How Does Tim Stutzel fit into the Anaheim Ducks Future Plans?
At first blush, Stutzle doesn’t readily appear to slide into the Ducks plans in the next few seasons. Already boasting Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique as the steady veterans, the Ducks have added numerous players taken to the center ice position in recent drafts. Sam Steel is one such player set for a top-6 role, while Benoit-Oliver Groulx seems set to take a 3rd line role in the next season or two.
However, the Seattle expansion draft is coming up and there is the possibility that the Ducks let Henrique go. Similarly, Getzlaf is getting on in years and Bob Murray has indicated that he would prefer Getzlaf to retire rather than continue when his contract is up. However, Stutzle shouldn’t necessarily be pushed aside even should Henrique remain and Getzlaf continue.
Stutzle’s versatility to play any forward position may, in fact, be of even greater benefit to the Ducks than some other teams, given last season’s selection of Trevor Zegras. Zegras is listed as a center, however, some draft pundits have suggested he may be a better fit in the NHL as a wing.
The potential to be able to line him up with Stutzle may allow for the coach at the time to interchangeably utilize either player at either position depending on the nature of the draw or in-game situation. The New York Islanders a few years back, for example, would alternate John Tavares and Kyle Okposo between center and wing (and use a different playbook) if consecutive draws were within a certain period of time.
This made their power play a little more difficult to contain. It’s a Voltron type scenario that the Ducks could easily foresee in 3-4 years time when both Zegras and Stutzle would come into their full powers.
The 3-4 year time frame surely sees an end to the Getzlaf at #1 era, no matter what occurs with his next contract. It would not be unusual for the Ducks to envisage a lineup of the following current prospects and players:
Max Comtois – Trevor Zegras/Tim Stutzle – Tim Stutzle/Trevor Zegras
Brayden Tracey – Sam Steel – Sonny Milano
XXX – XXX – XXX
That isn’t including the Boston selection this season at the tail end of the first round, which is also likely to be a forward given the projected shape of the draft and the forward depth on offer. It wouldn’t surprise to see any number of the above players be shifted out for future picks, or to solidify what will be an aging and still fairly weak defensive unit. Nonetheless, Stutzle provides enough versatility that should Zegras stumble, they have a potential #1 center ready to switch places with him in a heartbeat.
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Perhaps more pertinent is that Stutzle’s hockey IQ is perceived as extremely high. He thinks the game rapidly and appears to be constantly reading the play. This combined with his positioning and situational awareness, makes him a threat in the offensive end, and a capable player defensively. When he sees a player step out of position to move to the puck, he has the presence of mind to step back and fill-in for them.
Perhaps in part due to his low-key temperament as a person, combined with his superior vision, Stutzle seems content to make simple plays and let the play develop rather than force situations that may contribute to turnovers and counter-attacks from the opposition. His patience in this manner makes me a threat at even strength, but perhaps more so on the power play, where he can out-wait the defense before threading the needle to a teammate in an advantageous scoring position.
With Getzlaf getting long in the tooth, the Anaheim Ducks could sorely use a lethal playmaker on the power play. With Zegras already in the fold, the Ducks would have the option of playing them apart on separate units or bringing them together to facilitate a power-play scheme that is heavily reliant on cross-ice passing through the royal road and forcing the lateral movement of the opposition netminder.
For a power play that has wallowed in the bottom half of the league for seemingly a decade, the abundance of riches should have fans salivating. Only the acquisition of a big-time goal scorer would be required to turn that ship around in no time flat.
At the end of the day, the Anaheim Ducks can’t go wrong with any selection they make with their first overall pick. Depending on where they land, they could have the choice of near anyone they want. Tim Stutzle has certainly done enough this season to warrant his name being in the discussion of being the equal highest draft pick in Anaheim Ducks draft history (Bobby Ryan, 2nd overall in 2005), and I’m certain that Bob Murray and his scouting department will be looking at him heavily.
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