The left side of the Ducks will likely have the most questions surrounding it outside of the defensive corps this season. Staffed by three known quantities, two mysteries, and a guy who was traded for a 4th round pick, the left wingers that will see time in Anaheim this season mirror a Ducks team that will be trying to find its identity.
2018-2019 Stats: 69 GP, 18G, 25A, 48.11 CF%, 45.08 xGF%
Contract: Three years remaining at $3.79 million AAV.
After back-to-back 30 goal seasons, Rickard Rakell looked like he was poised to put up a third amidst a youth movement and supposed overhauled Carlyle system.
We all know how that worked out.
Turning in his worst season in four years combined with injuries that limited him to 69 games while sapping production for many of them, Rakell began to rebound once Bob Murray stepped in behind the bench for the end of last season. It’s clear that his 9.3 SH% is due for a rebound towards his career 12.7% mark. Indeed, he went on a scoring rampage in the month of March to the tune of nine goals in 15 games.
Rakell has worked well with Ryan Getzlaf in previous seasons, but his scoring outburst at the end of last year came with Sam Steel and Jakob Silfverberg. Based on preseason workouts and games, it appears that Rakell will get plenty of looks with Anaheim’s rookie center as he attempts to show the NHL that last year was just a fluky down year.
2018-2019 Stats: 60 GP, 9 G, 22 A, 49.20 CF%, 46.88 xGF%
Contract: Two years at $1.498 million AAV remaining; RFA with arbitration rights upon expiration.
Nick Ritchie has firmly established himself as one of the most controversial players on the Ducks. Drafted 10th overall in 2015, Ritchie’s 90 points in 246 career games to go along with 253 PIM have many fans throwing him in as the centerpiece of totally realistic trade scenarios for star RFAs.
It’s fair to say that the big 23-year-old winger hasn’t lived up to the expectations of his draft position and promising performance with the San Diego Gulls before being called up to Anaheim for good in 2016. However, Ritchie grades out as one of the better forwards on the team in terms of shot metrics and play driving. Reuniting with Dallas Eakins and with the right linemates could set him up for a career year and solidify him as a relatively productive NHL player, provided he can stay out of the box.
Ritchie has played mostly alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase during the preseason. If he stays there for the start of the season, he certainly won’t be lacking in scoring chances to continue his upward trend of point production.
2018-2019 Stats: 30 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 48.91 CF%, 49.29 xGF%
Contract: Two years on $863,333 AAV ELC remaining; RFA no arbitration rights upon expiration.
After dealing with a slew of injuries after being drafted by the Ducks in 2016, Max Jones turned a good first pro season in San Diego into a 30 game splash with Anaheim last year. He immediately endeared himself to fans with his sandpaper play, relentless energy, outstanding skating, and flashes of high-end skill.
It seemed like Jones couldn’t catch a break, however, as numerous close calls, weird bounces, and outstanding goaltending allowed him to tally only five points in what felt like hundreds of scoring chances. His 3.4 SH% undoubtedly made the 21-year-old as frustrated as his general manager.
Jones can certainly make things happen on the ice, but the finishing that should come with it is not a guarantee at the NHL level. Many might remember one Jiri Sekac, who could dazzle everyone in the arena with his skill but had the finishing ability of a pile of cinderblocks. Sekac and Jones, however, are very different players despite a few similarities in the hands. It’s up to Jones to prove that he can produce results, now.
2018-2019 Stats: 76 GP, 10 G, 19 A, 46.00 CF%, 46.41 xGF%
Contract: One year at $2.3 million AAV remaining; RFA with arbitration rights at expiration.
Shore came to Anaheim in January as part of a trade that shipped the beloved Andrew Cogliano out of Anaheim during the Ducks mid-season spiral into the abyss. While Murray trialed him at the center position for several games last season, most of Shore’s work with the Dallas Stars and Anaheim came on the left wing. With Carter Rowney getting plenty of looks at center in preseason, the 25-year-old looks poised to hang on to the left side of the Ducks bottom six.
He won’t light up the scoreboard or provide elite two-way play, but his hockey IQ and solid skating ability will be good for at least 30 points, which is a fine ask from a bottom-six player.
2018-2019 Stats: 10 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 33.33 CF%, 33.89 xGF%
Contract: Two years at $820,000 AAV remaining; RFA with no arbitration rights at expiration.
I want to be clear about something: I believe Max Comtois is going to start the season in San Diego. It’s the battle of the Max’s, as both he and Jones are waiver eligible, thus they are easy to stash down in San Diego. And based on how the preseason has gone to date, it appears Jones is winning. There just aren’t enough left wing spots on this roster for both of these young players to receive consistent playing time to start the season. So why am I including him? I think he gets significant time up in Anaheim this season with Deslauriers eventually being sent to San Diego or claimed on waivers.
Comtois burst onto the scene last year with a goal on his first shot of his career against the San Jose Sharks. He proceeded to tally seven points in ten games before being sent to San Diego on an injury conditioning loan, then being returned to the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL.
After a brief and controversial World Junior Tournament as captain of Team Canada, Comtois dominated in Drummondville, putting up 48 points in 25 games before joining the San Diego Gulls for their deep Calder Cup Playoff run.
His production early last year and his domination in junior after getting a taste of the big show last year have Ducks fans excited to see what the former 2nd round pick can do with more time. While his shot metrics and sky-high shooting percentage in his 10 games of NHL action indicate that his early performance isn’t likely to be sustained, Comtois has shown plenty of promise as one of the Ducks prospects with a high ceiling.
2018-2019 Stats: 48 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 50 CF%, 50.43 xGF%
Contract: One year at $950,000 AAV remaining.
With the glut of wingers on the right side and some younger prospects making a push for a left wing spot, General Manager Bob Murray giving up a 4th round pick for Montreal Canadiens grinder Nic Deslauriers came as a puzzling move.
Reports are that Murray made the move to “help protect the kids”. The 6’1”, 221 lb forward has a grand total of 49 points in 317 games. He is on a one-way deal and the Ducks gave up a 4th rounder to acquire him. He will start the season as the Ducks 4th liner, forcing either Comtois or Jones down to San Diego to get consistent playing time.
At some point, I would expect Deslauriers to be a consistent scratch and eventual candidate for waivers. I guess sometimes old roster habits die hard.
All salary numbers courtesy of CapFriendly.com.