Looking to keep their blueline strong, on July 22, 2014, the Anaheim Ducks announced The Anaheim Ducks announced they have signed defenseman Sami Vatanen to a two-year contract through the 2015-16 NHL season.
Vatanen, 23 (6/3/91), scored 6-15=21 points with a +9 rating and 22 PIM in 48 games with the Ducks last season. Among rookie NHL defensemen, Vatanen ranked tied for fifth in goals, fourth in points-per-game (.44) and sixth in plus/minus. On Oct. 10, 2013 vs. the New York Rangers, he set a franchise rookie record and tied the overall club record with a +5 rating in a 6-0 win. The 5-10, 183-pound defenseman made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in 2014, picking up his first career postseason assist in five games.
A native of Jyvaskyla, Finland, Vatanen won a bronze medal in his first Olympic Winter Games earlier this year in Sochi, Russia. Vatanen led all defensemen and ranked second among all players in assists (5), while also ranking tied for fourth among defensemen in points (0-5=5). Originally selected by Anaheim in the fourth round (106th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Vatanen has earned 8-15=23 points with a +12 rating with 22 PIM in 56 career NHL games.
Vatanen will be part of a defense corps anchored by Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler. He will be joined by stalwarts Ben Lovejoy, Bryan Allen, and last season's rookie sensation Hampus Lindholm. Vatanen has experienced some growing pains, and must play more consistently on a nightly basis, if he is to crack the Ducks' lineup for good. Given the continued strong play of Beauchemin, the development of Fowler as a true Top-tier NHL defenseman, the steady, intelligent play of Lovejoy, Vatanen could wind up being a vital cog in the Ducks' wheel. Most importantly, Lindholm must avoid the sophomore jinx.
Lindholm was a member of the 2014 NHL All-rookie team, along with teammate, goaltender Frederik Andersen. Andersen posted a 20-5-0 record, with a .923 save percentage. Andersen had a 9-1-0 record in his first 10 starts, tying the all-time NHL record held by Bob Froese and Frank Brimsek, for wins in first 10 NHL starts.
If all the youngsters on the Ducks roster continue to progress, Anaheim's future looks bright.
Goalie - Frederik Andersen (Ducks)
Defense - Hampus Lindholm (Ducks)
Defense - Torey Krug (Boston)
Forward - Nathan McKinnon* (Colorado)
Forward - Tyler Johnson (Tampa Bay)
Forward - Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay
* MacKinnon was awarded the 2014 Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year)