The Anaheim Ducks will enter a new era in 2022/23 after long-time Captain Ryan Getzlaf decided to hang up his skates following 17 seasons with the franchise, 12 with the C on his chest.
In the first half of last season, the Ducks showed signs that their long re-build was coming to fruition, before the momentum ran out and they finished seventh in the Pacific Division with a 31-37-14 record, missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
|NHL Season 2022/23
|USA and Canada
|October 7th 2022 - June 2023
|How to watch:
|ESPN+, Star+, NHL.TV
|COL Avalanche +425, TOR Maple Leafs +800, FLA Panthers +900, TB Lightning +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1100
Despite the season petering out, there were plenty of positives for the Ducks to take into 2022/23, not least the breakthrough performances of forwards Trevor Zegras, 21, and Troy Terry, 24.
Terry led the team with 37 goals and 67 points, which was the first time since 2017/18 that a Duck had surpassed 30 goals and 60 points.
Zegras was second with 23 goals, 61 points, thrilling fans with his highlight-reel 'Michigan' goals and finishing second in Calder Trophy voting as rookie of the year.
On defence, 20-year-old Jamie Drysdale also continued to show significant promise scoring 32 points (four goals, 28 assists) and looks set to be a mainstay on Anaheim's blue-line for years to come.
The trio will be joined in the new season by another first-round pick who is expected to make a big impression in the league, Mason McTavish.
The 19-year-old captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the recent 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, leading all players in scoring (eight goals, seven assists for 17 points) and was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Despite Terry and Zegras excelling offensively, the Ducks still finished 24th in NHL scoring 232 goals, an average of 2.8 per-game.
General Manager Pat Verbeek addressed the issue on the first day of free agency, signing forwards Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano, both from the New York Rangers.
Centreman Strome registered 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) in 74 games last season and Vatrano 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) in 21 games split between the Rangers and Florida Panthers.
Each have been regular contributors in the NHL and will significantly improve Anaheim's top-six which also includes Adam Henrique who had a respectable 2021/22 scoring 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists).
Thirty-year-old defenceman John Klingberg was one of the biggest names available in free agency and so it came as quite a surprise that he chose to sign in Anaheim, following eight years with the Dallas Stars.
However, Klingberg was left with few options after entering the off-season with lofty expectations of a long-term deal, which was never forthcoming.
After sacking his agent, the Swede agreed to a one-year deal with the Ducks, who will give him the opportunity to prove his worth before entering free agency again.
Klingberg scored 374 points (71 goals, 303 assists) in his 552 games with the Stars, 148 (19 goals) of which came on the powerplay, so he will play a significant role to support Anaheim's offence, but it's debatable how much he improves them defensively.
The defensive side of Klingberg's game has been heavily questioned and it's uncertain whether his addition was the right one for a team who conceded the 10th most goals in the league last season (271) and had the 20th ranked penalty-kill.
With Klingberg, Drysdale, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and Urho Vaakanainen, the Ducks have plenty of mobility on their back-end, but they lack stability and a defensive snarl, which can also be said of the forward group.
Because of this, Anaheim are likely to be involved in many high-scoring affairs. They'll be a fast and fun team to watch, but whether it will be a recipe for success is questionable.
Netminder John Gibson has quashed rumours linking him with a move away from the Ducks, stating he is committed to the long-term project.
The 29-year-old established himself as one of the better goalies in the NHL between 2015 and 2019, regularly hitting a .920 save-percentage or above.
His numbers have fallen over the past three seasons to just over .900, but he has not been helped by the aforementioned lack of defensive support in front of him.
While that may not have improved enough this year, goaltending is certainly not an area of concern for coach Dallas Eakins, who also has the reliable Anthony Stolarz to call upon.