It’s a great sign for Vaakanainen and his playing future that he’s able to give it a go in the minors on a short-term basis. The young defenseman has already had an injury-plagued career, and potentially his scariest injury came in a September 30 preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. Vaakanainen left the contest on a stretcher after a collision caused his head to hit the boards.
Today, it was reported that Vaakanainen had resumed practicing. It’s unclear when he’ll play in his first game with San Diego, but as he’s just returned to the ice, don’t expect it to be right away.
Vaakanainen, a stout defensive prospect, was one of the main pieces in the return from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Hampus Lindholm at last season’s trade deadline. The 2017 first-round pick eclipsed 10 NHL games for the first time in 2021-22 and remained in the league full-time with Anaheim after the trade. He had two assists in 14 games, even working his way into a top-four role.
The Ducks weren’t great last season defensively, and they haven’t demonstrated any improvement this season either. Whether or not Vaakanainen can make a material difference to the team’s porous play remains to be seen, but he would allow the team to relieve some less NHL-ready players.