Anaheim Ducks: 2021-22 NHL season preview

anaheim ducks
John Cordes/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. Over the next month we’ll be examining best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Anaheim Ducks.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 17-30-9 (8th, West Division)
• Postseason: Did not qualify; drafted Mason MacTavish No. 3 overall
• Offensive leader: Max Comtois (16 goals, 33 points)

• Free Agent Additions: Greg Pateryn, Danny O’Regan, Buddy Robinson, Brogan Rafferty
• Free Agent Subtractions: Ryan Miller (retired), David Backes (retired), Danton Heinen (Penguins), Andrew Agozzino (Senators), Andy Welinski (Flames), Andrew Poturalski (Hurricanes), Carter Rowney (Red Wings), Chase De Leo (Devils)

Biggest Question Facing the Ducks

• Who’s going to score the goals?

The Ducks scored an NHL-worst 124 goals over last season’s 56 games. They were also fifth-worst in even strength goals scored with 111. Max Comtois (16) and Adam Henrique (12) were the two leading goal scorers, making Anaheim the team with the fewest number of players with double digit goals — only Buffalo and Detroit (three) were ahead of them.

A lack of scoring has been a trend for the Ducks. They averaged 2.56 goals per game (29th) in 2019-20 and 2.39 goals per game (31st) in 2018-19. The previous offensive horses are either aging out (Ryan Getzlaf), no longer in Anaheim (Corey Perry, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Kesler), or have regressed (Rickard Rakell). It’s time for the next generation to begin to make an impact.

As the youth movement continues, it’ll be the kids who will be relied upon to push the offense in a new direction. Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones, and Isac Lundeström will be among those expected to lead this roster rebuild. There  is always the possibility that general manager Bob Murray injects a spark into his lineup, maybe a certain center who plays in Buffalo. But it’s tough to know what his plans are moving forward.

What’s the salary cap situation?

According to Cap Friendly, the Ducks are a little more than $14 million under the salary cap ceiling. Murray’s summer consisted of re-signings players and not dipping his toes into the free agent or trade markets. That quiet off-season has, however, added speculation that Anaheim could be a potential landing spot for Jack Eichel. They have the cap space, prospects, and draft picks to create a package that would tempt Sabres GM Kevyn Adams. It would be a bold move that would move the needle in Anaheim and potentially push the progress of the team’s top prospects. But how much would the cost of such a move affect the GM’s current development plans?

trevor zegras
Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

Breakout Candidate

• Trevor Zegras

The 20-year-old made his NHL debut last season, scoring three times and recording 13 points in 24 games. Expectations were high for the No. 9 overall pick from 2019, but with the way the Anaheim Ducks’ roster is currently constructed, it’s best to have patience with Zegras, and his fellow youngsters.

Zegras also played 17 games with AHL San Diego last season and netted 10 goals and 21 points. That experience will bode well going forward as the franchise hope he meets the expectations placed on him.

Best-Case Scenario

The expected young leaders settle into productive roles they will be hold for years to come. A strong core develops and begins to gel allowing Murray to build around them in order to go from lottery team to playoff team. John Gibson continues to be John Gibson and the progress puts a halt on any rumors about his future in Anaheim.

Worst-Case Scenario

Progress is slowed and the inconsistencies of their top prospects results in another wasted year and more questions about the direction of the franchise. Gibson, 28, is not getting any younger and what will the talk be following another down season? And if there are few bright spots, what changes will come next summer? Will that be it for head coach Dallas Eakins? And what of Murray, who seems to be coated in Teflon?

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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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