When talking about the Ducks, we find ourselves referencing the top two lines and our number one defensive paring A LOT. While we would love for them to be able to play the entire game - they can't. For the Ducks to be successful now (and in future seasons), there needs to be at least one young forward and one young defenseman that has to show he can keep up with the superstars. Instead of tackling this issue myself, I decided to let SK and Robby duke it out. SK is first and Robby will follow later today.
The kid wonder, Cam Fowler. It's so easy to forget that he's only 19 going on 20 when he plays like he's got the skills and poise of someone who's 29 going on 35. Whatever it is that keeps his head so grounded and wherever it is that he got his mad hockey skills is beyond me, but I approve. Highly. Randy Carlyle has expressed numerous times that he's not concerned with seeing neither he nor Luca Sbisa make a giant leap this season. The expectations placed on both of them are to simply perform as well as they did last season.
Come on, you gotta know that won't be good enough for me. I, of course, have expectations that make me believe Fowler can and will be better this season than his rookie year. Experience alone will take this youngster far, and we have all witnessed how well he can adapt to the game.
His willingness to jump into the play is fantastic and a talented offensive defenseman has been dearly missed since the loss of Scott Niedermayer. Fowler is smart and responsible all the while each mistake is a lesson and that he learns from quickly. The worst thing that has happened to his career thus far is being such a good player that he's got to learn the growing pains on a national stage. His faults are only that he's still young and he's still developing.
Not growing this season would be a set back for such an advanced athlete.
The Ducks should expect big things from him. While he is still developing into a man's physique, he should continue to take advantage of his speed and spry nature on the ice. A little more offense and a lot more defense and I don't see how Fowler can't improve upon his game from last season. In fact, it would be a shame if he doesn't.
Defensively he's still not strong enough to box out the beasts of the NHL, and that is going to continue to take time. In fact, his +/- numbers will likely continue to show that. However, smart maneuvers in and around the neutral zone will continue to be a major aspect to his success. The power play should rely on his skill set more and find a way to incorporate his shooting ability as well. The way I see it, the more "work experience" this kid gets, the better the Ducks get.
As for my pick at forward...I'm not entirely certain Andrew Cogliano, the Ducks organization or the fans are aware of just how important Andrew Cogliano is going to be to this team. It has been a loooooOOOOng time since the Ducks have had anything resembling a decent third line and, if they're looking to have one, now might be their chance.
So much hope was placed on the shoulders of Joffrey Lupul's arrival to bring scoring depth to the team. However, thanks to the numerous, frequent and reoccurring back issues, (and Jen's pressure for him to score 35 goals) the team was not so lucky.
That being said, Cogliano has a real opportunity to get both his career in the NHL and his future in sunny southern California a very lucrative boost. He's young and posses enough talent and skill to be of overwhelming use to Anaheim. More importantly, the 2011-12 season can be an excellent audition for him to prove his worth as a potential 2nd line center moving forward. With Saku Koivu's contract up at the end of this season, someone will need to fill that role, and there's no reason it can't be Cogliano. [Ed. Note: DON'T LEAVE ME SAKU!]
Sure his face off numbers are shameful (41.6%) and it's surprising that he'll actually make Ryan Getzlaf look good (I know), I didn't think that would be possible either), but a fresh start will be a chance for him to turn things around in that category. He'll be just as important on the second unit power play (possibly) as well as playing some key penalty killing minutes. While Cogliano might not be the face off master the Ducks needed to replace a Todd Marchant, his offensive upside can potentially be huge on the 3rd line. Last season, with an ugly Edmonton Oilers team, he managed 11-24=35 points which would be a nice chunk of offense from a 3rd line center.
The Ducks are going to need to find some scoring depth no matter what. Again, if not for this season, in preparation for next. There are HUGE question marks hanging over the heads of several players on their roster, more specifically the entire second line, and with that will come huge moves in the future. Quite frankly, now is the time for Anaheim to really start grooming the younger generation to take over and Cogliano will be a great building block for them. Throw in a few hungry young wingers such as Andrew Gordon and Devante Smith-Pelly, and we could be talking about a breakthrough in depth scoring the Ducks have desperately missed in recent seasons.
Quite literally, Cogliano has a chance to make a career out of his time in Anaheim. I'm going to remain highly hopefully and positive on Cogliano and say the Ducks made a killing on this acquisition. Let's just hope he proves me right.