For a while now, the Anaheim Ducks have had a good reputation when it comes to drafting and developing their own talent.
And why not? The proof right now is certainly in the pudding. Their current roster features the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and John Gibson… All players who were drafted and developed by Anaheim, and in some cases have become some of the top players in the game.
The way the Ducks have built their roster is widely accepted now as the “right way”, especially in this day in age in the NHL when salary cap space is at a premium and teams need those young, homegrown players who don’t carry a bloated cap hit to sometimes come up and play key roles in their system.
Where this is most evident right now is in Anaheim.
The Ducks have tinkered with their roster this offseason, trying to find that right mix that will get them back to another deep playoff run. They’re also not known to be team that spends to the salary cap, so with a projected cap hit of $63.8 million according to capfriendly.com and 19 players on their roster, they’re getting close to meeting their budget.
With all this in mind, the Ducks are going to have to tap into their youth to find the production they need, and one of those players they’ll likely have to lean on more is Rickard Rakell, who is currently a restricted free agent.
Rakell isn’t totally green behind the ears. He was taken by Anaheim with the 30th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft while playing for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The following December he played for Sweden’s World Junior team and the following season after that Rakell got his first taste of NHL action when he was just 19.
He’s been a full-time player for the Ducks now for two seasons, and he even has 27 postseason games under his belt, but if Anaheim is going to make another deep postseason run anytime soon then Rakell is exactly the type of player — not a rookie, but a young player with not a lot of miles on him — that is going to be key for the Ducks this upcoming season.
The native of Sweden has appeared in 165 NHL regular season games, notching 78 points (29-49—78) in that span, while averaging 13:55 of ice time. This last season is where his game took a leap to the next level as he played in 72 games, logging 43 points (20-23—43), averaging 16:04 of ice time, a Corsi for percentage of 53.5 percent and an offensive zone start percentage of 60 percent.
His games played, goals, assists, points, average ice time and offensive zone start percentage were all career highs for the 23-year-old, while his possession was the highest it’s been as a full-time player.
His former coach Bruce Boudreau spoke to espn.com back in March about what Rakell brings to the table and how his development as a player has been on a rapid trajectory.
“Leaps and bounds,” said Boudreau to the publication when asked about how much Rakell’s game has grown. “When he’s on, he’s really good. He’s still a little inconsistent, but that again will come with experience.”
This past season was the conclusion of Rakell’s entry-level contract that lasted four seasons and carried a cap hit of $925,000 in it’s first season and $894,167 in it’s last three seasons. It wouldn’t be out of the question that his next contract will contain a cap hit north of $2 million, especially considering that his role in Anaheim is only expected to grow larger as he progresses in his career.
With the losses of David Perron and Jamie McGinn in free agency, two players who made a difference for the Ducks after they were both acquired last season, having a player like Rakell ready to pick up the slack will be a big boost for the Ducks and it just goes to show just how important developing homegrown talent can be.