It's always fun to see a second generation hockey player make their way to the NHL. Comparisons are made and stories are told of the father's time and impact in the league, setting the table for the career of the son. For Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, it means following in the skates of a 1100+ game, 2700+ penalty minute rugged defenseman with a trademark raspy voice thanks to a punch to the throat from Sergio Momesso. Father Dave Manson carved out quite a 17 year NHL career, and with the two-year extension signed in the offseason it's safe to say Josh is on his way as well.
After three seasons patrolling the blue line for Northeastern University, including earning awards as Hockey East's best defensive defenseman in addition to second team All-Star and All Academic distinctions, this past year was Manson's first full one as a professional hockey player. Injuries and illness made room for him to get a few extended looks at the NHL level last season, and with this coming season being his last on a two-way contract, this will likely be the only year San Diego hockey fans get to see him in Gulls colors.
Manson began the year with the Norfolk Admirals, playing his first seven games in the AHL before being called up to the big club. Upon his return in December he settled in, and would score all three of his goals for the season during a nine game stretch from January 21 against the Charlotte Checkers to February 13 against the Syracuse Crunch. The January 21 game against Charlotte saw him put up his season-high three points, as he also dealt a pair of assists. It was one of two multi-point games he recorded with the Ads, passing for a pair of assists against the Hershey Bears on April 3.
Manson's NHL debut came Halloween night at Dallas, as he skated for 12:30 against the Stars and took a delay of game minor. November 16 against the Florida Panthers he recorded his first NHL point, picking up the primary assist on Andrew Cogliano's final tally of the game. Manson's best shot attempt percentage performance came against the Calgary Flames on November 18, when Anaheim took 82.8% of the shot attempts during the 23:48 he was on ice. He saw his second heaviest workload against the Chicago Blackhawks on the Thanksgiving weekend matinee, playing 23:15 and helping the Ducks to 62.5% of the shot attempts taken while he was on ice. Manson appeared in three games against the Kings, drawing the secondary assist on Corey Perry's game-winning goal and taking the Ducks lone minor for cross checking Justin Williams on February 27.
Though noticeably wearing down in December near the end of his initial 18 game run with the club, Manson proved a valuable stop-gap for a backend besieged by injuries and beset with sickness. As one would expect his minutes were sheltered, mainly skating against opposing third pairs and starting more often in the offensive zone. Manson's 8.6 relative offensive zone start percentage was second highest on the team amongst players who appeared in more than 15 games (William Karlsson was most protected at 12.26 ZSO%), and to his credit the Ducks had 54.4% of the shot attempts and scored 53.6% of the goals when he was on ice.
Ideally Manson would probably have spent even more of the season in Norfolk as one of the Admirals top defenders, but he showed well in the big league and made it clear that his time as an every day NHL defender is close. He'll turn 24 in October, and with an extremely valuable $0.825 mil. cap hit that lasts through the 17-18 season and will retain restricted free agent status when it expires, expect him to become an important part of the Ducks defense sooner rather than later.