Last season the Ducks showed that they were going to be a team to be reckoned with in the NHL West. Were it not for a team in Chicago having one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NHL, they would have been in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the conference as the playoffs began. The team looked destined for a showdown with the Blackhawks to decide who went to the Stanley Cup Finals. And then it all went wrong.
A seven-game series with Detroit in the first round turned out to be the end of the season for the Ducks. As for the reason for the team's early departure, there are several theories; some say that the Ducks' downfall came from playing it's starting goalie in all seven games, even though he had never played more than four games in a row during the regular season. Others simply credit a veteran Red Wings team for coming up big when everyone else had counted them out. Whatever the reason, the Ducks had to feel disappointed as their season came to an early end. Now, after making several moves in the offseason (including the blockbuster trade of star right wing Bobby Ryan), the team will look this year to finish what they started last season.
The Big Guns
Ryan Getzlaf (C): Getzlaf finished off 2012-2013 tied for the 10th most points in the NHL with 49 in 44 games despite struggling late in the year with an ankle injury. He is one of just a dozen or so true, top-line centermen in the NHL and a fantasy superstar. Draft him accordingly -- he could net you 90-plus points this season. And the next. And the...you get the point.
Corey Perry (RW): Exception or norm? Perry's Hart-worthy 50 goals and 98 points are fading in the rear view, but that doesn't mean there isn't tremendous value in his game. He registered 15 goals and 21 assists in his 44 games last season, a pace that would have netted him 28 goals and 67 points. Those numbers clearly aren't Hart-like or even Perry-like, to be honest. The Ducks figure he'll rebound -- why else would they gift him enough money to buy a remote Pacific island in a contract extension? He'll need to adjust to the fact the Ducks' roster is minus the big body of Bobby Ryan and opponents will have Perry firmly in their crosshairs. But the team has tried to balance their lines this offseason and we think that will actually free Perry to be himself again. We're thinking another 35-goal, near point-per-game season is on the immediate horizon. Where does that put him on your draft list? And keeper leaguers should count on him settling into a 35-goal, 75-point pace -- with an occasional spike here and there -- for the next three or four seasons.
Jonas Hiller (G): Hiller finished with solid numbers in 2012-13, but it was sketchy early on when Euro-sensation Viktor Fasth outplayed him, sending the incumbent to the pine. He's heading into a contract year and will be highly motivated by the February re-signing of Fasth, who will continue to push him for playing time. The southpaw will want to prove he's a top-10 netminder again. It's possible, but you'd better handcuff the two quackers together, just in case.
On The Rise
Viktor Fasth (G): Fasth enjoyed a strong regular season, finishing with the 11th-best save percentage and GAA in the NHL while recording 15 wins. There were times when it appeared as though he had stolen the starting gig from Jonas Hiller, but he sat stapled to the bench in the postseason. Still, he will definitely push Hiller this year and don't be surprised to see a platoon emerge at some point. The Ducks seem to believe in him, having signed him to a two-year extension in February 2013. You should, too.
Francois Beauchemin (D): Beauchemin underwent surgery on May 16th for a torn ligament in his right knee and hopes to back in time for the start of the regular season. He logged 24 points during the 2012-2013 regular season and was tied for the most points of anyone on the team during the Ducks' brief postseason run. If healthy, he could net you a solid 35 to 40 points.
Two To Watch
Jakob Silfverberg (LW): Silfverberg picked up 10 goals and nine games in 48 games last year with the Sens and was the key cog coming back to the Ducks in the Bobby Ryan trade. He'll slot in on the second line where his good speed and rocket shot will help draw some checking attention away from the top line of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. And that means more time and space for someone, doesn't it? This nifty Swede brings a great two-way game to Anaheim -- then again, what Swede actually sucks in his own zone? Still, Silfverberg is going to be an exceptional, two-way, 60 to 65 point second-line winger for a long time in this league and he will take a big step toward that this year. Fifty points is certainly within reach.
Teemu Selanne (RW): On August 8, Selanne told a Finnish newspaper that he is yet to make the "biggest decision" of his career. And we both know what that decision is. Yes, he is skating and he may still return to the Ducks for one more season. And honestly, we think he will. He is very interested in the 2014 Olympics, so he will need to play somewhere and Anaheim is like a second home to this future Hall-of-Fame winger. Sure, he turned 43 this offseason, but this is a guy who has scored 69 goals since turning 40, second only all-time to the great Gordie Howe. His 2012-13 wasn't nearly as productive as his previous two seasons, so there is a risk of drop off. But 20 goals and 45 points are possible -- just trade him at the deadline if you take a chance on him. The Olympics will be a drain on everyone given the time difference and the travel, and the old man may be slower to recover than someone half his age.
Matt Belesky (LW): Beleskey picked up eight goals and five assists 42 games in the 2012-2013 season. He was a scorer in junior, but his calling card in the NHL has been his grittiness. He has never tallied more than 18 points a year, but could hit that mark in 2013-14 while adding about 80 PIMs. That makes him more than your average pylon in leagues that count sin bin points. And it's always nice to roll guys in those formats who won't be a complete anchor on your other counting categories.
Saku Koivu (C): As a likely third-line center for the Ducks, Koivu has been a consistent, but relatively unimpressive performer. Last year's average of 0.574 points per game didn't deviate significantly from his average over the previous two years of 0.557 points per game. Given the Ducks' expected use of him in the upcoming season, it is unlikely that his production will increase in any significant fashion. Draft accordingly.
Sheldon Souray (D): This 37-year-old with the booming shot is past his expiry date, but that doesn't mean he can't be well insulated inside a strong set of six NHL defenders. That's exactly what the Ducks will do with Souray, who picked up seven goals and 10 assists in his 44 games in a similar situation during the 2012-2013 season. That led him to a higher points-per-game average last year than his previous two seasons. And that means he'll be valuable as your last blueliner...if he can stay healthy, too. And we both know that hasn't exactly been easy for him. And with late-summer news that he underwent surgery on July 25 to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist, we're downgrading him to the official status of waiver fodder. He will be out until December and when he returns, that big slapper of his will likely be a lot less powerful than it once was.
Keaton Thompson (D): Thompson is a good skater and a good passer, but he isn't overly physical. His game can use some overall refinement, and he'll get that next year with another season in the USHL. He is slated to head to the University of North Dakota for the 2014-15 season.
Stefan Noesen (C): Noesen played last season for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers and likely will open the season in junior or the AHL once he is evaluated by the brain trust in Anaheim. He's a talented player but still a few years away from making an impact in the NHL.