It’s Thanksgiving in the United States and the holiday season is right around the corner. Like the last few years, PHR will take a look at what teams are thankful for but this year comes with a bit of a change. Normally teams would have an idea of where their season was heading, coming up on the one-quarter mark with mountains of statistics to analyze. Instead, in this unprecedented year, the season hasn’t even begun. We’ll still take a look at what each group is excited about and what they could hope for once the calendar turns to 2021.
What are the Ducks most thankful for?
Extended training camp and European leagues.
This isn’t a contending year for the Ducks, who should be more focused on the development of their young prospects than anything else. Teams in that situation are probably incredibly frustrated with the status of junior leagues across North America, with young players like sixth-overall pick Jamie Drysdale unable to play in the OHL so far. Drysdale will get a chance to play at the World Juniors (after his quarantine) but many other youngsters are still waiting on their first competitive action since March.
The Ducks, as one of the teams that did not take part in the summer’s postseason bubble, are expected to receive an extra week of training camp when things finally get going. That will be quality development time for their young players, just like the time they’ve spent overseas in the interim. Lukas Dostal, who is now returning to North America, played 11 games for Ilves in Finland this fall, posting an incredible 10-1 record and .960 save percentage. While other prospects are just begging for ice time, he’s been refining his game against professionals.
Who are the Ducks most thankful for?
As we head into what will be a shortened season, Ducks fans can’t help but think about the fact that Getzlaf is in the final season of that massive eight-year, $66MM deal he signed in 2013. Now 35 and already missing Corey Perry, his partner in crime for more than a decade, the time for Getzlaf in Anaheim is winding down. But everyone that has cheered for the big centerman over the years is thankful for what he’s done for the franchise, constantly providing an anchor in the middle of the lineup and elevating his teammates on a nightly basis.
Though Getzlaf isn’t the 91-point superstar that once was or even the uber-confident youngster that helped the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship, he’s still a strong leader and easy player to cheer for. While the organization grooms their next wave of leaders, give a thought to Getzlaf who will one day be the focus of a heated Hall of Fame argument (even if he might eventually miss the call).
What would the Ducks be even more thankful for?
A breakout performance.
While the team has a ton of young high draft picks in the system, they’re still waiting for a real breakout from someone. Like when Getzlaf jumped directly into the league with 39 points in 57 games as a rookie, the Ducks need someone to show they’ll be the next superstar in Anaheim. Troy Terry, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, Trevor Zegras, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Max Comtois, and on and on, someone needs to step up and become the next face of the franchise.
What should be on the Ducks’ holiday wish list?
Minor league and junior seasons.
If the opportunity isn’t there at the NHL level right away, the Ducks are going to have to hope that the AHL and Canadian junior leagues are able to hold seasons. Remember it’s not just Drysdale that the Ducks drafted in the first round this year, but Jacob Perreault, who is currently waiting on his OHL season to begin. The 27th-overall pick has already signed after scoring 39 goals and 70 points in 57 games last year, but wasn’t invited to Canada’s WJC camp and is too young for the AHL.
If it’s a development year, there need to be development leagues playing.
Last year’s Thankful series can be found here.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images