Among the whirlwind of trades that came during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ acquisition of forward Carl Hagelin was among the most intriguing.
The Ducks sent young forward Emerson Etem and a 2015 second-round pick (41st-overall) to the New York Rangers in exchange for Hagelin and two 2015 draft picks (59th and 179th-overall).
While it certainly wasn’t easy letting go of Etem – a young California native with strong scoring potential – the addition of Hagelin is one that could be crucial to bolstering Anaheim’s forward corps.
It all comes down to the 27-year-old winger’s blazing speed, as Hagelin has long been respected as one of the fastest skaters in the game. With the Ducks’ forward line combinations in flux, head coach Bruce Boudreau has a few different options for where to insert the quick-footed Swede.
Given the fact his scoring ability is reliable but not prolific (he’s hovered around the 20-goal mark for the past two seasons), Hagelin figures to slot in on the third line alongside winger Andrew Cogliano and either Nate Thompson or Rickard Rakell at center. If so, the Ducks’ third line would be a dynamic force sure to keep opposing defenders on their heels, as it would be one of the fastest lines in the league.
Cogliano’s speed is undeniable – he made it known at the 2009 All-Star festivities when he won the Fastest Skater competition, completing the event with a time of 14.31. Hagelin topped the mark in 2012 when he won the competition himself, setting the fastest time in the event’s history up until that point (13.218).
Featuring both Cogliano and Hagelin on one line would be a nightmare for opposing defenseman, especially with a capable centerman like Thompson or Rakell between them. Adding in the Ducks’ young, mobile defensive group behind them – all of whom are capable of chipping in offensively – could give Anaheim a formidable option on their third line.
The key here is that said line would be their third. Anaheim could first put out their elite primary trio featuring Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry – one of the most dangerous scoring duos in the league – followed by their top-end second line featuring Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. With opposing coaches using their first and second defensive pairings against these two groups, the absurdly quick third line could find some excellent scoring opportunities if faced with their opponent’s third, and thus weakest, defensive duo.
Another option for Hagelin would be top-six duties alongside either Getzlaf or Kesler.
Given his elite speed and promising skill, Hagelin could serve as an excellent third man to either Getzlaf and Perry or Kesler and Silfverberg – using said speed to either lead the rush and dish to these elite scorers or simply find space and wait for opportunities.
With the game changing in a manner that values speed more than ever before, having an asset like Hagelin is essential for a club like Anaheim, who proved last season that they’re just a couple moves away from a championship.
The Ducks looked unstoppable through the first two rounds of the 2015 playoffs before falling just short in a seven-game series against the veteran Chicago Blackhawks.
Hagelin’s addition could be key for the Ducks’ next postseason run. He hasn’t been known to rack up points – his career high in regular season goals is 17, scored both last season and the one prior – but his speed makes him extremely opportunistic.
Able to get up ice in no time at all, Hagelin could work well with an elite playmaker like Getzlaf, who could capitalize on that speed with well-timed stretch passes that put the puck on Hagelin’s stick behind the opposing defensemen – a play the Rangers often took advantage of.
Given Hagelin has hit 17 goals for the past two seasons, he could certainly be a consistent 20-goal scorer in Anaheim if given a bigger role in the offensive attack.
The young winger has a knack for finding the back of the net at key moments as well, having scored nine game-winners over his last two seasons. Simply put, Hagelin’s combination of speed, skill with the puck on his stick, and clutch scoring makes him a game-changing option for the Ducks, and he should be able to help them post a stronger playoff result in 2016.
One obstacle remains before this can come to be, however – Anaheim will have to get him signed to a new contract. Hagelin is currently a restricted free-agent, and is due for a raise after making $2.4 million last season. Luckily the Ducks have plenty of cap space to work with (upwards of $20 million), so getting Hagelin and Silfverberg (also an RFA) signed shouldn’t be an issue.
It remains to be seen exactly how Boudreau will choose to utilize Hagelin, but one thing is clear – the Ducks’ offense will be even tougher to handle next season than it was in 2014-15.