Fantasy Puck Preview: Anaheim Ducks

Scott Cullen
9/20/2009 6:59:37 AM
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The Anaheim Ducks will have a different look, now that Chris Pronger is gone, but a summer of change still leaves them with a deep enough roster to be a playoff team and have a number of viable fantasy options.

Off the top, centre Ryan Getzlaf is one of the game's brightest rising stars and his point production and penalty minutes have increased each year he's been in the league. Coming off sports hernia surgery in late July, Getzlaf may be slow off the start this season, but he's going to be anchoring one of the most dangerous lines in the entire league.

Riding shotgun with Getzlaf, Corey Perry has likewise seen his point and penalty minute totals increase in all four of his NHL seasons. They are a dangerous tandem together, possessing rare size and skill, yet also playing a rather feisty game on a consistent basis as well.

What makes this line even more dangerous is the addition of Bobby Ryan, one of the few power forwards in the league who has the hands to not only keep pace with Getzlaf and Perry, but to elevate their games as well. After budgetary concerns left Ryan in the minors to start last season, this will finally be his first chance to play a full 82-game season and his production on the top Ducks line should be impressive.

Now 39, Teemu Selanne continues to put up points (54 in 65 games last year) and he should be at least as productive this year, with the Ducks' offseason moves bringing in more proven talent to play with Selanne on the second line.

Fellow Finn Saku Koivu has arrived from Montreal and, while he and Selanne may have lost a step, they should have enough veteran savvy and chemistry to match last year's totals. In Koivu's case, that was 50 points in 65 games.

Returning to Anaheim, Joffrey Lupul has been seen as an underachiever, but has scored at least 20 goals in three of the last four seasons and the Ducks would figure to be satisfied with more of the same.

For those seeking penalty minutes, massive Russian winger Evgeny Artyukhin certainly provides that element (151 penalty minutes, 16 points in 73 games last season), if not much else.

Pronger's trade to Philadelphia leaves the Anaheim defence with a changed appearance, but Scott Niedermayer is still the leader.

Niedermayer's play has slipped since his flirtation with retirement, as he has back-to-back minus seasons, but there's still a lot to like about the 59 points, including 32 on the power play, that he produced last season.

Coming back from foot surgery last year, Ryan Whitney struggled in Pittsburgh, but his season started to turn around after he was traded to Anaheim, where his 10 points in 20 games was only slightly ahead of the pace he set in Pittsburgh (13 points in 28 games), but his plus-1 rating was a big step up from the minus-15 he had accumulated with the Penguins.

Whitney should be healthy now and will have a fine opportunity to re-establish himself as one of the better young puck-moving defencemen in the game.

A sleeper candidate on the Ducks blueline is James Wisniewski, a tremendous pickup from Chicago at the trade deadline. Wisnniewski has yet to play more than 68 games in a season, which helps explain why he's underrated, but the 25-year-old can move the puck well enough to warrant power play time, is aggressive enough to pick up penalty minutes and has been a plus player throughout his career to this point.

Anaheim's goaltending situation is a tad murky for the fantasy owner. Jonas Hiller rose to the challenge last season, when Jean-Sebastien Giguere was struggling, to emerge as the No. 1 goaltender and would figure to start the season in that role.

However, if Giguere returns to his previous form, and last year was just an aberration (his 3.10 goals against average and .900 save percentage represented the worst full-season marks of his career), then the goaltending competition should be on and it's entirely possible that Giguere will re-claim the job. That goaltending depth is good for the Ducks, but it presents uncertainty that is not so good for fantasy owners.

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