The Anaheim Ducks drafted Rickard Rakell with the 30th overall pick in 2011, a pick acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had originally also acquired it from the Boston Bruins in the infamous Phil Kessel trade. While Rakell didn't immediately make the roster in Anaheim, his steady progression into a solid young player with an adept scoring touch has been a major boost to the Ducks depth down the middle, giving them three bona-fide threats at the center position.
Season In Review
For the first time in his career Rakell made the opening night roster and was in uniform as the Ducks got blasted by the Pittsburgh Penguins. His inauspicious start (which included a sub-40% night in the faceoff circle) combined with an electrifying first couple of appearances from fellow countryman William Karlsson saw Rakell fall down the preference chart a bit early on. In fact, Rakell only managed to register one point in the entire month of October, and only three up through the start of December.
On December 4th, the Ducks sent Rakell down to Norfolk where he would play two games and register four points. That slap in the face woke the one known as Ricky up in a big way, and he came back to Anaheim just four days later. He would register an assist in each of his first two games back in California, and would finally notch his first goal on December 22nd in Anaheim's lone win on the season against the rival San Jose Sharks.
Arguably his season highlight came on Anaheim's historic "Teemu Forever" night. The evening that was supposed to be all in honor of the franchise's most important figure in its history quickly turned into the Ricky Rak show as Rakell buried two goals and assisted on each of the other two in regulation for the Ducks, and then scored an absolutely filthy tally in the shootout en route to a miraculous 5-4 win.
Rakell then became a regular in the Anaheim lineup, and with newfound confidence he began to really let his skills do the talking. The biggest boost came with the acquisition of linemate Jiri Sekac, whose high-speed style complimented Rakell perfectly, and the duo became a puck-possession monster of a depth line. In fact, the two of them put up the second and third-highest shot-attempt-for numbers on the team for the remainder of the season while lined up with either Tomas Fleischmann or Emerson Etem.
Rakell also became pivotal in the team's playoff run, scoring a huge goal in game three of the Winnipeg series. However despite continuing to put up strong possession numbers, Rakell was held scoreless through the remaining two series of the playoffs, and was frequently victimized by the experienced centers in Chicago. He finished over 50% in the faceoff circle in only one of the seven games of that series.
For whatever reason, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau just doesn't seem to fully trust Rakell as a full-time roster player just yet. Despite flashes of brilliance, highlight-reel moves, and possession numbers that make stats nerds drool relentlessly, Rakell often saw his ice time diminished to barely around 12 minutes per-game. You'd have to think this remarkable improvement and immediate chemistry with Sekac combined with the shuffling of the Anaheim roster this offseason opens up a ton of opportunity for the one known as "Ricky Rak" or "Ricky Racoon" to see a jump in his playing opportunity. While his actual goal-scoring per-60 minutes isn't spectacular (i.e. what probably stands out most to the eye test and makes people believe he just doesn't score all that much), his playmaking ability is up there with some of the league's elite players.
I mean, come on. Look at this chart.
This is a level known as "stupid talented."
If he is more consistently utilized with linemates that benefit his style of play, he will in turn benefit them and Anaheim should see not only his goal scoring production rise, but their depth scoring also rise in turn. I expect to see some new confidence from Boudreau in his young Swedish center. With the team in a state of flux, if Rakell can have a strong training camp, I see no reason why he can't get a consistent number of minutes per-night to help take some of the stress off the top two lines.
Here are Rakell's stats for the season: