Shawn Horcoff

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Poll: Do the Ducks have what it takes to reach the Stanley Cup Final this year?

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This is part of Anaheim Ducks day at PHT…

Even though the Anaheim Ducks have been one of the top teams in the league for four years now they have been unable to completely climb the mountain that is the Western Conference playoffs thanks to four consecutive Game 7 losses.

That disappointment forced the team into a coaching change over the summer (a change that certainly carries some risk) in the hopes that it is the missing piece the team needs to finally kick the door down and get back into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2007.

Along with the coaching change, the Ducks had a couple of secondary players leave over the summer in free agency with Chris Stewart, David Perron, Shawn Horcoff and Mike Santorelli all moving on. Coming in to replace them are veteran center Antoine Vermette and perhaps some younger players within the system like former top-10 pick Nick Ritchie.

More importantly, the Ducks are returning the same core that has helped them win four straight division titles, a groups that includes Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler up front, and a tremendous young defense led by Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm behind them.

The other factor to keep in mind is that some of the other top contenders in the conference might be starting to take a step back. The Blackhawks’ latest salary cap purge has stripped the team of the depth that made them such a dominant team, while the Kings are showing signs of starting to slow down after winning two Stanley Cups between 2012 and 2014.

Based on the roster the Ducks have on paper and the way the team played for most of last season following a terrible 10-game stretch at the start, this should once again be one of the top contenders in the conference.

But will this be the year they have what it takes to get to the Final?

Looking to make the leap: Nick Ritchie

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This is part of Anaheim Ducks day at PHT…

Nick Ritchie had a brief taste of NHL action in his first year of pro hockey for the Anaheim Ducks this past season.

The next step now is earning a permanent spot on a roster that should once again be a Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference, and he should have an opportunity to do just that after a mostly quiet offseason — at least far as the on-ice roster is concerned — from the Ducks.

The team’s top pick (No. 10 overall) in 2014 has spent most of his summer adding strength to his 6-3, 230 pound frame, and could give the Ducks another big, skilled forward to add to their lineup. And following the offseason departures of veteran forwards Jamie McGinn, David Perron, Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart, there should definitely be room in the lineup for him to potentially earn a full-time spot at the start of the season.

For the most part, Ritchie’s 2015-16 debut was a promising one even if his production at the NHL level (only two goals and two assists in 33 games) didn’t exactly jump off the page.

But when you consider he was making the jump from the Ontario Hockey League to professional hockey it should be expected that there would be some struggles.

When he wasn’t playing in the NHL, he spent the majority of his season playing for the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League where he gave the Ducks a glimpse of his potential and what he could become in the NHL. Even though he was only 19 years old he was one of the Gulls’ most productive player, recording 30 points in 38 games, including 16 goals. That goal total was the third-highest mark on the team for the season even though he only appeared in 38 games.

His 0.789 point per game average was also the third highest mark on the team.

With nine forwards on the roster for the 2016-17 season already age 29 or older (including eight that are already over the age of 30) the Ducks definitely need some youth in that group.

Report: Ducks to sign Mason Raymond (Updated)

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Three years ago, Mason Raymond revived his career in Toronto under then-head coach Randy Carlyle.

Now it sounds like a reunion might be in the cards — in Anaheim.

Per Calgary’s Fan 960 radio, Raymond is on the verge of signing with the Ducks, just days after the Flames bought out the last of his three-year, $9.45 million deal.

Earlier today, Vancouver’s News 1130 reported that Raymond was “close” to signing with a new NHL team.

Update: Contract details, per TVA…

The 30-year-old has fallen on hard times since scoring 19 goals and 45 points under Carlyle in ’13-14. Raymond parlayed that season into a nice payday from his hometown Flames, but struggled to make an impact and stay in the lineup.

Last season, he had just four goals in 29 games and was eventually placed on waivers, finishing out the year in AHL Stockton.

Anaheim would be a good landing spot for the speedy winger. Carlyle is back in the mix as head coach, having taken over from Bruce Boudreau, and the deal would also reunite Raymond with former Canucks teammates Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa.

What’s more, the Ducks do have some spots available up front.

Chris Stewart exited via free agency, signing in Minnesota, while David Perron signed in St. Louis and Jamie McGinn in Arizona. The club also failed to make a qualifying offer for RFA Brandon Pirri, and has yet to re-sign veteran UFAs like Shawn Horcoff or Mike Santorelli.

Goalie change: Ducks start Andersen over Gibson for crucial Game 3 in Nashville

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John Gibson wasn’t to blame for Anaheim losing the first two games of its opening-round series — at home — to the Nashville Predators.

But Gibson’s getting the hook anyway.

On Tuesday, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed he’s going with Frederik Andersen tonight as his club looks to avoid falling into a 0-3 series hole.

The move shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Gibson isn’t at fault, but he hasn’t been great this series either, allowing six goals on 60 shots for a .900 save percentage.

The Ducks are also in desperate need of a spark, and on Sunday we saw a similar tact pay off when Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill benched Jimmy Howard — who wasn’t at fault for either of his club’s opening two losses — in favor of Petr Mrazek for Game 3 against Tampa Bay.

Mrazek responded with a 16-save shutout, and the Wings were back in the series.

Finally, Boudreau did say prior to the playoffs that both Gibson and Andersen were likely to play. That came on the heels of Andersen’s impressive outing in the regular-season finale, a shutout win over the Caps.

From the Los Angeles Daily News, prior to the start of the Preds series:

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said he had John Gibson penciled to start Game 1 and hasn’t changed his mind. But there are also four days until then. “Got a long ride home though,” he said.

“Freddie was tremendous [vs. Washington],” Boudreau said. “That could have been as good as I’ve ever seen him. His movements. He was square to the puck. There was no extra movements in his game. It certainly was sending a message to us that I know he hasn’t played for a little bit but he’s ready for the playoffs as well.”

There wasn’t much to choose between Andersen and Gibson during the regular season. The former went 22-9-7 with a .919 save percentage, the latter 21-13-4 with a .920 save percentage.

This isn’t the only change Anaheim is making tonight.

Veteran forward Shawn Horcoff, who missed 20 games this year after getting suspended for PEDs, will make his series debut.

Per the Los Angeles Times, Horcoff’s inclusion could come at the expense of of Chris Wagner.

Ducks sign Kossila, NCAA’s fifth-leading scorer, to two-year deal

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Kalle Kossila, the St. Cloud State senior that racked up 54 points in 41 games this year, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Ducks, the club confirmed on Wednesday.

Kossila, 22, enjoyed a tremendous ’15-16 campaign, leading the Huskies in scoring while drawing even with North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser — Vancouver’s first-round pick at last year’s draft — for the NCHC points title.

The Finnish forward ended his career as St. Cloud State’s sixth-leading scorer all-time.

Kossila’s two-year deal kicks in next season and, per the Star-Tribune, he’s now off to Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego to begin his pro career on an amateur tryout contract.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of trajectory his career takes.

The Ducks have a wealth of options at forward, but have five UFAs (David Perron, Jamie McGinn, Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart and Mike Santorelli) in July, plus two intriguing RFAs in Brandon Pirri and Rickard Rakell.

Anaheim also figures to have some cap issues this summer, and have two very important d-men in Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen needing new deals. As such, a guy signed on the cheap like Kossila could find himself playing a role on the team, at some point.