[Editor’s Note: This article was written and published before the news of Corey Perry having knee surgery and missing 5 months-CJ]
Historically, the right wing position has been a top-heavy area for the Anaheim Ducks. Corey Perry has been one of the most productive players at his position over the last decade, but the Ducks have been hit-or-miss with players behind him.
That trend has shifted, however, as the Ducks now have a bevy of veteran or youthful options on the right side of their forward group.
THE HOUSEHOLD NAME
The aforementioned Perry has been a source of consternation in recent years for many Ducks fans, and he’s also drawn the ire of general manager Bob Murray from time to time. Perry, in his prime, was the epitome of Ducks hockey. From 2007 to 2016, no right winger scored more goals than Perry, who recorded 300 tallies in 666 games during that span.
But Perry is no longer the dynamic scorer he once was, having failed to eclipse the 20-goal mark in each of the last two seasons. He’s still been an effective enough point producer — 49 points in 71 games in 2017-18 — but it’s hard to imagine the 33-year old regaining his elite scoring touch.
As long as he’s willing to do the dirty work in front of the net, Perry will chip in offensively and provide opportunities for others to score, but his days of being a feared player are likely over. How he adjusts to the Ducks’ promised plan of playing with more tempo will be a story to watch this season.
THE FEEL GOOD STORY
Patrick Eaves captivated the Ducks fan base the moment he was traded to Anaheim from the Dallas Stars on Feb. 24, 2017. In the midst of a career season, Eaves scored 11 goals and 14 points in 20 games down the stretch of 2016-17, then scored twice more in seven playoff games before injury knocked him out of the postseason.
Expected to contribute alongside Ryan Getzlaf again in 2017-18, Eaves was sidelined after two games because of a post-viral infection and then required season-ending shoulder surgery. As of Monday, Eaves has not been medically cleared for contact, but Bob Murray indicated he could be ready around the 5-10 game mark of the season.
The Ducks are going to be smart with Eaves, who still has two years and $6.3 million left on a three-year deal he signed prior to last season. Keep in mind that Eaves has played 70+ games only three times in 13 seasons.
There was sentiment that Eaves’ career might be over after what he battled through last season, which was expertly documented by The Athletic. Any production he provides should be viewed as a bonus.
Troy Terry burst onto the hockey scene with his shootout excellence for the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championships. Now, coming on two years later, Terry might be a crucial piece of the Ducks’ present and future plans.
Terry was not a highly-touted prospect when taken by Anaheim in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, but his development since now has him as one of the more intriguing young players in a Ducks system void of difference-makers at forward.
Terry had a cup of coffee with the Ducks last season, appearing in two games. He did not record a point and averaged barely over 10 minutes of ice time in those contests.
Considering the potential unavailability of Eaves, Perry’s decline and the Ducks’ own acknowledgement that the team needs more skill in the lineup, Terry should get his chance this year.
THE GUY TO WATCH
If nothing else, Jakob Silfverberg is an enigma. Possessing one of the most dangerous shots in the NHL, Silfverberg has only posted a shooting percentage above 10 once in his six-year career (and it was 10.1 percent). He recorded the best offensive season of his career in 2016-17 with 23 goals and 49 points during the regular season, following by nine goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games.
His 2017-18 performance was a tad uneven. Silfverberg regressed in goals, assists, Corsi (only season of his career where he finished less than 50 percent), time on ice, shots on goal and shooting percentage. He scored only six goals in 32 games following the All-Star break, though he had 11 scores in 45 games prior.
For the first time in his six years in Anaheim, Silfverberg might not have a defined role. So often paired with Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano as the “Shutdown Line,” there’s a good chance Silfverberg could see plenty of time without his typical center this season as Kesler continues to work his way back from hip issues.
That might not be a bad thing for Silfverberg offensively — the winger was on pace to match his career-high in goals before Kesler re-entered the lineup in late December.
Silfverberg is in the last season of a four-year, $15 million contract, so this is an important year for the Swede. The Ducks only have roughly $10 million in cap space looking ahead to 2019-20, so there’s a possibility that Silfverberg could be a casualty, especially if the Ducks struggle out of the gate this season. Don’t be surprised if he’s moved at the trade deadline (though the bet here is he re-signs for a touch over $4 million).
Nobody could’ve projected that former seventh-round pick Ondrej Kase would burst onto the scene in the fashion that he did in 2017-18. Kase, who missed almost all of November and played in 66 total games, was tied for second on the Ducks with 20 goals at season’s end, while also providing a spark for Anaheim’s typically doormat third line. He found instant chemistry with Adam Henrique, who was acquired from the New Jersey Devils in November.
This season will reveal if Kase is another reliable young scorer or if 2017-18 was a flash in the pan. Judging by his new contract — three years, $7.8 million — the Ducks need to see more, too. Even if Kase doesn’t match his scoring totals from last year, he’s one of the lone forwards on the team that can consistently enter the opponent’s zone with the puck instead of relying on dump-and-chase. His icetime, which averaged only 13:55 last season, should see a well-deserved bump this year.
While the Ducks’ defense and goaltending will be seen as the strength of the club, and deservedly so, don’t sleep on the right wing position. If everything breaks the right way — Eaves returns, Kase continues to ascend, Terry blossoms — there’s no reason right wing can’t be the deepest position group on the team. If everything breaks wrong, however — Perry continues his decline, Eaves remains shelved, Kase was a fluke, Silfverberg is traded — it could get ugly.