Building off a breakthrough: Ondrej Kase

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Anaheim Ducks.

Kase earned more ice time in 2017-18 and developed chemistry on a line with Nick Ritchie and Adam Henrique. All of that paid off with a 20-goal, 38-point campaign.

The timing couldn’t be better for the 22-year-old Czech native. He’s a restricted free agent and will earn a nice raise from his $650,000 base salary this past season. But that will depend on how hard general manager Bob Murray will negotiate. He told The Athletic in July he wants Kase re-signed before training camp opens but, “[T]his is the one time where we have a little leverage. And nowadays when you don’t get very much leverage with the players, you have to take advantage of it. We’ll fight the good fight and be fair with them. But it could go just like with Hampus and Ricky.”

[Looking Back at 2017-18 | Under PressureThree Questions]

Lindholm and Rakell both signed extensions after the 2017-18 season was under way.

Henrique inked a five-year extension in the summer and like Kase, Ritchie is also an RFA. The trio formed a third line that proved to be a valuable one in terms of the Ducks’ secondary scoring.

“Every year is better and better,” Kase said in April. “My first year in the minors, I was injured, so I was out for three to four months. That season was [tough] for me. Last season and this season, I was able to make progress here.”

In 53 games during his rookie season, Kase only scored five times and recorded 15 points while averaging 11:47 of ice time on a line most nights with Ritchie and Antoine Vermette. He used the ’17-18 season to become more aggressive offensively, nearly doubling his total shots (146) and watching his shooting percentage spike (13.7% from 6.5%). If head coach Randy Carlyle keeps that line together, it could be even better over a full 82-game slate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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