Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
The Anaheim Ducks should still be among the best teams in the Western Conference come 2019-20. Though many of their offensive stars will be getting a little long in the tooth, they should have one of the best groups of defensemen in the entire league.
The Ducks are so flush with young defensemen they traded Shea Theodore – their No. 1 prospect, and the 22nd-ranked prospect overall in Future Watch – to the Golden Knights for nothing more than future considerations. Still, three years from now their blueline will be anchored by the likes of Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson, each of whom will still be under 30 years old.
Up front, the big question is how productive their current stars will be as they reach their mid-30s. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler are all signed through 2020-21 at a combined $23.75 million. That’s a lot of cap space tied up in three 35-year-old forwards.
But if that trio remains effective, there are some good young forwards to pass the torch to. Rickard Rakell just had a breakout season, signed an extension, and will be just 27 three years from now. Jakob Silfverberg had a breakout season of his own, and though he’s a free agent after the 2018-19 season, it says here they will sign him to a long-term extension. The Ducks’ moves around the expansion draft, including trading Theodore, shows how serious they are about keeping the young winger.
The Ducks have some highly touted prospects to fill out the forwards corps. Left winger Max Jones and center Sam Steel should be ready for prime time in 2019-20 and given a chance to play in scoring roles. U.S. world junior hero Troy Terry should be ready to see time on the fourth line.
In goal, John Gibson is a restricted free agent after the 2018-19 season, but he is a no-brainer to sign a long term, lucrative contract. By 2019-20, he’ll be in the prime of his career and just might be one of the Top 3 goaltenders in the league. There's no other goalie of note in their system, so we'll give the back-up job here to Angus Redmond, an undrafted goalie out of Michigan Tech who had a great season in the NCAA.
GOT IT: Young defensemen. We mentioned the household names already on the roster, but they also have two Top 30 prospects in Jacob Larsson and Brandon Montour. Both could start to see regular NHL duty this coming season.
NEED IT: Forward depth. The top six look pretty good, again, assuming Getzlaf and Perry still have it three years from now. But the bottom six has some question marks. We’ve got a 2017 second-round pick (Maxime Comtois) slated for fourth line duty here, along with 36 year old Patrick Eaves. Ondrej Kase was a seventh-round pick in 2014 who appeared in 53 games for the Ducks this season, but doesn't have a very high ceiling.
CAP WATCH: The Ducks will be in a tricky situation. As of today they have more than $47 million committed to eight players in 2019-20. Plus, we’re putting Silfverberg and Gibson down for big extensions, and Manson and Montour will need new deals, too. They might have no choice but to rely on some of their young kids on entry-level deals.
BOTTOM LINE: Their forwards might be a little slow and have a hard time keeping up with the likes of the young Oilers and Flames, but their ‘D’ more than makes up for it. If that D-corps projects out as we expect it to, this is a sure playoff team and potential contender.
Up next: Arizona Coyotes