Ducks Introduce Latest Reclamation Projects

by | Nov 7, 2022

Where’d that guy come from? And that guy there? If you were watching the Ducks of late, you might well ask that question about two unfamiliar faces, Brett Leason and Glenn Gawdin. Both had sparkling careers in Junior hockey, and yet each is, at a young age, an attempted Ducks rejuvenation project.

The former has played seven games with Anaheim thus far this year. He was drafted by Washington relatively high, in the second round in 2019, 56th overall. He has played 43 total NHL games leaving the Ducks’ contest with the Panthers on Sunday, registering four goals and four assists in those games. He’s 1-1-2 with the Ducks this year in seven games. He was given up on relatively quickly by Washington, getting into only 36 games in one season with a meagre 3-3-6 points.

Maybe he had too much promise coming out of Junior, as often happens. He was in the WHL for three full seasons, the last of which he put up 36-53-89 points in 55 games in his draft year, 2018-19. With Washington, prior to his NHL half-season last year, he was in the AHL with Hershey for two full years and a half campaign (shared with his NHL half year). His points total in the second year, in which he got into 33 games, was statistically his best. He recorded 20 points.

The Ducks have him playing on the third line with Mason McTavish and Isac Lundestrom. You’d think if anything would jump start a person on offense, that might be it. (The other thing you might think is, “What the heck is Mason McTavish doing on line three?” And you’d be right to ask, but he’s got some talent ahead of him in the people of Ryan Strome and Troy Terry, two-thirds of line one, and Adam Henrique and Trevor Zegras, likewise for line two.)

How’s Leason doing? Well, he played a lazy second period versus the Panthers, sliding back on the backcheck, floating around the top of the Ducks’ zone. He waved at a guy with the puck, who then flung a long wrist shot in on net, and scored on the play. Thereafter, Jakob Silfverberg took the right-wing spot on the third line, and Leason seemed to sit a shift and then came out with Max Jones and Glenn Gawdin as the right winger on the fourth line. He later was on a rush on which he didn’t recognize the potential of a teammate going down the slot and instead dumped it into the corner.

For the night, Leason played just short of ten minutes, with an attempted shot blocked, a giveaway, and a faceoff lost. Granted this is not a huge sample size to judge on, but there’s not much to see here, folks.

The other unfamiliar face, indeed a player making his Ducks’ debut versus Florida Sunday, belongs to the aforementioned Glenn Gawdin. He was drafted by St. Louis in round four in 2015 and was signed by the Ducks in July. He has previously played for Calgary after coming off a ridiculously successful WHL career with the Swift Current Broncos. His best year with that team was 2017-18, when he got into 67 games and notched 56-69-125 points. He had grown his output every year in the four prior to that one, too. Notably, in the year he got the 125 points, he also notched 101 PIMs, so he must have been working on fighting his way to the NHL.  This would have been the year he turned 21, so he maxed out his Junior eligibility.

He then got into the pro game, playing with the Stockton Heat of the AHL for a couple of relatively successful years. His second year with the Heat, he played in 53 games, and he got 16-31-47 points. He then made his Calgary Flames debut in 2020-21, getting into seven games and recording an assist. His next year, 2021-22, he played in two games, registering no points. In the AHL, his most successful of the four seasons he’s played was last year, when he got 15-35-50 points over 62 games. This season, he started out with Anaheim’s San Diego Gulls AHL affiliate, and he registered 3-3-6 points in seven games.

Talk about the long slow path to success. Everywhere he’s been, Gawdin has done well—eventually. With the Ducks against Florida, he was playing with Max Jones and Jakob Silfverberg to start the game, but he was moved up briefly to play with Leason and Mason McTavish. His offensive instincts were on view when he dashed to the net right off the bench and created a scoring chance. But his defensive deficiencies were made apparent when he cleared a puck across the defensive zone instead of out. The Ducks took a penalty on the ensuing long period with the puck in their zone.

On the night, Gawdin played 8:38, and had a shot, a missed shot, a hit, and he blocked two shots. He was an awful 2-7 on faceoffs won/lost. Then again, the Ducks as a group were horrible in the circles, registering a 40% win rate on the puck drops.

What’s the idea of debuting these guys now? Perhaps for the Ducks to see what they’ve got. Possibly to fill in spots that otherwise would be taken by San Diego Gulls players, though why they’d need to keep that stinko team together is anyone’s guess. They’re as bad as is the big club. Perhaps to give the sense that there is depth in the organization. This is not confirmed, but probably true: Perhaps to put these guys, who were basically free shots at players other teams were at one point fairly high on, to the Verbeek eye test.

Coach Eakins didn’t say anything about these newcomers when commenting on the effort versus Florida, but he was clear in his comments about his team: “It’s a choice for me. It’s a choice that you’re not going to take the route of being good, or being mediocre, you’re going to take the route of ‘I’m going to be a high achiever, and I’m going to be a champion.’” He said that this is a choice that each player needs to make. “To do whatever you have to to get better that day.” He added that players can’t just expect others to do this, but “It has to be right inside your brain. It has to be you first, before it’s us.”

Guess what? Nobody’s listening anymore. They’ve realized that if it’s as simple as choosing, then why wouldn’t everyone choose?

Anaheim is 4-8-1 after losing to Florida. No magic is coming—not new players, not infusions of talent from the AHL, and not formulas spouted in coach-speak. It’s nice to see guys like Leason and Gawdin get a shot. Not many do, but while it’s unfair to judge them on a game, there’s not enough there to call them NHL talent, though Gawdin might have the greater chance of the two.

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