Ducks 2022-23 Superlatives: Forward Edition


It’s been a difficult season for the Anaheim Ducks. Their 23-47-12 record marks the lowest in franchise history, and their last-place finish gives them a 25.5% chance at landing the top spot for the 2023 NHL Draft. Even if Anaheim doesn’t succeed in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, they’re guaranteed to draft within the top three and will walk away with another blue-chip prospect in the system.

Related: 3 Takeaways from Ducks’ Season Finale Loss to Kings

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Before we get excited about new players joining the Ducks, let’s take a look at some superlatives from the 2022-23 season. For better or worse, these players had a significant role in shaping the year that was. Today we are covering the forward group.

Best Forward: Trevor Zegras

Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras have spent most of the season as the team’s top-two scorers. Terry held the edge after a slow start from Zegras, but his two-week absence with an upper-body injury in February allowed Zegras to pull even in goals (23) and take the outright lead in assists (42).

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Choosing between Zegras and Terry is effectively a toss-up, and I’m leaning on total points and missed opportunities. Zegras is a pure playmaker and needs more finishing talent around him. I was optimistic he would produce closer to a point-per-game rate this year, but that level of scoring output relies on everyone on the ice. His on-ice shooting percentage, effectively Anaheim’s shooting percentage while Zegras is on the ice, was 9.58%, which ranks 74th among forwards with at least 700 minutes played. With better shooting around him, Zegras’ team-leading 65 points could have been even more impressive.

Worst Forward: Derek Grant

Unfortunately, there were a lot of nominees for this dubious honor. Jayson Megna holds the low point in Corsi For percentage (37.04 CF%). If Sam Carrick was on the ice for a high-danger chance, there was a nearly 70% likelihood it was directed at his own net. And with one of the league’s worst penalty kills, Max Comtois’ 76 penalty minutes helped further tip the ice in their opponent’s favor.

Derek Grant earns the nod for Worst Forward for several reasons. From a numerical standpoint, he’s not too far behind some of those low marks previously mentioned, and his 18 points weren’t exactly enough to negate the action happening in the defensive zone. He earns Worst Forward for the role he’s supposed to fill. Over the last several seasons, Grant has been a part of head coach Dallas Eakins’ shutdown line. He’s oftentimes leaned on as a penalty-killer and a common choice for defensive zone faceoffs. While he may be a more reliable option on the draw than the younger centers like Zegras and Mason McTavish, he can rarely exit the defensive zone without chipping the puck out and ceding possession. This turns into extended defensive shifts, and suddenly, Anaheim’s minus-129 goal differential becomes more explainable.

Most Disappointing: Ryan Strome

Like with Worst Forward, there was plenty of competition for the most disappointing forward. Isac Lundestrom missed 20 games and finished with 15 fewer points than the career-high he set a year ago. Comtois’ numbers have improved from last year’s disaster, but they still represent a sharp drop from his 2019-20 campaign. But this year’s free-agent adds were truly disappointing, and we’re going to select our winner from that group. Ryan Strome signed a five-year contract with the Ducks in July after four seasons with the New York Rangers. The move made sense for the Ducks on paper — Anaheim is deep at center, but it’s an incredibly young group. While Zegras was already the de facto top-line center, Strome’s signing allowed the Ducks to be patient with Mason McTavish’s development during his rookie season.

Ryan Strome Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Strome, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This plan made sense until the games began. Even though it took a month before we saw any lineup changes, McTavish was ready to center a line, and Strome was drowning in a top-six role. His 5-on-5 numbers paint him as the worst defensive center on a generationally bad defensive team. Among Ducks’ centers, he’s seen the most scoring chances against (729) and high danger chances against (361), as well as the most expected goals against (73.8).

This isn’t a condemnation of Strome or his contract. He can settle into a more appropriate middle-six role, with more skilled forward prospects emerging in the coming years. A $5 million salary may be a bit of an overpay, but the Ducks aren’t pressed against the salary cap, and he would give them an element of depth scoring that has been absent on the roster since their deep playoff runs in the mid-2010s. Even if better days are ahead, this was a very disappointing debut for Ryan Strome in Anaheim.

Most Likely to Improve: Mason McTavish

Even in a lost season, the Ducks had a few measuring sticks for success that went beyond the win/loss column. Chief among these was the development of rookie Mason McTavish. The third overall pick in the 2021 Draft, McTavish has had a busy start to his hockey career. He appeared in nine games for the Ducks last season but was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League before burning a year on his entry-level contract. After a Memorial Cup run where he scored 69 points in 43 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, he was named captain of the Canadian World Junior Championship team. He was the tournament’s leading scorer, and his overtime heroics in the championship game against Finland built a career-defining play before his twentieth birthday.

Starting his official rookie season in Anaheim as a depth winger feels underwhelming, considering what he accomplished leading up to his NHL career. While Eakins has been painfully hesitant to unleash the younger players on the roster, McTavish was too good not to play center. His move to the middle finally happened by November, but his usage remained perplexing. He was slotted on the fourth line and would even move back to the wing for career-minor leaguers like Glenn Gawdin. Even with the questionable usage, he finished third among rookies with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists). With a more normal offseason ahead of him and a new head coach likely behind the bench in Anaheim, I’d expect a big sophomore season from McTavish.

Most Likely to Succeed (Ryan Getzlaf as Captain): Troy Terry

One of the lingering questions regarding the rebuild is who emerges as the team’s captain. In their 29 seasons as a franchise, the Ducks have enjoyed tremendous stability amongst their leadership group. Ryan Getzlaf’s 12 years as captain are fresh in our heads, but his tenure followed franchise precedent. 23 of Anaheim’s seasons have been captained by one of Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, or Paul Kariya. Entering the 2022-23 year without a captain sends a clear enough signal that there isn’t a rush to name one, especially as the franchise emerges from a multi-year rebuild. But with several key pieces reaching the NHL and a few more nearing NHL readiness, the list of potential successors starts to thin out. Few are better suited to take the job than Terry.

Troy Terry Anaheim Ducks
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Terry, 25, is the only prospect to truly emerge from former general manager Bob Murray’s “soft reset” era when the belief was that the likes of Terry, Comtois, Sam Steel, and Max Jones would invigorate an aging Ducks’ lineup and prevent the full-on rebuild the team is currently undergoing. After a few seasons of modest production, he broke out in a big way last season with 67 points in 75 games (37 goals, 30 assists). This year, he was named to his second consecutive All-Star Game and finished second on the team in scoring with 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists) despite missing 12 games.

I first suggested Terry could become captain in Nov. 2021. At the time, he had just ended the career-high 16-game point streak, at the onset of his breakout. He was playing on a line with Getzlaf, and the influence was clear. While Getzlaf was becoming the leading scorer in franchise history, his effusive praise of Selanne stuck with Terry because that was how he viewed Getzlaf. Even in a short question-and-answer segment, done this month, he referred to Getzlaf as his favorite Ducks’ player. As far as NHL captains are concerned, there are few better to model yourself after than Getzlaf, and there are few better prepared for that role than the teammate he affectionately nicknamed “Timmy.”

Stay tuned for superlatives for the defensive group coming next week.

Statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-Reference.

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