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Division Primer: The Pacific

NHL: Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s edition of our tour around the NHL divisions takes us to the West Coast. We’ve already analyzed the Metro and the Atlantic, now time for the Pacific!

Best Off-Season Acquisition:

Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas had a very interesting expansion draft. They made some good picks and trades (see: James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Shea Theodore), but alas, the expansion draft rules required the Golden Knights to pick someone from each team, and, well, let’s face it: some teams just didn’t have as much for Vegas to choose from. Of all the picks, I am most excited to see how the Canadian who helped Jaromir Jagr add another 46 points to his amazing career totals will do in a new situation, most likely on a line with Nealer.

Marchessault put together multiple quality campaigns in the AHL, but it took him a while to find his place in the NHL. In 2012-13, he amassed 67 points in 74 games with the Springfield Falcons, but in the 22 minutes of NHL ice time he was given that season, he could not produce a single point. Next year was more of the same, putting up 56 points in 77 AHL games with two different teams, and this time he managed to get a puck into the net. So through two years and four games in the NHL, Marchessault had amassed a whopping one point. He added 18 more points to that total in 45 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning the following season, but the 2016-17 season is where he really broke out of his shell. Playing in 75 regular season games with the Florida Panthers, he scored 30 goals and added 21 assists, showing flashes of the player he was in the AHL. It’s also worth noting that despite his size, the 5’9”, 174 pound forward still managed to lay down the law 105 times, which averages out to 1.4 hits per game.

Jonathan Marchessault is by no means the savior of the Vegas Golden Knights, nor will he lead them to the playoffs this season. But, he is only 26 years old, and he is a player that can be a cornerstone for this expansion franchise as they look to take off.

Worst Off-Season Acquisition:

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

Wait a minute, Nick, Cam Fowler is already on the Ducks, and he just put up 39 points this past season. How does that fit either qualifier? Well, I am going outside the box and using his contract extension as the Ducks acquisition of Cam Fowler this offseason. Anaheim signed the 25 year old D-man to an 8-year deal worth $52 million (that’s an AAV of $6.5 million for those of you who don’t feel like doing the math). Viktor Arvidsson is coming off of a season in which he put up 61 points, and he inked a new contract with an AAV more than $2 million less. Granted it was a single season that also came after a mere 16 point season, and Fowler has been putting up 30 points nearly every season, but is a guy who on most teams is a bottom four defenseman really worth the cap hit you took paying him that much?

Fowler is a great shot blocker, but in order to be a top 6 D-man, you need to be able to do more than just block shots. The Ducks’ Corsi-for percentage is more than 53% when Lindholm and Manson are on the ice, but when Fowler steps out onto the ice, the possession metric stat drops to 47%. More than that, if you look at his basic defensive stats last season, he is an okay-to-good second line defenseman, not at first-line all-star.

The Ducks made the wrong move here, and this acquisition does nothing but make me more excited for the opportunity to play the Anaheim Ducks when April rolls around.

Other Notable Additions:

  • James Neal (RIP), Vegas Golden Knights: James Neal was a talented winger for the Predators (obviously), and adding a consistent 40+ point scorer to your team who may thrive if the C is sewn onto his shoulder will help get this franchise started.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights: The Penguins have moved on, but that does not mean that he is not a good goalie anymore. Sure, he is not as talented as he once was, but Fleury is a worthwhile net-minder for the Golden Knights during their first few seasons, and he will be a presence in the locker room.
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have revamped this season. They are not quite ready to take on the top of the division, but adding a defenseman like Hjalmarsson to play alongside Ekman-Larsson makes them an improved team of last season’s Coyotes.
  • Ryan Strome, Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers shipped off Jordan Eberle, because shipping off underused, much-ballyhooed talent is what the Oilers do. And look! Oh goody! Another much-ballyhooed talent is coming to take his place! I can’t wait to see how this ends!
  • Travis Hamonic, Mike Smith, Eddie Lack; Calgary Flames: WHAT IN THE NAME OF COWTOWN ARE THE FLAMES UP TO? Solving problems by acquiring more problems? Hamonic is fine, but Smith is terrible and overpriced, while Lack is just terrible.

Player To Watch:

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks seem to have struck gold with Rickard Rakell. The 24-year old winger just turned in a 51 point season, continuing the upward motion of his statistics. He spent most of the last season on a line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and with Eaves’ production declining it looks like the Ducks’ opponents will see a lot of Perry-Getzlaf-Rakell skating up and down the ice.

According to Anaheim’s official 2017 roster, the young Swede is 6’ 2” tall and weighs in at 201 pounds. Interestingly enough, he is the smallest forward on the Ducks’ projected first line, but his size makes him a major net-front presence. Fortunately for him, Ryan Getzlaf will be the big man screening the goalie, which will allow him to focus on what they really need him for: scoring and possession. Perry and Rakell had the two highest scoring-chance-for percentages of the entire team this season, and they were the only two players on the team with that metric above 54%. Rakell’s shooting percentage this season was 18.6, a number good enough for 5th in the entire league. He also led the league in game winning goals with 10.

If Rakell’s career continues on the same upward trend it has so far, he and the Ducks will be quite a force to be reckoned with in the near future.