[Note: The poll for Team MVP has been rescheduled for tomorrow, 4/11.]
Today we focus in on a rather unique segment in this week of awards. For this poll, each of the nominees shares a common trait in that they were not part of the Anaheim Ducks organization last year. Whether they were a rookie, a free agent signing, or a big trade acquisition, each of these guys has made a significant impact in their first year with the Anaheim Ducks.
Best Newcomer 2015:
The young Czech native entered the NHL as an undrafted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens, from whom he was acquired on February 24th, 2015 in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly.
Since his arrival, Sekac has frequently been amongst the top-three Anaheim forwards in terms of puck possession game after game. Almost immediately, his line alongside Rickard Rakell and Emerson Etem became a fan and statistics-nut favorite thanks to an incredible ability to rack up shot attempts and turn even the lowest-percentage of offensive zone-starts into favorable possession. In fact, multiple games of excellent performances saw him promoted to top-line duty with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. He's yet to lose that job.
Likewise, with his nickname "Cakes" and charming demeanor that was evidenced immediately upon his first fan event appearance (a Die-Hards party at Dave and Buster's), it's no wonder he's immediately endeared himself to the fans.
Arriving on the day of the trade deadline in exchange for Ben Lovejoy, Simon Despres has proven himself to be the perfect foil to Cam Fowler. Not only is he an extremely smooth skater, he's got a big 6-foot-4 frame with a nose for landing the big hit. Several times this season we've seen Despres light up an opponent who leaves his head down for a few seconds too long.
On top of that, his arrival has spurned a massive upswing in Anaheim's possession game. Since the trade deadline and his arrival, his partner Cam Fowler has jumped to 50.3% at 5 on 5--he was 49.9% before that. Despres is over 53% since joining up with the team.
He's almost immediately won his place with the Ducks roster, making a strong statement for being a regular member of the top-four for years to come.
Ryan Kesler was far and away the biggest acquisition of the offseason for Ducks GM Bob Murray. Coming over as the key piece in a deal that sent away Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and a first-round pick, Kesler immediately made his impact felt, scoring his first goal (and first three points) in an Anaheim uniform in his first game.
His strong season continued, and Kesler quickly built himself a reputation as a hard-nosed center who could be relied upon to shut down the opposition's best forward lines, often drawing the big matchups from opponents (Anze Kopitar, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, etc.). To this point, Kesler has thrived in this role.
And he's also built a reputation as "Mr. Rivalry" as well, scoring nearly 20% of his points on the season against both the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks. And he's done so while staying a positive possession player the entire season, going over 51% SATF at 5-on-5.
The Alaskan Assassin came over from the Tampa Bay Lightning for the small fee of only a fourth and a seventh round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. His reception has been mixed, due largely to his deployment by coach Boudreau throughout the season.
However, when he's not being relied upon as a shutdown center (which he's proven he's not particularly adept at), Nate Thompson has been a solid fourth-line center for the Ducks. His big upside: his faceoff prowess. To this point in the season, Thompson stands at 52.8% on faceoffs, second on the team behind only Ryan Kesler.
Lately, his line with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg has proven to be an excellent depth line, providing some excellent pressure on opponents with a blinding edge in speed.
Tomas Fleishmann was intended to be a depth acquisition by Bob Murray, who acquired him from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a package that included free-agent dud Dany Heatley. The pending UFA has come into Anaheim and in only 13 games become the second-best possession player in the squad, behind only Jiri Sekac.
Through those 13 games, Fleischmann has a goal and four assists while Boudreau continues to tinker with him throughout the lineup, but he has shown flashes of brilliance on multiple occasions, meaning we can expect him to play a role for the Ducks down the stretch and into the playoffs.