When Jen sent me the list of preview posts we had to plan for, she listed out all of the positions ... except center. She claims it was a mistake but, it's hardly a mistake anyone could blame her for. It's not the Ducks deepest position to say the least.
It seems every site has different names listed down the middle of the Ducks' depth chart. Two of the players I'm going to cover have already been previewed on the left wing and while I consider them both centers, they are probably more suited to the wing. The only two we can really be sure of are Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu. Hell, Norfolk only lists three centers on their official roster, and Rod Pelley is on a one-way AHL deal after the Ducks refused to re-up his contract over the summer.
Ryan Getzlaf - We all have our own opinions on the much maligned captain and only proven NHLer who could conceivably fill the top line center slot. 2011-2012 was an abysmal year for Getzlaf, he recorded a career low 11 goals and his 57 points only bettered his rookie year, in which he played 25 fewer games. Regardless of how far his stock has dropped among Ducks fans though, he is slated to be one of the hottest commodities on the unrestricted free agent market come July. Let's hope baby Getzlaf number two is kinder to his parents than his older brother was, for everyone's sake.
Saku Koivu - Although he's in the twilight of his career, Koivu is the only center on the Ducks roster to finish with an NHL face off percentage above 50 last year (Dan Winnik landed 50% on the money). The condensed schedule could create an injury concern for Koivu, who hasn't played a full season since 2002-2003 - the year after he returned from cancer treatments. I think all hockey fans have a soft spot in their hearts for Koivu and we know he'll bring a solid two way game, but the time has come to ask whether he still has the legs to keep up with the ageless wonder of Teemu Selanne and whoever Bruce Boudreau decides to put on his left.
Andrew Cogliano - Cogliano's first goal as a Duck, against the Rangers in Sweden, gave me so much hope for the Ducks last season. Oh, how wrong I was. Re-watching that clip is funny because Pierre McGuire says he needs to get back to a 20 goal season, even though his career high is 18 (twice). I think that's pretty indicative of what you get from Cogliano. He's a speedster with potential to be a regular contributor, but has never lived up to it. Instead the best thing you can really say about him is that he chips in on the kill, and even there his gifts seem wasted. Unless he shows something much more than he did last season, I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see the Ducks use one of their compliance buyouts to cancel the final year of his contract.
Daniel Winnik - For some reason, I equate Winnik - who the Ducks signed as a free agent on July 1 - with Cogliano. Perhaps it's because he could play left wing or center and does some of his best work on the penalty kill, but he lacks the scoring punch of Cogliano, consistently putting up offensive numbers roughly half as high as Cogs'. I really like Winnik as a fourth liner, who'll give you solid defensive minutes and chip in on the PK.
In a shortened season with a coach who is more inclined to roll four lines, I'd like to see what happens with Cogliano and Winnik on a line together to make room for Holland to center a kid line, or one anchored by Bobby Ryan. I don't really care which one of them is center and which one lines up on the left, but based on last year's stats, hopefully Winnik takes the face offs.
Fun fact: Winnik played 84 regular season games last year due to being traded from Colorado to San Jose in mid season.
Nick Bonino - I feel like I've been waiting for Bonino to arrive ever since he was acquired at the 2009 trade deadline with Timo Pielmeier for Travis Moen and Kent Huskins and the weight of those expectations has not been kind to him. In his three pro years he's hovered around the point per game mark in the AHL but it hasn't translated to NHL success as of yet. After 26 pointless games (literally) in 2010-2011 he only played one game for Randy Carlyle and put up 5-13-18 in 49 games under Boudreau last year.
During the lockout he decided to take a vacation in Italy and tear up the Italian second division in his spare time. In Italy he scored 26 goals and 52 points in only 19 games for club Neumarkt/Egna. I want to like the kid, but the choice not to take on any kind of a challenge speaks volumes to me. Still, "Bones" is the coolest nickname on the team outside of "The Finnish Flash." So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
(No fancy picture)
Peter Holland - Holland has earned his shot at the big club, leading Norfolk in goals (12) and points (30) this season, especially if Cogliano and/or Winnik are moved to the wing. As I mentioned before, I'd like to see Holland get a shot at centering a third (?) scoring line, most likely with Ryan and Palmieri on the wings and Devante Smith-Pelly playing the Dustin Penner role on the top line.
It would certainly be a gamble. I'm not a huge Palmieri fan, I have questions about whether Bobby can be "The Guy" on his own line and Holland has yet to prove anything in the NHL yet. However it could easily be the future of the franchise, pending what happens with Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne and Koivu in the summer of 2013.
Chris Wagner - I have to defer to Kristen's lockout prospect report on this one. She seems to be quite fond of him as a defensive center, winning face offs, blocking shots and being an all around great guy, but her ECAC connections may be clouding her judgment a tiny bit (says the guy who's never seen him play).