Kyle Palmieri, When Healthy, Could Shake Up Anaheim Ducks Roster


Coming into the season, the Anaheim Ducks had more wingers than they had open roster spots. Currently, the Ducks wing corps includes Corey Perry, Patrick Maroon, Devante Smith-Pelly, Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg, Matt Beleskey, Emerson Etem, Tim Jackman, Dany Heatley and occasionally Rickard Rakell. Already, that makes nine players for eight consistent roster spots. Now, Kyle Palmieri may be close to returning, adding a tenth player into the mix. While the Ducks were on this road trip, Palmieri was skating while recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in training camp. Palmieri could draw in to the lineup for the first time this season, as the Ducks prepare for a four game homestand. However, does Palmieri have a regular spot in the lineup, with the forwards playing well during this 10-3-0 start to the season?

First, the Ducks must send someone to the AHL for Palmieri. It seems pointless to have three healthy wingers sitting in the press box each night. The Ducks are still letting Rakell and William Karlsson battle it out for one of the bottom-six center spots. Each player has had his strong moments, and Rakell has position versatility, so he should be safe to stay at the NHL for a bit longer. Heatley has had two mediocre games for Anaheim while being a healthy scratch for two others, but it seems he is still rusty from missing about a month because of a preseason groin injury. The Ducks still want to give him a shot, so he also remains safe.

Looking at the rest of the group, it seems that either Jackman or Etem will be the odd man out. Jackman has played well for Anaheim this season, appearing in all 13 games and picking up a goal. He has thrown his weight around and been a heavy force on the forecheck, creating more scoring chances than expected. However, Jackman is a fourth line grinder and is not a player who will light up the stat sheet this season. In the league today, the ability to roll four scoring lines is so important. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles have followed this formula and have won Stanley Cups in the past five seasons. Replacing Jackman with someone like Palmieri gives the team another weapon in the offensive zone.

If the Ducks were to reward Jackman for his play and keep his grit in the lineup, then the next candidate would be Etem. He has also played in all 13 games, but he has yet to record a point this season. Etem has mostly played on the fourth line with Jackman and center Nate Thompson, so the scoring chances have been limited. However, he has not been able to convert his opportunities playing on the top six with either Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler. Returning Etem to the AHL for more development may be ideal, as he put up 54 points in 50 games for Norfolk a season ago. One of the worst things to do for a young player is to withhold playing time. Etem is on an entry-level deal, has a two-way contract, and is waiver-exempt, so the Ducks could send him down without having to worry about losing him to another team.

The last option to help this situation is a trade. However, there isn’t much that Anaheim could get to help the team by trading off surplus at the wing. Obtaining a forward doesn’t make much sense, considering the logjam that exists at the Ducks’ NHL lineup as is. The Ducks could possibly look to upgrade at defense, but that doesn’t appear likely. There is a league-wide shortage of healthy defensemen currently in the league, with players such as Zdeno Chara, James Wisniewski, and Ryan McDonagh hurt for their teams. The Ducks are dealing with their own injuries on the blue-line, with Ben Lovejoy, Bryan Allen, and Mark Fistric all nursing ailments. Because of that, Josh Manson was recalled and is playing, but mostly because the Ducks are only carrying six defensemen currently. Shea Theodore and Jesse Blacker are also players who could crack the NHL lineup soon, so the Ducks are already set there. With minor injuries to both goaltenders Frederik Andersen and John Gibson last night, the Ducks were forced to summon Jason LaBarbera from Norfolk and use goaltending consultant Dwayne Roloson as the emergency back-up against the Avalanche. Having both goalies injured at the same time is rare and even though the Ducks pulled out a win, depending on the third goalie is not a situation the team wants to be in. The Ducks’ goalie pipeline now depends on Igor Bobkov, a raw prospect with a lot of talent, but one that needs much more development. The Ducks may look to add a goalie prospect through a trade, but that also does not appear likely. If anything, the Ducks could just unload some young forwards for draft picks, as the Ducks are a team that wants to build through the draft and player development.

With Palmieri back, the lines would be juggled. the lines could possibly be as follows.

Maroon – Getzlaf – Perry
Heatley – Kesler – Smith-Pelly
Cogliano – Karlsson – Silfverberg
Beleskey – Thompson – Palmieri

Outside of the top line, the other three lines can all be juggled in some way. Etem, Rakell, and Jackman also could draw into the lineup as extra options at left wing, center, or right wing respectively. Beleskey, Maroon, and Cogliano have all played well in top-six roles. Smith-Pelly and Silfverberg have done so at right wing as well. Heatley is looking to prove that he can still provide scoring at a top-six level in the NHL. The Ducks are strong at forward because of their sheer depth, with players who can slot up and down the lineup and spread the scoring throughout the team. Each line brings different elements to a team: some line combinations have speed, others win puck battles, and other combinations are great defensively. These elements and versatility are key for teams who have Stanley Cup aspirations. The Ducks have won 10 of their first 13 games with essentially the same lineup. They are the first team to ten wins and currently lead the NHL points standings after just under a month of play. However, the team is still not fully healthy. As players return, some lineup changes could be made to make this team even more formidable than it was before.