By: Matthew Garcia
Entering his fifth NHL season with the Anaheim Ducks Sami Vatanen was poised and ready to help the Ducks contend for the Stanley Cup. In the 2016-2017 season, Vatanen, who appeared in 71 games, as he missed 11 due to an illness, an upper-body, and lower-body injury notched three goals and 21 assists for a total of 24 points during the regular season. While Sami may not be the biggest in the league, the Finnish defenseman uses that to his advantage as he is a great puck moving defenseman and is able to elude hits and move the puck up ice, out of dangerous territory. Vatanen, who is one of the top defensemen for Anaheim averaged more than 21 minutes of time on ice during the 16-17 season.
Vatanen, as stated above, scored three goals in the 16-17 season. And, his first goal came just four games into the regular season as the Ducks were in Newark with a date with the New Jersey Devils, Sami who is one of the quarterbacks on the Anaheim power play ripped a shot over the blocker of Cory Schneider to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead early in the game. Vatanen, showed off his impressive goaltending skills late in this game as well as he had broken his stick, went back to the bench for a new one, but on his way noticed that Andy Greene had shot the puck towards the net and sprawled out to make a diving save to keep the game within one with a minute to go in the game. On December 11, 2016, Vatanen would go on to notch his second goal of the campaign as he would find a loose puck to the side of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson and shelf it to give Anaheim a 5-1 lead. His 24 points in the 16-17 season were the lowest point totals that he recorded since the 13-14 season. Despite a down season for Vatanen, he did pass former Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for sole possession of 7th place on the Ducks’ all-time scoring list for defensemen, as well as on the team’s all-time power-play points fo a defenseman.
Vatanen, who appeared in just 12 of the 17 games of the post-season was left frustrated, as a hit along the boards in-game one of round one would knock him out of the entire four-game series against the Calgary Flames, and he would also miss the first two games of round two against the Edmonton Oilers. Despite his return to the line-up in game three, Vatanen would go on to record just one assist in his five games against the Oilers. However, the tides would turn in his favor entering the Western Conference Finals as he would go on to record five points (one goal, and four assists) in six games against the Nashville Predators, and his lone goal would be the catalyst to the Ducks’ comeback in game two as he would fire a slap shot up, over the blocker of Pekka Rinne to cut the lead in half with one minute remaining in the first period. Vatanen would end the playoffs with one goal, and five assists for a total of six points in the 12 games that he played. While he missed five games through the playoffs he still led defenseman on the Ducks roster in power-play goals.
During the off-season, Vatanen was one of the names of many Ducks defenseman to potentially be on the move with the introduction of the Vegas Golden Knights as many were concerned that the Ducks would lose a player like Vatanen, or Manson to the expansion draft. Despite all the rumors, Vatanen remained with the Anaheim Ducks as they reached an agreement with Vegas that saw them take defenseman Clayton Stoner, as well as Shea Theodore in order to protect Vatanen. In June Sami underwent the same surgery as teammate Hampus Lindholm as they each had a procedure to repair a torn labrum. Both may not be available to play until November.
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September 23rd, 2017