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It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

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.

2017-18
44-25-13, 101 pts. (2nd, Pacific Division; 5th, Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost 4-0 vs. San Jose Sharks, first round

IN:
Brian Gibbons
Andrej Sustr
Luke Schenn
Carter Rowney

OUT:
Francois Beauchemin
Reto Berra
Jared Boll
J.T. Brown
Derek Grant

RE-SIGNED:
Adam Henrique
Kale Kossila
Brandon Montour

A fifth straight 100-point season ended with a thud when the Ducks were swept out of the first round by the Sharks. That prompted general manager Bob Murray to say there would be changes before the 2018-19 campaign began, but as we arrive in the final month of summer, these Ducks have a pretty similar look to the Ducks of last season.

The biggest changes for the Ducks when the puck drops in October could be the return of Patrick Eaves and the absence of Ryan Kesler. Eaves missed all but two games last season dealing with post-viral syndrome. Kesler, meanwhile, played only 44 games and all four playoff games while battling through injury. In May, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that there was a chance the 33-year-old forward would sit out the entire ’18-19 season.

“I’m more confident that Patrick Eaves is going to play for the full season than I am of Ryan Kesler at the moment, although ‘Kes’ says he’s going to be fine,” Murray told season-ticket holders during an event last month via the Orange County Register.

[Under PressureBuilding Off a BreakthroughThree Questions]

Injuries down the middle early on forced Murray to trade defenseman Sami Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Henrique. He would settle in nicely and find chemistry with linemates Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. His addition would help an offense that needed some assistance as veterans Ryan Getzlaf (11 goals) and Corey Perry (49 points) were again among the team’s scoring leaders, but posted some of their lowest numbers of the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Rickard Rakell had another career season (34 goals, 69 points) and continued to show what a bargain ($3,789,444 AAV through 2021-22) he is around the NHL.

Josh Manson (37 points) and Brandon Montour (9 goals) made huge strides on the blue line, aiding Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm on the back end. Then there was John Gibson, who put himself into the Vezina Trophy conversation. With four shutouts and a .927 even strength save percentage, the 25-year-old has set himself up for a hefty pay raise should he continue his strong play. He’s set to become a restricted free agent next summer.

Prospect Pool

• Sam Steel, C, 20 – Regina (WHL) – 2016 first-round pick

In 54 games last season captaining the Pats, Steel led the team in scoring with 83 points and finished second with 33 goals. He led Regina to the Memorial Cup Final and would earn MVP honors with 13 points in five games. After being one of the final cuts for Canada’s World Junior Championship team two years ago, he made the roster for this past season’s tournament in Buffalo, scoring four goals and recording nine points in seven games.

Troy Terry, C, 20 – Denver (NCAA) – 2015 fifth-round pick

The 2018-18 season was an adventurous one for Terry. His college season with Denver was interrupted when he got the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. After he returned, he finished his collegiate career before joining the Ducks for two games. Averaging 1.3 points per game in his final two seasons with the Pioneers, Terry will battle for one of the final roster spots on the Ducks in training camp, but he may be better served playing regular minutes in the AHL at first.

• Max Jones, LW, 20 – Kingston (OHL) – 2016 first-round pick

Jones spent a third season back in junior in ’17-18 and while production dropped (24 points) after an injury-plagued year, he did curtail his time in the penalty box as he adjusted to a mid-season trade from London. He’ll get another shot to stick with the Ducks roster during training camp

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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.

Dominic Moore’s Smashfest charity Ping-Pong event a ‘labor of love’

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Dominic Moore’s NHL career has allowed to him to play for nine different teams, including two stints with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He has 897 games under his belt since breaking into the league in 2003-04. His long playing career has also allowed him to share his love of Ping-Pong with many fellow players inside various dressing rooms.

Given his travels around the league, you could probably play a “Six Degrees of Separation” game with Moore. For example: When the 37-year-old was in his first full NHL season in 2005-06, his usual Ping-Pong partner was veteran Michael Nylander. Last season while with the Maple Leafs, the teammate who he found himself playing against on a regular basis was William Nylander, Michael’s son.

“It’s kind of a hilarious turn of events there,” Moore told Pro Hockey Talk this week.

On Aug. 1, he will be hosting the seventh annual Smashfest Ping-Pong tournament featuring around 25 current and former NHL players. (According to Moore, Patrick Eaves, the three-time defending champion, is well enough to participate after missing most of the 2017-18 season with post-viral syndrome.)

In the six years Moore has put on the event, he’s been able to raise $665,000 for concussion and rare cancer research. Smashfest 1, back in 2012, raised $20,000. Now in a few years he’ll hit the $1 million mark, which wasn’t even on the radar when things were getting going.

“Never thought about that, honestly. Obviously we wanted to raise as much as we could every year,” Moore said. “Last year we got up to $165,000. I was really hoping we’d be able to hit $1 million this year — I was a bit maybe ambitious with that. I doubt we’re going to get there, but once we got close it certainly became a goal to try and hit.”

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Some of the money that’s raised goes toward rare cancer research benefitting the Broad (pronounced Brode) Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moore wanted to ensure that the donated funds would make an impact.

“Especially with cancer research, it seems like it’s easy for money to become a drop in the bucket because it takes so much money to do the research,” he said. “And obviously in the cancer space there’s a lot of money that’s put into this research. But for rare cancers, because of the fact that there isn’t a lot of funds behind it, I felt like it was so important to spend our money wisely.”

What the Broad Institute does as part of a special project with Moore is solicit tissue samples from patients around the country suffering from rare forms of cancer. With proprietary technology, they’re able to turn one sample into hundreds and then multiply the tissue for additional testing.

“The premise of it, you’re trying to get tissue directly from patients because what happens with rare cancers is someone will go into a hospital in San Francisco, they have their surgery, that tissue stays in the hospital, they’re the only one on the west coast that has this particular cancer, there’s no money to fund it, nothing gets done with that tissue, but it sits as a commodity in that hospital’s fridge and nothing ever happens with it,” Moore said. “Or maybe they do do some research on it but it’s just an isolated piece of data that has no value. 

“So the whole premise of our project with The Broad is that wherever these patients are around the country we get the word out to them that they can and should send their tissue to the Broad Institute. The Broad actually jumped through a bunch of logistical things to try and make this happen so they made a whole kit, and shipping cancer tissue and keeping it alive as you ship it and making it easy for patients to do that, it sounds easy — just ship the tissue — but it’s not.”

The Broad Institute is also making all of its data available to those who want to use it in order to advance the research.

“The open source nature of it too is something that we’re really proud of,” said Moore.

***

The idea for Smashfest originated in 2011 with Moore wanting to use Ping-Pong as a way to raise money and also showcase player personalities. He’s always loved the game, going back to his childhood. Growing up he heard stories about the 1980s Edmonton Oilers competing in intense games that would last until minutes before puck drop. When he reached the NHL, it became a regular activity with his teammates, wherever he went.

“I think it’s just that it’s conducive to you put a table in the middle of the locker room and it’s something fun and competitive that the guys can do,” said Moore, who’s currently an unrestricted free agent and would like to continue playing. “It can help them warm up. It just seems like it fits. I had the idea. This is the perfect thing for a charity event. I loved it, I loved playing. Marty St. Louis and I played a lot in Tampa together. That was around the time I was finally like I’ve got to get off my butt and try and make this happen.”

From the start, Moore wanted Smashfest to be different than a charity golf tournament. He wanted it to be fun, quirky and unique. With help from the NHLPA, gather a bunch of hockey players and fans at a Toronto brewery in the middle of summer for a Ping-Pong tournament. Sounds like the makings of an interesting night, right? He had no idea how it would go over, but from the very first event it was clear there was traction and it would be a success.

“It’s been a labor of love. It’s something that the team that works on it has worked incredibly passionately on and spends a lot of time on,” he said. “For me personally, it’s something I enjoy working on. I do put a lot of time into trying to grow it. We’ve got some great partners and sponsors and friends of the event that all kind of work together to make it what it is. 

“That’s what’s allowed it to grow, as well as the unique nature of the event in terms of showcasing the players in a totally fun way. I think that’s just been the recipe that’s made it grow to the way it is and hopefully we can continue that. I’d love to continue to make it bigger and better.”

Smashfest 7 will take place Aug. 1 at Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto.

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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.

Big centers back: Getzlaf in for Ducks, Panthers regain Barkov

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The Anaheim Ducks would probably qualify as unlucky so far in 2017-18 even beyond an extremely unfortunate bounce of a puck fracturing Ryan Getzlaf‘s cheekbone.

That loss was especially severe with Ryan Kesler already recovering, as Getzlaf missed 19 games, last appearing in a contest on that painful night of Oct. 29. The Ducks get quite the treat, then, as both Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg are slated to return as they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Check out how much better everything fits together with the returns of Getzlaf and Silfverberg, not to mention the recent addition of Adam Henrique (line combos via the Ducks website):

Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
Cogliano-Henrique-Silfverberg
Blandisi-Vermette-Kase
Wagner-Grant-Shaw

The Ducks are still without Kesler, and Patrick Eaves is fighting a serious physical battle that puts hockey on the backburner, so there’s still some mystery to how the Ducks might look if they can get anywhere near full-strength this season.

As is, they look a whole lot better going into Monday’s game, something the Florida Panthers could relate to.

While Anaheim’s dealt with bad luck, you could chalk up Florida’s troubles to a mix of unforced errors (jettisoning depth, particularly to Vegas) and tough breaks of their own (Roberto Luongo‘s injury issues). Either way, management will look infinitely smarter when Aleksander Barkov is in the lineup than when he’s not, so the Panthers must be happy to welcome him back tonight.

Interestingly, Left Wing Lock lists Barkov along with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, rather than Denis Malgin taking Bjugstad’s spot (Malgin received looks, at least, once Evgenii Dadonov suffered an injury).

That would be quite the top-heavy approach for Florida, even if Malgin can mesh well with Vincent Trocheck.

While the Panthers have floundered at times, the Ducks seemed like they were finally starting to crater under the pressure of all those injury losses, as Anaheim only boasts two wins (2-4-4) in its last 10 games.

It’s true that the return of Barkov and Getzlaf would be important in just about any context for their teams, but each team likely feels especially relieved on Monday, as they can use all the help they can get.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fantasy hockey impact of the Henrique – Vatanen trade

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Keep this good stuff up, NHL GMs.

Ears perked up on Thursday, as the Anaheim Ducks landed Adam Henrique (and other stuff) from the New Jersey Devils for Sami Vatanen (plus some nicknacks) in another intriguing trade. One can only hope this means that we’ll see more interesting moves sprinkled throughout 2017-18, rather than having to beg for trimmings during the trade deadline alone.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the fantasy hockey implications of this move. Apologies to Joseph Blandisi for a lack of attention here, but honestly, his fantasy impact will most likely be … well, the first five letters of his last name.

Sami Vatanen – As much as I love how the Devils are redesigning their team, I’m not so sure what to make about Vatanen from a W-L record standpoint. In other words, the “reality” part is tougher.

It seems like I’m not alone in having some mild doubts about this, but for more on the real-world implications of the move, check out Sean Leahy’s analysis of the trade.

From a fantasy perspective, this is a slam-dunk for the Devils and Vatanen’s value, though. It will be intriguing to see how Vatanen’s arrival impacts the value of Will Butcher, who has been averaging three minutes per night on the Devils’ power play. Will New Jersey opt for a three-forward, two-defensemen setup or go with league trends and lean 4F-1D?

Either way, the Devils suddenly have more balance, and continue to nudge themselves up the ranks of the NHL’s most entertaining teams (because their strengths and weaknesses lineup so blissfully). Vatanen’s had some struggles in the past couple seasons, but he’s a two-time 30+ point scorer despite never playing more than 71 games in a single regular season.

I’ll leave the add/drop analysis to PHT’s Joey Alfieri, as far as where Vatanen might fit in your lineup. There’s little doubt in my mind that Vatanen is more valuable today than he was as a member of the Ducks, even though he was given reasonable opportunities to succeed in Anaheim.

At the absolute minimum, the Devils get that much more fun to watch.

Adam Henrique – This wasn’t one of those Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson-type steals for Devils GM Ray Shero, or even a more Ducks-centric deal where New Jersey nabs Kyle Palmieri for a bargain rate.

Instead, this was a very sensible move where two teams gave up surplus pieces to fit glaring needs.

In the case of Henrique, the Ducks get a sorely needed center – probably their top center for quite some time, as Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf both deal with serious issues – who’s also cheap at $4M. For a budget-conscious contender, this makes a lot of sense.

So, what kind of player is Henrique? That might be a question many are asking, considering that he’s been part of a Devils team that’s been under the radar for some time.

Henrique brings some impressive mid-level goal-scoring to the table. While he’s been weak in that area this season (just four goals on 49 SOG for an unusually low 8.2 shooting percentage), his career shooting percentage is a lofty 15. He’s hit 30 goals once and also had 25 and 20-goal seasons.

Eventually, you’d expect the returns of Kesler and Getzlaf to push him down the lineup, but it’s worth noting that Henrique can probably move to the wing when that happens.

It’s not as if a fantasy owner wants long-term results if they’re adding Henrique; you’re not really slotting a keeper league spot for him, right? This would be about short-term returns in most instances, and the bigger question is just “How depleted is this Ducks offense?” Along with Kesler and Getzlaf having serious issues, the Ducks also have Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell on the shelf. Let’s not forget Patrick Eaves‘ frightening health issues, either.

That opens the door for Henrique opportunities, but it’s worth mentioning that he probably won’t be carried by red-hot wingers. The results could be modest for would-be fantasy owners.

Who gains from Vatanen’s departure?

It will be interesting to see which Ducks defensemen get a boost from Vatanen being traded away, too.

So far in 2017-18, Cam Fowler was the only Anaheim blueliner who averaged more PP time per game than Vatanen. That said, Brandon Montour (2:41 per night) wasn’t far behind Vatanen’s average of 2:48 per game, and Hampus Lindholm got his fair share of reps, too, at 2:16 per evening.

Between power-play time and even-strength minutes – Vatanen averaged 21:06 minutes of total ice time per game, third among Ducks skaters and defensemen – there are some nice opportunities for Lindholm, Montour, and Josh Manson to take bigger roles.

The Ducks are transitioning from such a deep defense that people have to fight for ice time to something a little more stable, what with Vatanen and Shea Theodore out of the mix. Personally, I’m especially intrigued by what this might mean for Lindholm and Manson, two of the Ducks’ most interesting blueliners.

Again, it’s wise to check in on Alfieri’s add/drops post for more immediate advice on Monday, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ducks facing tough road trip as injuries continue to pile up

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The Anaheim Ducks begin a five-game road trip tonight that could end with a big increase in the separation between where they currently reside in the Western Conference standings and a playoff spot.

Currently two points out of a wild card spot and three points behind the Calgary Flames for the third seed in the Pacific Division, the Ducks will face the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights before returning home to Honda Center next Wednesday. They’ll do so with a lineup that’s battered and missing Patrick Eaves, Ryan Getzlaf, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Kesler and now Rickard Rakell, who combined for over 80 goals last season.

How dinged up have the Ducks been? They’re by far the NHL leaders in the man-games lost category, as ManGamesLost.com shows:

ManGamesLost.com

The already offensively-challenged Ducks will see Derek Grant and Chris Wagner as their top two centermen as the roster heals.  The pair have 17 career goals. That will put some added pressure on a blue line that’s provided 15 of their 62 goals this season.

“We know we’ve stressed our lineup to our bare bones here,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said over the weekend via the LA Times. “The compete level and the structure and our work ethic and our track, our forecheck, all those were positives for our hockey club. And now we have to find a way to maintain that as we play more games on this road trip.”

Carlyle isn’t using injuries as an excuse for his team’s sluggish start — all teams miss key players at points during an 82-game schedule. But certainly the specific personnel missing from the Ducks’ lineup explains how the first 23 games have gone. John Gibson (.936 even strength save percentage in November) and Ryan Miller (.953 ESSV in November) have done their part in helping Anaheim take points from 7 of their 12 games this month and they’ll need to continue to be backbones for this team to survive a road trip against teams currently sitting in playoff spots.

Points collected now will be huge once the Ducks return to full health.

“It’s tight right now, as you can see, really tight,” said defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “You keep dropping, you’re right at the very bottom. A few points and a win or two and you’re right at the top. So you want to be in the thick of things. You don’t want to be swaying too far down. It’s important to get points.”

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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.