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2013 Ducks Report Cards: Sami Vatanen

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We wish we could have seen more of you last year. Next year, we should get the chance.

There will always be a Finn on this hockey team.
There will always be a Finn on this hockey team.
USA TODAY Sports

Player Name/position: Sami Vatanen, D

Overall Grade: B+

Did what he needed to do during his brief appearances with the Ducks. Apparently didn't do enough to earn postseason playing time.

Contract Status: Signed through 2013-2014 (will become RFA), $900,000 salary, $1,325,000 cap hit (per Capgeek)

2012-2013 Stats:

GP G A P +/- PIM
Anaheim (NHL) 8 2 0 2 3 0
Norfolk (AHL) 62 9 36 45 0

44

Playoff Stats: Did not appear.

Offense: The guy can shoot. He notched a modest two goals in eight games with the big club, but finished as the Admirals' second leading scorer after Patrick Maroon. At the very least, his output at the NHL level definitely met expectations, and the potential he showed for the future exceeded them.

Defense: He met defensive expectations by being neither tremendous nor terrible. While he was never a shut-down guy by any means, he was also never the guy that could be counted on to turn the puck over or miss an assignment every other shift (and the Ducks did have a couple of those).

Highlight of the Season: Snapping it past Vezina Trophy candidate (and likely winner) Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play for his first NHL goal, and doubling his career totals with a beauty of a slapshot in Edmonton. Oh, and that huge goal he would have scored against Detroit if Boudreau had played him. That one was awesome.

Expectations for Next Year: The big question for Vatanen is where he will play for most of the season. Two of the Ducks' regulars on the blue line — Toni Lydman and Ben Lovejoy — will become UFAs in July, and one or more of the others may be traded. Regardless of what Bob Murray does in the offseason, Vatanen will need a strong showing in training camp if he wants to make the opening night roster for the big club (and his right handedness won't hurt him). But even if he does not make the first cut, there is a very good chance that a spot will open up at some point during the regular season, either due to injury or very poor play on the part of one of the top six.

Given what we've seen in just eight games, it's not ridiculous to think Vatanen might be a full time NHL defenseman as early as next season. But in order for that to happen, the 5'10'' 180 lb. Finn will not only have to continue to produce on the offensive side, but also step up his game in his own zone against much larger NHL forwards. He could be a great asset on the Ducks' power play, but he won't stay in the lineup if the power play is all he's good for.