Anaheim Ducks: Comparing Contributions of 2020 and 2021 Defensemen

Josh Manson #42 and Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
Josh Manson #42 and Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Hampus Lindholm #47 and Josh Manson #42 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) /

Wrapping It Up

What Bob Murray and his Ducks will do with this defensive group remains to be seen. Kevin Shattenkirk easily fits into the top 4 group and his price is well worth what his contribution is to the team. Jamie Drysdale is certainly a big part of the future, whether he remains with the Anaheim Ducks for the remaining games this season or not.

The question then should be asked what further contribution the Ducks require from their blueliners. Cam Fowler is unlikely to go anywhere and Hampus Lindholm is as close to a rock that they have.

Thus questions will be asked of Josh Mahura, Jacob Larsson, and Jani Halanpaa. At face value, Hakanpaa has to be the first player out of the team based on his relatively poor offensive contributions and that he’s one of the worst offenders for turning the puck over, on the Ducks blue line. Of the questionable players, only Mahura turns the puck over with greater regularity.

Mahura, however, appears to have a niche role in that he creates more rush attempts with his skating than any other blueliner the Ducks are currently icing. He also creates the 3rd most high-danger chances and 2nd most scoring chances amongst the defensive group.

Nonetheless, With Fowler, Shattenkirk, and Drysdale in the fold, an offensive defenceman with a lesser aura may be considered surplus to needs. Though for fans, it’s worth noting that Mahura’s scoring rate is higher than all but Drysdale whose numbers are quite slanted after picking up two points in his debut game.

In essence, Mahura sits nicely amongst the Anaheim Ducks defense and has comparable numbers to Fowler across many metrics. Given that he’s much younger, cheaper, and seemingly doesn’t have a place going forward, he could provide a key trade chip moving into this trade deadline.

The final player, Jacob Larsson, appears to be destined to become a 3rd pairing defenceman. For the most part, his results exceed Hakanpaa’s, with the only individual stat recorded he loses out in being hits. If the Ducks are looking for a relatively steady 3rd pairing guy, then Larsson is good enough for now.

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If Hakanpaa is merely in the team for his physical play, then it shouldn’t be a big stretch for Larsson to add that to his game. He’s already blocking more shots, why not add the hits. It seems like his game has evolved away from offensive contributions and perhaps that’s for the best.

Taken together, I think Hakanpaa should be dropped, Mahura traded for value, and Larsson continued to be developed as a 3rd pairing defensive defenceman. While many may suggest that Mahura would be better kept, I’m just not certain that he would continue fitting on the roster moving forward. Perhaps more to the point, it’s worth trading from a strength to fill a weakness. For a player who’s already been moved back to the AHL, that may be the Ducks’ best move this coming trade deadline.

What is extremely debatable, is whether the Ducks have developed these players in a meaningful way. Certainly, Mahura and Larsson have presented meaningful changes in their play, however, it’s questionable as to whether these changes are in the best interests of the player and team.

Mahura has certainly be developed enough to be considered a solid trade option, though I truly question whether Larsson’s play is what the Ducks desire from their former first-round pick. Bob Murray should have some questions to ask of his coach in this regard, and indeed of the Ducks’ overall strategy.

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Data was collected from and is true for even-strength minutes only unless otherwise stated. All percentages are based on per 60 minutes rate data and as such context needs to be taken into account when perusing the data. Data is correct prior to the Arizona Coyotes game played on 20th March 2021.