By Thomas Harrington
With the NHL season starting this week, Anaheim’s roster has been set the for opening night and there were some surprises. The 22 man roster will include the following players: Francois Beauchemin, Reto Berra, Kevin Bieksa, Jared Boll, Andrew Cogliano, Cam Fowler, Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Derek Grant, Korbinian Holzer, Ondrej Kase, Josh Manson, Jaycob Megna, Brandon Montour, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Dennis Rasmussen, Nick Ritchie, Logan Shaw, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette, and Chris Wagner, while Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Miller, and Patrick Eaves will start the season on IR. Over the weekend, Anaheim assigned Kevin Boyle, Giovanni Fiore, Kalle Kossila, Jacob Larsson, and Scott Sabourin to San Diego to finalize the opening night roster. It’s a bit surprising to see Anaheim go with 22 instead of 23 players. That likely means either Eaves will be ready to go soon, or the Ducks will recall someone from San Diego early in the season. Berra is up to back up Gibson, but he’ll be in San Diego once Miller is ready to go.
Sabourin had actually already been assigned to the Gulls earlier in training camp but was called up to play in the preseason finale. Several Anaheim players were banged up and the decision was made to rest more players than expected, leading to his recall. Sabourin has had a surprisingly strong training camp and preseason and this may not be the last of him that we see in Anaheim this season.
The plan was always for Boyle to be in San Diego, and he could get a lot of time with the Gulls this season. With Berra in Anaheim, for the time being, Boyle has a chance to grab the starting job in San Diego and really solidify a position in the AHL. He had strong preseason numbers with the Gulls and it will be interesting to see how he does with a potentially increased workload early in the season. He’ll still have to battle for playing time with Angus Redmond and Dustin Tokarski, but I think Boyle is the odds-on favorite to start this weekend.
Fiore was one the biggest standouts during training camp and probably the biggest surprise. Signed as a free agent over the summer after scoring 52 goals as an overage player in the QMJHL last season, he was an intriguing addition to Anaheim’s depth but wasn’t expected to be in Anaheim this season. However, after a stellar camp, he’s put himself right in the conversation to be among the first players called up from San Diego when needed. If Eaves ends up being out longer than anticipated, he could be making his NHL debut in the very near future.
Kossila had a strong camp, seeing a lot of penalty killing time, but he didn’t score enough in the preseason to earn himself a roster spot. He did get a game with the Ducks last season, and I’m confident that this is not the last of Kossila that we’ll see in Anaheim this year. If he can light things up in San Diego, he’ll find his way back to Anaheim sooner rather than later.
With Vatanen and Lindholm out, there was at least one open spot on Anaheim’s defense, but Larsson just missed it. While Larsson didn’t have a poor camp, it wasn’t good enough to crack the opening night roster. Still, he’s Anaheim’s top defensive prospect and I’m confident he’ll be called up to Anaheim during the season. For now, he can work on rounding out his game and continuing to adjust to Anaheim’s system with the Gulls.
There were a couple of surprises in terms of who made Anaheim’s final roster. To me, the biggest surprise was definitely Grant. I had him pegged as a San Diego veteran for the season who might get a game or two in Anaheim, similar to what Corey Tropp did last season. Over the summer, I was expecting either Kossila or Nicolas Kerdiles to grab that final spot. However, just because Grant is in Anaheim doesn’t mean he’ll play a ton. Anaheim’s top nine is relatively set, but the fourth line is more of a jumble. Grant could find himself as a prominent member of that unit, or he could be the odd man out most nights. If the Ducks wanted a player to be used only sparingly, then Grant is the better option, since it will give more playing time to Kerdiles, Kossila, and the rest of the team’s young forwards in San Diego. If they aren’t ready quite yet, it’s better for them to get consistent playing time instead of only a few minutes in Anaheim or being a healthy scratch most nights. That’s a role that Grant can fill, and ultimately, I think that’s one of the reasons why he made the opening night roster. With Eaves injured, he’ll likely be in the lineup early in the season. If he plays well enough, he could get more playing time than I’m currently expecting. The other option is to have Boll in the lineup on Thursday and have Grant be the healthy scratch on opening night.
The other big surprise is Megna making it over Larsson. Megna had a really impressive preseason and even scored a couple of points. He played in five games overall, behind only Kase and Montour, and was noticeable when he was on the ice. Another factor is that Megna would have to pass through waivers in order to be sent to San Diego, and Anaheim was scared another team would claim him. While he’s not a great puck mover, Megna is 6’5” and plays the body very well. He’d be an enticing player for many teams and it’s doubtful he’d clear. Between his strong preseason play and his need to go through waivers, keeping Megna up was the right call.
With the roster set, Anaheim kicked things off on Thursday night with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Arizona. San Diego will start their season today. As with the last couple of seasons, you can expect a lot of players going between both teams throughout the season, so even though certain players like Larsson, Fiore, Kerdiles, Kossila, and more aren’t in Anaheim doesn’t mean they won’t get their chance later this season.
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October 7th, 2017