Who are the 2017-18 Anaheim Ducks? That’s a tough question to answer for any team, especially one that’s experienced significant injuries. Anaheim, however, is in a special class of its own in that regard. As of the last Man-Games Lost update, the Ducks not only have the highest number of man-games lost by a 47-game margin, but it’s also cost them an estimated 17.2 points in the standings due to the caliber of players who have missed time.
The difficulty in grading this team on anything but a severe curve thus becomes fairly obvious. Even so, it’d be intellectually lazy to settle there. 45 games is enough to tell us something – as marginal as that “something” may be. With that in mind, here are some letter grades for Anaheim’s forwards, balancing individual expectations and results with the unusual nature of this Ducks’ season.
Andrew Cogliano: B
Cogliano illustrates the difficulties in evaluating Anaheim’s overall performance quite nicely. On one hand, he’s not been anywhere near his lofty standards at five-on-five. On the other, he’s played a considerable chunk of his minutes with Chris Wagner as his center – a career fourth-liner.
He’s had his trusty running mate Jakob Silfverberg by his side for the majority of the season, and they’ve still managed to have a positive – albeit reduced – impact on the game. That deserves some praise, although maybe it’s time people give Ryan Kesler just a bit more credit for that line’s success.
Derek Grant: B+
Fun fact: Grant has played all but two games for Anaheim this season. Now raise your hand if you saw that one coming. Okay, to break the deafening silence that surely followed after that statement, some numbers on Grant’s season: eight goals and eight assists in 42 games.
In 86 games prior to this season, the journeyman had never scored a single NHL goal, so it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty good year for him. He’s been rather porous defensively like much of the roster, but it’s hard to view this season as anything but a success for him. Where Cogliano may have suffered from higher expectations in his letter grade, Grant benefits from lowered ones in his.
Adam Henrique: B+
Nine points in 20 games may not sound like much, but Henrique’s arrival to Anaheim injected one big breath of fresh air into the lineup at a time where it was on life support. Derek Grant and Chris Wagner were the top two centers, and the playoffs were becoming an increasingly distant possibility. Henrique’s presence alone moved down lesser talents, and allowed the Ducks to hold on just a little longer until Ryan Getzlaf returned. With Anaheim now fully healthy – assuming Kesler’s injury isn’t worse than it appeared – Henrique should prove to be a very capable third line center.
Ondrej Kase: A-
Kase’s statistical resume pops off the page. He’s been one of three skaters on Anaheim to stay in the positive end of the shot attempt battle – the only other two being Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm. His box score numbers have been just as glistening by his standards, already tying last year’s output in 24 less games played. His numbers have been so good, in fact, that they almost seem too good to be true. Further examination reveals a couple of things.
Firstly, he gets some of the softest minutes and deployment of any Anaheim forward, which may explain his gaudy possession numbers. Secondly, his shooting percentage has spiked, which could lead to some skepticism regarding his production. However, there’s also reason to believe that Kase has indeed taken a major step forward. All of his individual shot rates – whether they be shots on goal, shot attempts, or scoring chances -- have all increased from last year. Whether you’re a skeptic or not, it’s impossible to argue that Kase hasn’t excelled in his role this season, and that deserves a high mark.
Ryan Getzlaf: A+
Getzlaf has unquestionably been Anaheim’s best forward. His 25 points in just 21 games only begin to describe how good he’s been. With Getzlaf in the lineup, the Ducks have a solid 12-7-2 win-loss record. Without him: an ugly 8-9-7.
Rickard Rakell can certainly attest to the captain’s impact. Without him, he’s been so-so at even strength, controlling only roughly 47 percent of the shot attempts and 48 percent of the scoring chances. Together, Rakell and Getzlaf control 52 percent of the attempts and 53 percent of the chances, which is a considerable leap. It’s not that Rakell gets carried by Getzlaf, but he simply isn’t as dangerous without him. The same could be said in regards to the rest of the team, earning Getzlaf the top grade.
Corey Perry: B-
Perry’s been reasonably productive this season, amassing 23 points in 34 games. He’s been bothered by various injuries, presumably slowing down his individual performance. Even so, it’s now the fourth year in a row where his individual shot rates have dipped. At some point, that has to become a concern.
The knee troubles he’s faced don’t leave much room for optimism that he’ll magically bounce back, either. Perry can still be a difference maker for this team on most nights, but the nights where he looks a step or two slower are becoming more and more frequent. Perhaps being re-united with Getzlaf and Rakell spurs him along in the second half.
Rickard Rakell: A
The 24-year old set a career high with 33 goals in 2016-17. He did that while shooting a wild 18.6 percent in only 71 games, taking only eight more shots than he did the year before. Despite his immense talent, last year had the slight feel of an aberration for Rakell.
If the 2017-18 Ducks’ season has shown anything, it’s probably that Rakell’s previous season was no fluke. He’s on a tidy 30-goal pace with 15 goals in 40 games, while shooting a comparatively modest 13.3 percent. Getzlaf’s fingerprints are all over these numbers, but both players have benefitted from the other’s presence on the ice. Even if Anaheim never finds that elusive third banana for their first line, they’ve struck gold with that duo.
Nick Ritchie: C-
Ritchie has had a difficult season. His production has dipped, while his on-ice impact has been dramatically reduced after a breakout-ish season last year. What’s more concerning, however, is that all of his individual shot rates have taken a dip.
Team effects are one thing – his minutes have been largely with the likes of Antoine Vermette and the Francois Beauchemin-Brandon Montour pairing – but his individual contributations have clearly faltered. Ritchie remains quite green at only 22 years of age, but time isn’t on his side anymore in proving that he was worthy of being a lottery selection. For better or worse, his place in the draft will largely shape the way in which he’s perceived and evaluated.
Kevin Roy: B+
It was tempting to give Roy an A+. He was a complete unknown going into the season without a single game of NHL experience. All he’s done since is become one of the feel good stories of the season, going from a career minor-leaguer to one of the more exciting young, skilled players on the roster.
Of course, things aren’t all rosy. Anaheim gets brutally out-shot and out-chanced while he’s son the ice, even when he’s with Ryan Getzlaf. Perhaps that’s to be expected from a guy with so little experience, and it shouldn’t overshadow just how far he’s come compared to just a few months ago.
Jakob Silfverberg: A
Silfverberg is as consistent as they come. Should he keep up his 20-goal pace (11 goals through 40 games), he’ll have notched 20 goals in each of his last three seasons. That would be a nice feather in his cap, as much as it may feel like he has more to offer offensively.
The 27-year old remains Anaheim’s premier two-way force. He has a positive impact on possession while facing the other team’s best on a nightly basis, which is pretty much any coach’s dream. With Kesler getting back to full health, his numbers should only improve. The real question: when will he get some Selke Trophy love?
Antoine Vermette: C
Vermette wins a lot of faceoffs. So much, in fact, that it could even be argued that some of the recent rule changes in the circle have come as a result of his tactics. The veteran made a habit of essentially diving head-first once the puck was dropped last season, presumably in order to gain an advantage. The league has mandated that players strictly use their sticks this season, perhaps explaining his dip to 59.8 percent from last year’s monstrous 62.3 figure.
The 35-year old’s value isn’t quite the same outside of the faceoff circle. He’s often had to be Anaheim’s third line center (and even second line center at times), where he’s struggled when neither Kase or Logan Shaw are on his wing. A lack of offensive production hasn’t exactly helped mitigate that. With a now healthy squad, he should be just O.K as a fourth line center.
Chris Wagner: B
Wagner plays a lovable game from a fan’s perspective. He finishes every check — sometimes at the expense of legality — and answers the bell physically at every turn. To boot, he chips in the odd goal every now and again. He’s the prototypical fourth liner — which is great outside of the fact that he had to play second-line center for most of the season.
Flanked by Cogliano and Silfverberg for large chunks of time, his underlying numbers enjoyed a boost, as did his level of defensive responsibility. That experience likely cemented a level of trust between him and the coaching staff. The level of physicality that he brings is exactly what Carlyle and his staff want to see on a nightly basis, and he should continue to deliver in a now reduced role.
Ryan Kesler: No Grade Received
The traditional second line of Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg has been out-shot and out-chanced at five-on-five, but the eight-game sample is also too small to draw any sweeping conclusions. Kesler’s already managed to find the back of the net a couple of times, and his overall numbers should improve as he gets his legs back under him.
Logan Shaw: C
Shaw was enjoying a (very) quietly solid season by his standards, but he’ll now have to ply his trade with the Montreal Canadiens, as he was waived on Sunday.
Dennis Rasmussen: D-
Rasmussen has somehow managed to disappoint, even with minuscule expectations. His signing over the summer remains a head-scratcher, and it’s hard to imagine we see him up again with the big club. Skating has been an obvious issue, and his vaunted defensive game in Chicago has gone totally missing.
Kalle Kossila: B
Kossila looked solid in the few games he did play with the big club, even centering the top line at one point. He showed NHL maturity in the neutral and defensive zones, but his offensive upside doesn’t feel as high as it once did.
Jared Boll: C-
Per Hockey Fights, Boll has lost both of his fights in the NHL this season. It’d be impossible to give him a good grade, given that is essentially all he is paid to do. He did hunt down Kurtis MacDermid right after he had badly concussed Ondrej Kase though, so his grade enjoys a slight bump. Oh, and he’s scored one goal. That has to count for something right?