There’s already adversity in the Anaheim Ducks’ camp and the veterans haven’t even reported yet.
Center Rickard Rakell, who was supposed to represent Sweden in this month’s World Cup of Hockey, never made the flight to Toronto from Europe as was forced to stay back and stay in the hospital following surgery to fix issues related to an appendectomy he had done last spring. Issues that were causing him “enormous pain” according to The Orange County Register.
The publication added that Rakell will need to rest for two weeks before he can resume hockey activities.
His injury further clouds his immediate future with Anaheim because Rakell is still a restricted free agent. Before the injury, it was looking more and more likely that he could miss the start of training camp as he and his agent Peter Wallen have been unable to reach a new deal with the team.
If the situation has caused General Manager Bob Murray any stress, it’s easy to see why. Rakell is one of the Ducks newer homegrown stars, as he was taken by the organization with the 30th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
He made his debut during the 2012-13 season and wound up playing in four games that year. Rakell played 18 games the following season, but he really solidified a spot in the Anaheim lineup in 2014-15 when he appeared in 71 regular season games and notched 31 points (9-22—31) with an average ice time of 12:34. Last year, he took another step forward when he played in 72 regular season games and posted 43 points (20-23—43), while his average ice time jumped to 16:04.
He turned 23 in May and the sky is the limit for the young forward who is slowly becoming one of Anaheim’s top secondary scorers once you peel back the elite top-line talents like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
So, with Rakell on the mend and possibly out for a period of time after that, who can step up and fill his shoes?
The first candidate will likely be Antione Vermette, who is looking to regain his scoring touch in his first season in Anaheim. He’s posted just 38 points in consecutive seasons as he went from Arizona to Chicago in a trade, and then back to the Coyotes as a free agent last offseason.
What Vermette brings to the Ducks as a temporary Rakell replacement is upside. While his offensive production has been lower in recent years and he’s starting to enter the later stages of his career, Vermette is a player who has put up as many as 65 points in the past and any return to being a 45 to 50 point guy for the Ducks could be big bonanza to his new team.
But the fact that he is beginning to enter the later stages of his career is his downfall, too. There’s no guarantee he’ll regain the scoring touch he had even as recently as a couple seasons back, and when Rakell does return to the Ducks lineup there’s a chance he’ll move up the depth chart above Vermette as he simply carries more upside right now.
Another candidate to help fill some of the slack left behind could be Andrew Cogliano, who is entering his sixth season with the club.
The Toronto native was taken by Edmonton with the 25th overall selection in the 2005 Entry Draft and made his first appearance in a Ducks sweater in 2011, where he went on to notch 26 points (13-13—26) in 82 games that season.
If you had to sum up Cogliano’s time in Anaheim with one word it would have to be “consistent.” He has appeared in every one of Anaheim’s regular season contests since 2011 and has consistently scored between 25 to 30 points, with the exception of 2013-14 when he picked up 42.
If Cogliano is going to be a suitable replacement for Rakell until he returns, he’ll need to show more of the scoring touch he posted in 2013-14 and run with the potential of more playing time, as he’s averaged around 14:00 per game over the last couple of seasons.
In the absence of Rakell, the Ducks have depth. It’s just up to the depth on how suitable of a replacement they’ll be.