American Hockey League

Ducks looking to Eakins, youth for turnaround

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Anaheim Ducks:

The Anaheim Ducks are hoping a new coach and several up-and-coming forwards will help them return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify last season for the first time since 2011-12.

Dallas Eakins was hired June 17 after coaching the Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego the past four seasons. 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

“I am familiar with a lot of the players,” Eakins said at his introductory press conference. “The great thing about this is I’m not starting from scratch. That is encouraging to me. … I’m hoping we can continue the tremendous success of this organization both on and off the ice.”

Forwards Sam Steel, Max Comtois and Troy Terry are a few players Eakins coached in San Diego who could become full-time players for Anaheim this season. And although the Ducks finished last in the NHL in goals last season (196), an influx of youth and speed could change that.

“I think through being very competitive with each other and being organized, we’ll be able to accomplish what I believe the game is, and that’s hard, and that’s fast,” Eakins said.

Anaheim has two roster spots available after forward Corey Perry had the final two seasons of his contract bought out June 19 and center Ryan Kesler had hip surgery that likely will cause him to miss the entire season.

Perry, who turned 34 on May 16, signed with the Dallas Stars on July 1.

“It’s tough when you’ve been there for so long, it’s all you know,” Perry told TSN last month. “But I don’t have a bad word to say about the Ducks and how they’ve treated me over the years. Everyone in the organization was good to me.”

Kesler, who turns 35 on Aug. 31 and had eight points (five goals, three assists) in 60 games last season, might not play in the NHL again.

“At this point, Ryan needs to think about his life and family,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said in May. “The pain he felt was significant, and we agree with his decision to have this surgery. While it’s unlikely he will play in 2019-20, we will support any decision he makes about his future playing career.”

Here is what the Ducks look like today:

Key arrivals

Dallas Eakins, coach: The 52-year-old went 36-63-14 in two seasons with the Edmonton Oilers from 2013-15, but he led San Diego to the Calder Cup Playoffs in three of his four seasons from 2015-19. … Anthony Stolarz, G: The 25-year-old signed a two-year contract July 3 after he went 4-5-3 with a 3.45 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 18 games (12 starts) with the Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers last season. Stolarz could be the third-string goalie, providing injury insurance for John Gibson and Ryan Miller

Video: Brewster on Perry buyout, Eakins as Ducks head coach

Key departures

Corey Perry, F: He signed a one-year contract with the Stars after spending his first 14 NHL seasons with Anaheim. He ranks first in Ducks history in games played (988), second in goals (372) and third in assists (404) and points (776). … Andy Welinski, D: Signed a one-year contract with the Flyers on July 1 after he had four points (one goal, three assists) in 26 games last season. …  Jaycob Megna, D: Signed a one-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 1 after he had four points (one goal, three assists) in 28 games last season. …  Jake Dotchin, D: Signed a one-year, two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues on July 1. He had one assist in 20 games last season.

On the cusp

Max Comtois, F: The 20-year-old left wing had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games with the Ducks last season before he was sent to Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he had 48 points (31 goals, 17 assists) in 25 games. He should compete for a roster spot out of training camp. … Sam Steel, F: The 21-year-old center had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 22 NHL games and 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in 53 AHL games under Eakins. He is a candidate for a spot on the opening night roster. … Brendan Guhle, D: Acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 24, Guhle, who turns 22 on July 29, had one assist in eight games last season and likely will compete for a spot on the third defense pair.

Video: ANA@ARI: Comtois goes five-hole for opening tally

What they still need

A scorer. Ryan Getzlaf led the Ducks with 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) last season, second fewest among the 31 NHL team leaders, and Jakob Silfverberg‘s Anaheim-leading 24 goals were third fewest. … The Ducks also are in need of defensemen after losing three in free agency. They currently have five signed to their active roster.

Fantasy focus

With a familiar coach in Eakins, an influx of young forward talent and most importantly a clean slate, Gibson is poised for his best fantasy season yet. Because the Ducks missed the playoffs last season and were not fantasy-relevant in the second half, Gibson should be attainable in the 8-10 range or later among goalies, but he has a ceiling of being the most valuable player at the position. He had a .917 save percentage in 58 games last season when so many things went wrong around him, so don’t be surprised if he shatters his NHL career high in wins (31 in 2017-18). — Pete Jensen

Video: ANA@EDM: Gibson denies Gagner’s slap shot

Projected lineup

Rickard Rakell — Sam Steel — Jakob Silfverberg

Max Comtois — Ryan Getzlaf — Troy Terry

Nick Ritchie — Adam Henrique — Ondrej Kase

Nicolas Deslauriers — Devin Shore — Daniel Sprong

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Cam FowlerKorbinian Holzer

Brendan Guhle — Jacob Larsson

John Gibson

Ryan Miller

Photos courtesy of Debora Robinson – Anaheim Ducks

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