By David Solis and Michael Walters
Ryan Kesler has been a great addition to the Anaheim Ducks. At the start of this season, he made most teams think twice about who to play against the Ducks top line and second line. During last season Kesler played in 81 of 82 games and could have played in all 82, but Bruce Boudreau decided to rest him for one game prior to the playoffs.
During the regular season Kesler scored 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 total points. He had five power play goals and one shorthanded goal. He also had four game winning goals. His +/- was -5, which is understandable considering he matched up against the opponent’s top line(s) almost every night. Kesler won 56.6% of the face offs he took in the regular season, which is just inside the top 20 amongst NHL centers last season.
Kesler didn’t disappoint in the playoffs. In 16 games he scored 7 goals and registered 6 assists for 13 total points. He scored the game winning goal on April 22nd against the Winnipeg Jets to complete the four game sweep. His biggest assist came in OT of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final when he took a shot on Corey Crawford, creating a rebound for the game winning goal by Matt Beleskey. He also assisted Jakob Silfverberg on his game winning goal in Game 2 against the Winnipeg Jets. Kesler won 57.6% of his face offs in the playoffs, which was 4th amongst centers that played at least 12 games in the 2015-16 playoffs.
Behind his personal stats, Kesler brings many intangibles to the Ducks and the game of hockey in general. He has a winning attitude, quality work ethic, and ability to make players around him play to their full potential. When the Ducks beat the Jets in the first round of the playoffs, he was quoted numerous times about how winning a series was great, but the Stanley Cup is still the goal. When Kesler received his contract extension he commented, “This group is not satisfied until we win a Cup. When we win, I don’t think we’ll be satisfied. We’re gonna want another.”
His attitude has been contagious in the Ducks locker room and it has translated into the players’ performances on his line. Matt Beleskey had 8 goals and 1 assist for 9 points in the playoffs. Jakob Silfverberg recorded 4 goals and 14 assists for 18 points. How effective was the Ducks second line? They recorded 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. The trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Patrick Maroon also scored 19 goals and added 30 assists for 49 points. Kesler elevated the play of the Ducks second line and was a major reason for the Ducks deep playoff run.
With the six year contract extension for Kesler, Ducks fans can look forward to the Anaheim having two top lines that can compete and help continue the winning ways in Anaheim. We give Kesler an A+ because the numbers don’t lie, but also due to his intangibles and his ability to elevate the game of his line mates.
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