Anaheim Ducks: Ondrej Kase Deserves a Spot on the First Line

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 09: Ondrej Kase #25 of the Anaheim Ducks takes a shot on goal against the New Jersey Devils at Honda Center on December 09, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 09: Ondrej Kase #25 of the Anaheim Ducks takes a shot on goal against the New Jersey Devils at Honda Center on December 09, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

The Anaheim Ducks currently have an opening on the first line, and Ondrej Kase should be rewarded with a spot as the right-wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf.

On June 19, 2019, the Anaheim Ducks bought out the contract of veteran forward, Corey Perry, leaving a vacant spot on the right-wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf going into the 2019-20 season. This gives the team the opportunity to promote from within, and while there are several valid options to choose from, Ondrej Kase should be the first player Dallas Eakins looks at to fill the position.

From the moment the Anaheim Ducks drafted Kase in the 7th round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he has defied all odds. With the knowledge we now have about the 2014 draft class, Kase only had a 4% chance, as a player drafted after the second round, to make it full-time in the NHL. Nevertheless, Bob Murray and co. took a chance on the young Czech and he has surprised everyone in the best way.

Although he spent a majority of the 2015-16 season with the San Diego Gulls on the sidelines with a concussion, he quickly became a fan favorite during the 25 games he appeared in. The Anaheim Ducks were impressed and called him up the next season, and he’s had a big role in the lineup ever since.

2019-20 Could Be a Breakout Year

Ondrej Kase has shown significant progress during every season he’s played with the Anaheim Ducks. Unfortunately, the 2018-19 season started late and ended early for the winger after a concussion kept him sidelined for the first part of the season and a torn labrum ended his season indefinitely.

However, had he not been injured, Kase was on pace for a 55 point season. That would have made him the top point producer for the Anaheim Ducks, with no other player topping 50 points. What is even more impressive is that his point totals have continued the positive trend upward under a Randy Carlyle system.

Should Dallas Eakins feel that Kase is a good fit for the top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell there is a big chance that he could have a breakout season. Of course, he’d likely have a breakout season if he manages to stay healthy and plays alongside Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie again, but the impact wouldn’t be as significant.

Playing alongside Getzlaf allows him to tap even further into his creative side. With Getzlaf being more of the playmaker and passer, having both Rakell and Kase on the top line with him would make the Anaheim Ducks first line a dangerous scoring threat. Plus, Kase would add energy to the line, something that was missing at several points during the 2018-19 season.

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Kase TOI would go up significantly as well. Last season, he averaged 15:39 per game. Playing alongside Getzlaf and Rakell would allow him to add 3 to 4 minutes of ice time a night. This would give him several more shifts every game, allowing him more time to create plays and score goals. If he was on pace to have a 55 point season with a little more than 15 minutes a night, imagine what he could do if he was given the chance to play 18 minutes on a given night.

There Are a Few Things He Needs to Work on

There is no perfect NHL player, and at the age of 23, Kase is still developing into the player he will be when he reaches his prime years. One thing that has been noticeable over the past few seasons is that he struggles in the faceoff circle. While it is unlikely that he will ever be a go-to guy when it comes to faceoff’s, he needs to get his FO% well above 33.3%. Winning only 1/3 of the faceoff’s he takes gives the opposing team a better opportunity to win the draw, giving them an advantage.

However, one of the biggest obstacles Kase will have to overcome is his susceptibility to injury, especially concussions. He needs to learn how to protect himself when he is on the ice. Having Jeremy Bettle with the organization will definetly help, as he can give Kase guidance on how to avoid significant injuries.

The last thing Kase needs is for such a promising career to end the way that Paul Kariya‘s did. If he can avoid injury, not only will that be better for his body, but it will help him develop into a stronger player and give him a better chance at having the breakout season we all know he is due for.

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