Winning the Pacific Division was significant in the Vegas Golden Knights’ quest for the Stanley Cup. The Pacific Division was the only division in the NHL that produced 4 teams with 100 points or greater. The Golden Knights did not clinch the Pacific Division championship until the final game of the regular season.
This is part one of an eight-part series that highlights each Pacific Division team. Part one highlights the Anaheim Ducks.
Last season: The Ducks had just 58 points which was good for dead-last in the NHL. To make matters worse, the Ducks finished second in the draft lottery and missed out on Connor Bedard.
Key Personnel changes: The Ducks signed Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn to bring experience to the team. Gudas will also serve as a protector of Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish. The Ducks traded for defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin.
The Ducks did not extend coach Dallas Eakins after the 2022-23 season. Greg Conlin replaces Eakins behind the bench for the 2023-24 season. Conlin was for the former coach of the Colorado Eagles in the AHL.
Leo Carlsson: Adam Fantilli was expected to go second behind Bedard according to many experts. The Ducks surprised the hockey world and many of their own fans by taking Carlsson. Carlsson vs. Fantilli could become a sore topic in Anaheim if Carlsson does not pan out.
Fantilli had a fantastic freshman year at Michigan. The Hobey Baker winner had 65 points in 36 games.
NHL Central Scouting ranked Carlsson as the No. 1 international skater. Carlsson is listed at 6-3 and 194 pounds. Picture a slightly taller version of Connor McDavid.
Biggest Strength: The Ducks have a great crop of young talent. Zegras, McTavish, Jamie Drysdale, and Carlsson are all 22 years old or younger. Troy Terry is 25 years old and signed a seven-year extension. The Ducks will have a nice core in place for the next half-decade or longer.
Biggest Weakness: The Ducks allowed an astounding 39.11 shots per game. Goaltender John Gibson’s numbers suffered as a result. The 30-year-old had a 3.99 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage.
Outlook: The Ducks improved their defense. Gudas and Lyubushkin bring over 1,000 games of experience to the Ducks’ blue line. It will be interesting to see where the Ducks rank next year in shots against.
Age and experience are working against the Ducks which lowers their short-term outlook. The Ducks could finish as high as fifth in the Pacific Division. Making the playoffs would be an improbable over-achievement.