Three Takeaways from the Ducks’ Opening Road Trip

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Oct 13, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Anaheim Ducks center William Karlsson (38) celebrates a goal during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Anaheim beats Buffalo 5 to 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Karlsson Impressing Early On 

Before the season started, people had looked at the third-line center position and had assumed that it would be won by Rickard Rakell at the end of the day.

Rakell was coming off of an impressive playoff run with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate and was looking to continue that success through to the following season. With Mathieu Perreault departing for Winnipeg, Nick Bonino being traded to Vancouver, and Saku Koivu
retiring, the third line center position was seen as a great opportunity for Rakell to capitalize on.

Fellow Swede William Karlsson was also in the running for the third line center spot, but not seen as a favorite to win the position. Karlsson was seen as a fringe-roster player, and it was not a guarantee that he would still be on the NHL roster when the team traveled to Pittsburgh.

Both the young Swedes play extremely similar games. They’re both scouted and described to be ” two way forwards with some upside,” according to thehockeynews.com. They also have similar builds, with Karlsson standing at 6’0 and 180 pounds, while Rakell measures in at 6’1 and 192 pounds.

Karlsson really started to showcase his talent to the Ducks during the Ducks’ two rookie scrimmages against the San Jose Sharks. Karlsson collected four points in those two games and used those solid performances to turn in an impressive preseason, recording three points in four preseason games, while Rakell only registered one point in six games.

Bruce Boudreau decided to go with Rakell over Karlsson to open the season in Pittsburgh. The third line had an underwhelming performance, and Rakell only played 12 minutes and finished with a -1 rating.

Boudreau, after doing some line juggling, gave Karlsson an opportunity in the next game against Detroit. He played 10 minutes, but the third line was a bit more effective as well after Boudreau decided to not play Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly all on the same line with a rookie center. By separating the kids onto different lines, Karlsson had a solid game playing with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. Karlsson again got the nod against the Buffalo Sabres. After two scoring chances in the same shift, Karlsson “half-clapped” a puck home top shelf over the shoulder of Michal Neuvirth for hist first career NHL goal. Later in the game, Karlsson batted home his own rebound to record his first career multi-goal game in the NHL. The next night in Philadelphia, “Wild Bill” scored the shootout winner to give the Ducks their third straight win and close out their road trip on a winning note.

Karlsson’s immediate success at the pro level has allowed himself to win the third line center job from Rakell. While circumstances (mainly linemates) are not all the same, the NHL (and professional sports leagues in general) are leagues geared towards results. Karlsson has produced in his opportunities while Rakell has not, in a similar fashion that Andersen has made the most of his opportunities while Gibson has not. Rakell continues to get playing time on the wing, but that should not be expected once Kyle Palmieri, Dany Heatley, and Maroon return from injury.