By John Ahlers
Ducks TV Play-by-Play Announcer
Despite a truncated 48-game regular season in 2013, most NHL clubs used between 30 and 35 players, with some exceeding that total. So to overstate the obvious, the upcoming 2013-14 season will be about depth, an area in which the Anaheim Ducks appear to be flush.
It starts up front, where training camp is primarily about five players vying for two to three spots. Down the middle the Ducks have veterans Ryan Getzlaf, coming off a stellar campaign a year ago and Saku Koivu, the 38-year-old who settled nicely to a third line role that saw him often promoted to the second line. Nick Bonino’s late season return from injury helped lay claim to the pivot on the second unit, leaving a battle for the fourth line center’s spot between former first round picks Peter Holland and Rickard Rakell.
On left wing there appears to be opportunity among the ranks. Offseason free agent signee Dustin Penner returns for his second twirl in Anaheim and hopes to rekindle the ’07 magic he experienced playing with Getzlaf and Corey Perry. For starters at least, it seems Bruce Boudreau is willing to give him that chance.
On the second line, another newcomer to O.C. will get a look. Former Ottawa Senator Jakob Silfverberg, acquired in the trade that sent Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, will have to play his off wing to make it work, as the 22-year-old right hand shot looks to build on a solid rookie year. Meanwhile, Andrew Cogliano is coming off perhaps his finest NHL season. The speedy and durable Toronto native meshed well with Koivu a year ago and is a reliable option on any line. Matt Beleskey regained his scoring touch in ’13 and showed quite useful versatility, while hulking Patrick Maroon rounds out the group bringing goal-scoring upside and NHL size.
Right wing should prove to be an explosive position for the Ducks. Former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry will once again anchor the first line with his twin, Getzlaf. Ageless wonder Teemu Selanne, who has declared this season will be his last, will begin the season on the second line. If “the Flash” doesn’t play back-to-back games and takes the odd night off, there will be plenty of options to move into the top six.
Kyle Palmieri has been a goal-scorer everywhere he’s played and proved last season that the NHL will be on that list. Emerson Etem made great strides a year ago with his freight train-like speed and a desire that’s hard to ignore. A left-hand shot, Etem could find ample opportunity on left wing if he can find a comfort level on that side. Daniel Winnik returns as an interesting option, as the left-hand-shooting winger played right wing a year ago and is being auditioned as a possible fourth line center in camp. Third-year man Devante Smith-Pelley hopes to regain the touch he enjoyed his rookie season and stick with the big club – and not just on a part-time basis. Finally, Brad Staubitz appears to have the inside track at providing muscle on the wing.
The defense was dealt an early blow with the offseason training injury to Sheldon Souray, but one man gathers what another man spills. In other words, opportunity abounds on the blueline. While Francois Beauchemin has come back from offseason knee surgery that followed the finest season of his career, he may not be 100% at the season’s outset. So, added responsibility will be in order for the likes of Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa, Bryan Allen and Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy inked a new deal in the offseason, rewarding a solid campaign after coming over from the Penguins at midseason. Fowler and Sbisa now enter their fourth and sixth seasons respectively, armed with more experience, while Allen possesses the veteran stay-at-home presence.
Dynamic Sami Vatanen showed promise following a late season call-up and could add a new wrinkle as a right-hand shot on the power play. Free agent Marc Fistric will add grit and physicality, as the former Star and Oiler was signed immediately following the injury to Souray. First round selection from 2012 Hampus Lindholm could be the recipient of a longer look at camp due to the numbers game on the blueline as well.
Not much has changed in goal, as the riches abound between the pipes for Anaheim. After Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth each claimed 15 victories in 2013, Hiller won the playoff net. If Fasth again posts similar form, it could be interesting, to say the least. Waiting in the organizational wings is big Frederik Andersen, who gave great confidence to the team’s brass with a tremendous year in AHL Norfolk, and highly regarded prospect John Gibson.
The full NHL calendar is commonly known as a marathon, not a sprint, and while the rosters are locked at 23 on any given day, everyone knows you must go much deeper than that to succeed.
With that in mind, the Ducks appear have the horses to do just that.
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