Anaheim Ducks: Agents of Change and the Future

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Sonny Milano #22 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to his goal with Ryan Getzlaf #15 and Christian Djoos #29, to take a 1-0 lead over the Edmonton Oilers, during the first period at Honda Center on February 25, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Sonny Milano #22 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to his goal with Ryan Getzlaf #15 and Christian Djoos #29, to take a 1-0 lead over the Edmonton Oilers, during the first period at Honda Center on February 25, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Troy Terry #61 of the Anaheim Ducks and P.K. Subban #76 of the Nashville Predators look toward the officials after a fall during the third period at Honda Center on March 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

Daniel Sprong, was given very little playing time with much of it coming on the 4th line when he was given opportunities. He was eventually moved out-of-town during the recent trade deadline, and it pains me to say that his career may be closer to finishing than starting. He is but 22 years of age and it is a shame that he was unloved by the current coaching staff. It’s worth mentioning that when accounting for minutes, he was the 6th highest shooter by volume, sat 7th for scoring chances, and was 3rd for rush attempts on the team this season. Small sample though it were.

Ondrej Kase was another player shifted out at the trade deadline, in part due to injuries. If General Manager Bob Murray is to be taken at face value, he was too similar to the rest of the Ducks players and was shifted to find some different looking pieces. At the point of trade, Kase sat 6th on the team for scoring, 2nd for shots, 2nd for shot contributions, 2nd for most carry-ins to the offensive zone, 2nd for rush attempts, 7th for rebounds created, and 5th for scoring chances. These are raw numbers mind you, and when you take into account games played, Kase climbs the list. There’s no doubt that Kase has been an analytics darling for many years, despite only putting it together for a single 20 goal season. It’s also worth mentioning that he drew the 3rd most calls of all skaters on the team, and was 2nd on the team for takeaways. However, he’s no longer a Duck and fans can perhaps look forward to seeing a right-handed shooting defensive prospect in Axel Andersson patrolling the 3rd pairing in a few seasons.

The teams most recent top 10 draft pick, Nick Ritchie, was also less effective this season than in seasons past. It should be noted that his underlying statistics were stronger than last season’s, just not as strong as the two full seasons he had prior under the tutelage of Randy Carlyle. He too sat among the upper echelon of the Ducks this season. Ritchie was in the 7th position for points per game, 11th for offensive zone entries, 6th among forwards for defensive zone exits, 6th among the regular skaters for shots per minute, 3rd for expected goals per minute, 3rd for high danger chances per minute, 1st for rebounds created, and playing a heavy game helped him also climb to 5th on the team for hits. Ritchie was safe with the puck and a decent bet for keeping it for Anaheim. Only five regular Ducks had fewer giveaways per minute of play than he did. He was also hit fewer times than all but Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique. That is to say that when Ritchie had the puck he was able to do something with it. He was still moved to Boston for Danton Heinen despite his numbers.

Among the fallout it’s seemingly gone unnoticed that Troy Terry‘s career in the NHL has about been run off the rails. Given such high hopes from certain segments of the internet and media, Terry never really got it together at a high level, despite all his opportunities. With that said, his underlying numbers suggested he could be a reasonable 3rd line player if scoring was taken out of the equation. In many ways, it seems the Ducks have run out of patience with him as a scoring prospect and have sent him down to the AHL for the rest of the season. Given Comtois is coming and that the players the Ducks acquired at the deadline have performed better than expected, there simply might not be room for Terry to move into the top nine next season. This leaves him pushing to be a 4th line energy player, which perhaps isn’t his game. Nonetheless, Ducks fans will be familiar with another former college player who shifted his game from being an offensively orientated player to one that was tasked to shut down the opposition in Andrew Cogliano. Should Terry wish to continue with the Ducks, he could attempt to emulate Cogliano and his success story. After all, competing with Isac Lundestrom for a shutdown role will be infinitely easier than competing with the currently successful Sonny Milano, Danton Heinen, Rickard Rakell and Jacob Larsson for a top six role. Assuming Comtois is going to get the green light next season, there are not many spots going for players who can’t bury the biscuit.

This might be said of Brendan Guhle as well. Despite him coming into the team recently due to injuries and shooting lights out, his defensive play is still quite lax. For interest’s sake in this latest grouping of games commencing with his call up on February 9th, Guhle has seen the most shot attempts against of all the defensemen and discounting the newcomers Matt Irwin and Christian Djoos. He also has the highest expected goals against. This coming on the back of the most scoring chances and high danger chances amongst regular defensemen, which again is discounting Irwin who has both just arrived and shouldn’t be a regular NHL defenseman let alone playing the ~22 minutes a night he’s been getting. Guhle does have the highest PDO of all the defensemen, with a 10.9% shooting average and an on-ice save percentage of .922, at even strength. When that fails, and both of those metrics eventually will, what will Guhle have left to offer? Which is the question Bob Murray must ponder going forward. Assuming next season has a healthy group of players, we’d be looking at Cam Fowler-Gudbranson, Hampus LindholmJosh Manson, and Larsson-Djoos. Guhle is young enough that he’s not washed and without hope, yet he may not have a regular place in the lineup. Should the Ducks fall into expectations and draft Jamie Drysdale in the coming entry draft, the chances of Guhle securing a roster spot dwindle dramatically.