It seemed like for the longest time, the Anaheim Ducks had a revolving door on the left wing of the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry line.
Over his two separate tenures with the Ducks, Dustin Penner at times teamed up with Getzlaf and Perry to form the PPG line. While they had some success, eventually they had to move on from Penner.
With Anaheim picking in the top ten and knowing they play one of the heaviest, physical games in the league, they selected power forward prospect Nick Ritchie to hopefully be the answer on the wing for the top line for the Ducks.
A few years before they drafted Ritchie, they took another player, who originally the organization had a different endgame in mind, but instead, he has ended up rounding out the Ducks’ top line.
Draft day steal, tough coming up
As a part of a draft-day trade, the Ducks slid back a couple of picks and ended up with two picks in the top-40 (fun fact... that second-rounder they got, the Ducks took John Gibson, essentially getting Rakell and Gibson for a late round pick).
With their first pick of the draft, the last of the first round, they selected Rickard Rakell, who at the time was playing with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) but hailed from Sweden.
During his last two years with Plymouth, Rakell registered 49 goals in 100 games, establishing himself as a potentially goal-scoring center that could hopefully settle in behind Getzlaf on the depth chart.
His first full professional season was a bit lackluster, as Rakell didn’t register a goal in 18 NHL games but did tally 14 while in the minors.
The next season, playing 71 games, he registered just nine goals, while playing just 12:34 per contest. That total was good for 11th among Ducks’ forwards who played at least 41 games that season. He was playing bottom-six minutes and put up those kinds of numbers.
Breakout as a shooter
For the past three seasons now, including this year, after a rough start to his career, Rakell has emerged as one of the best goal scorers in the league.
Of all forwards to have played at least 2,000 minutes at 5v5 over the last three years, only Pittsburgh Penguins’ forwards Evgeni Malkin has scored at a better rate, and at a higher percentage than Rakell.
Last year alone, only Auston Matthews and Jeff Skinner scored more goals at 5v5 than Rakell, as the Ducks’ forward registered 26 over the course of the 2016/17 season.
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For over a decade now, the Ducks have been led by Getzlaf and Perry. While that still is the case today, Rakell leads the team in both goals and points. His total goals put him in a tie for 16th in the league.
Laine was added, although he didn't qualify due to having less than 2,000 minutes played because he has been as good as the rest, so it helped to put Rakell's performance in perspective.
Of all the players ranked in the top-20 in goals scored this season, maybe only Anders Lee is less recognizable than Rakell, and that is probably due to the latter's All-Star Game appearance in January.
Still, Rakell has proven over the last three years that he is one of the game’s best sniper, who has taken full advantage of getting to play with Getzlaf and Perry.
Having a single season where you sit towards the top of the league in shooting percentage is one thing, but to be among the best over a course of several, that truly shows your worth.
Among the Ducks’ forwards, Rakell, along with Ryan Kesler, are signed the longest. That means that the future of the Ducks could rest on the shoulders of Rakell, especially as Getzlaf and Perry reach the end of their careers.
The Ducks are among the hottest teams in their division, with only the Arizona Coyotes holding a better record over their past ten games. Rakell has had a big part in that, as the forward has scored six goals over his last four games played, including a hat-trick against the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite an All-Star appearance, Rakell still remains one of the league’s best kept secrets. Playing on the west coast helps with that, but now is as a good a time as any - with the Ducks transitioning who their best players are... to recognize just how good of a shooter Rakell has become.
Where does Rakell rank among the game's best shooters? Should he get more recognition among his peers? Let us know in the comments below.