Generating Scoring From The Wings
Given that the line above would be a pseudo-defensive line, Isac Lundestrom could be considered surplus to needs and thus Sam Steel is the other pivot the Ducks have to build around. Given Steel is the guy, it could then be suggested that the Anaheim Ducks build a third scoring line (by nature and by depth chart) around him.
Building Around Sam Steel
Steel’s ceiling is relatively uncertain at this stage, though it appears he’s not cut out to be a top-6 scorer at this stage of his career. It’s a relatively steep drop from 2016-17 when he put up points in buckets and his PNHLe had him pegged as a superstar in the making. Steel himself doesn’t appear to weight his game towards making plays or shooting the puck, rather doing both with similar frequency and ability.
The relatively even approach would perhaps work best with a genuine shooter and a pass-first playmaker, though the Ducks don’t necessarily have that in the wings. What they do have is a couple of middle-6 offensive all-rounders in Maxime Comtois and Brayden Tracey.
It should be noted that the offensive upside of both of these players in still uncertain and that they could easily still be fixtures on a 2nd line in the NHL. However, with the Ducks’ current line up, finding them positions in that setting will be somewhat difficult, and as the Anaheim Ducks continue to draft in relatively high draft slots, the likelihood of them finding players with high scoring upside is also a strong possibility.
Thus, the idea should be to play these players with the still young Steel and hope to generate a dangerous 3rd line. One question is that both players play the left-wing slot, so at this stage, it would be prudent for one of them to start lining up on the right side. As both are left-hand shooters, this would place one of them on their off-wing, though this has been shown on numerous occasions not to necessarily be a negative for scoring wings.
Comtois is the older one of the two and projects more as a power forward than a player who will beat his opponent with skill. During his short NHL stint this past season we saw him laying big hits to create space for his linemates (Ryan Getzlaf and Devin Shore), as well as grinding hard in the corners.
This could provide the skillful Steel and Tracey room to operate, and provides a clear point of difference to their play styles. Even should Comtois offense not materialize in its own right, his puck support and ability to regain possession will likely open up some avenues for his linemates to score.
He may not entirely be suited to playing with players like Steel and Tracey, however, physical heavy players are often useful pieces in tight close games. He could easily move about the line up to help create space for offensive players struggling to find time and space on a given night.
Tracey is the other wing who the Anaheim Ducks have in hand, who could be part of a scoring line, feasting on lower levels of competition. Drafted as an analytics darling who put up big numbers as a rookie, Tracey fell away this past season. Injuries certainly played a part in that decline, however, Tracey also did not seem to gel with his linemates after being traded from Moose Jaw to Victoria.
The hope would be that he will regain his mojo in the offseason and come on strong when next season starts. However, even as is, Tracey projects as a 2nd line player according to PNHLe. He does need to add some muscle and size to his frame to reach that lofty potential, however, should he not, playing alongside a bigger body in Comtois should do wonders for him.
Where Tracey is interesting is that his goals came from all different plays, including off the rush and off the cycle. His playmaking too, allowed him to beat defenders in multiple ways. It would seem that this versatility would allow him to play in tight off of an established cycle, should Comtois be banging bodies and regain the puck in the offensive zone, as well as moving in off rush attempts created by Steel during a quick transition play.
Thus, a versatile scoring line is created as a “third” line. In many ways, this could project as another team’s second line. However, here we’re reaching for the stars. Like the Groulx led line above, it wouldn’t take much to bump this line up on the depth chart if the stars all align.