By Thomas Harrington
After playing 28 games in 14-15 season, Josh Manson played in 71 games for Anaheim this past season. He scored five goals and 15 points and became one of Anaheim’s more dependable stay at home defenders. Manson is a former sixth round draft pick and has dramatically risen up Anaheim’s depth chart over the last two seasons, surpassing several players taken earlier than him in the draft. In one of those weird NHL rules, this was technically not Manson’s rookie season, as he had appeared in more than 25 games the season before. So for those keeping track, this past season was not Manson’s rookie season, but it was John Gibson’s.
With Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Clayton Stoner, Kevin Bieksa, and Simon Despres as the Ducks’ top six to start the season, there wasn’t much room for Manson. However, he had a great preseason and training camp and made Anaheim’s roster. As the Ducks struggled through the opening month of the season, Manson struggled to stay in the lineup, playing in only four of the Ducks’ first 10 games. He also dealt with some minor injuries and a flu bug early in the season. However, after sitting out four more games in November, he only missed one more game through the rest of the season.
In the 14-15 season, Manson played well during his call-ups, but seemed to get fatigued the longer he stayed up in Anaheim. This past season, that wasn’t an issue. Once he was in the lineup on a regular basis, he was able to keep up with the speed of the NHL. He and Lindholm were put together and became Anaheim’s best shut down defensive pair. After not scoring a goal in the previous season, Manson scored his first NHL goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in early November.
Injuries to Anaheim’s top six, most notably Despres who missed a large chunk of the season with a concussion, really gave Manson a chance, and he ran with it. He was playing 17-20 minutes a night, and when Anaheim’s blue line started to get healthy, Manson had clearly worked his way out of the defensive rotation and deserved to stay in Anaheim’s lineup virtually every night. Where his value is really seen is on the penalty kill. Anaheim had the NHL’s best penalty kill unit last season, and Manson was a big reason why. He averaged 2:08 of shorthanded ice time per game last year. While that was fifth among shorthanded ice time per game among Anaheim’s defense, it was also only seven seconds less than the leader, Despres. The only defenseman who averaged more shorthanded ice time and played in more games last season than Manson was his defensive partner, Lindholm.
After a strong regular season, many were excited to see what Manson would do in the playoffs. Unfortunately, at the very end of the first period of game one, he took a high hit from Filip Forsberg and was out for the rest of the series. Personally, I think that should have at least been a penalty, if not a suspension. Manson was hit up high and contact was made to the head. It wasn’t a late hit, but there was no reason for Forsberg to hit Manson so high up. However, the NHL Department of Player Safety saw it differently and Forsberg did not miss any time. Manson suffered a concussion and a sprained shoulder from the hit. He’s expected to make a full recovery and will not need surgery on his shoulder.
As long as he makes a full recovery from his concussion, I expect Manson to pick up right where he left off, being a physical presence on the ice and a great defensive partner for Lindholm. His two-year, one-way contract will kick in this summer, after signing it last July. At only $825,000 a season, it’s arguably one of the best value deals on the Ducks’ roster. He won’t win any Norris Trophies, but he’ll give the team a reliable defender who will stick up for his teammates. If the Ducks don’t make any moves on the backend, things will be crowded on defense once again, but expect Manson to be one of the mainstays in the Ducks’ top four.
For his efforts and how much Manson has grown, both this past season and the one before that, I give him an A rating.
My next graduated prospect will be on Chris Wagner.
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