Derek Lee The Hockey Writers
Ducks’ 2020-21 Fate Rides on Rickard Rakell’s Shoulders
After breaking out during the 2015-16 season with 20 goals and 43 points, Rickard Rakell has been relied upon by the Anaheim Ducks to be an offensive threat. At 22 years of age, Rakell was fourth on the team in points that season behind Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler.
Entering the 2020-21 season, both Perry and Kesler have played their last minutes as a Duck and it’s plausible to infer that Getzlaf may be close to finishing his career up within the next season or so as well.
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Rakell followed up the 2015-16 season with two consecutive 30-goal seasons, even leading the team in points during the 2016-17 season with 69. However, the Swede has failed to break the 20-goal threshold since then, reaching tallies of 18 and 15 in the past two seasons, respectively.
Adam Henrique has been a steady secondary scoring option and Jakob Silfverberg has been a 20-goal scorer in all but two of his NHL seasons, but both of these players have never reached the 30-goal mark and don’t possess as high of an offensive ceiling as Rakell.
Provider of Offense Needed
Rakell is now considered a veteran of the team and even though the Ducks now lack a variety of sure-fire scoring options, the 26-year-old will still be expected to shoulder more of the scoring load.
When Rakell has been scoring consistently, the Ducks have performed well. Now, was this a matter of better options taking pressure off of the forward? The jury is still out on that verdict, but the results so far haven’t been pretty.
While Silfverberg and Henrique have done as well a job as they can offensively, they don’t compare to what Kesler and Perry did when they were on the team and healthy. The collection of young forwards that the Ducks rolled out last season – most notably Sam Steel, Max Jones and Troy Terry – didn’t score very much and could not find consistency even when they did manage to score.
Rakell’s Corsi for percentage (CF%) has been relatively consistent since he became a full-time NHLer, with his CF% hovering around 50. But Rakell’s offensive point shares (OPS) dropped heavily between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, from 6.4 to 2.6.
Not surprising as well due to his decreasing points totals is the fact that his goals created total dropped below 20 in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons after creating 23 and 28 goals in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, respectively.
Rakell the Playmaker?
While Rakell’s decreasing goal totals are a concern, what has remained consistent are his assist totals. 25 and 27 assists, respectively, in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons placed him second behind Getzlaf in both seasons. If Rakell isn’t able to get back to the goalscoring form he showed during his career-year in 2017-18, the hope would be that he can reinvent himself into more of a playmaker.
Aside from Getzlaf, the Ducks no longer have any premier playmakers on their roster. While Rakell is no Getzlaf in terms of his vision or passing ability (who is, though?), having another player who sees the ice well and can hit teammates in the right spots will surely result in more goals, even if those goals aren’t coming directly from Rakell’s stick.
Rakell has always been more of a playmaker on the power play as well, contrary to what you might expect. His power-play assist totals have been higher than his power-play goal totals in every single season of his NHL career. If some of that were to translate to even-strength play, the Ducks’ offense would improve immensely.
Shape Up or Ship Out
The Ducks are in an unusual spot, stuck between going through a full-on rebuild and trying to re-tool on the fly. With Getzlaf still around and one of the league’s best goaltenders in John Gibson manning the pipes, it’s obvious that the pair would need to be shipped out in order to completely rebuild the team.
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Rakell, along with those two, will be one of the key contributors that determine what kind of fate the Ducks see this upcoming season. A bounce-back performance for the Swede would mean one step closer toward contention. But, more regression would bring the team one step closer toward tearing it all down and Rakell possibly seeing himself out the door as well.
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