in Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg.

    As this week rolls on, we’ll see which of these two young centers wins the starting job, and what linemates they play with.