Anaheim Ducks: Lesser Known Players Making A Big Impact

SKCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 29:  Nick Bonino (R) #63 of the Anaheim Ducks receives high fives from the bench after scoring his first NHL goal in the second period against the Dallas Stars at the Honda Center on March 29, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When you've got players on your team like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne...

Okay, this could go on for a while.

The point is, those guys are going to be discussed a lot because of who they are and what they bring to their team.

These guys are often criticized because they should be.  The teams they play for, and the fans who cheer for them, expect them to live up to their names on a regular basis.

I am no exception. I discuss them at length because they're the playmakers.  They're the goal scorers, the defenders, the men in the big pads blocking the net. I expect them to be the best they can be and to earn every penny of the millions they're signed for.

And I've somehow reserved the right to bash on them when things go wrong.

Not this time (I'll save that for its own end of the season post)!

No, this time, I want to take a look at the little guys. The lesser known names, the ones who've been working their butts off for their team for the entire season just to stay in the lineup or get more than five minutes of ice time. 

These are the guys who make the most of those five minutes. 

Thanks to a less-than-stellar performance from the Ducks this season, and the fact that they're all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason, many of their bottom forwards were given a chance to play in recent games.

Players like George Parros, Mike Brown, and Ryan Carter have been playing a game of lineup tag with one another.  The problem is, there isn't enough space in the lineup for these three to be in the game on a regular basis, and sometimes these are the guys working the hardest.

George Parros, who never turns down a chance to fight, even while he's been battling a bad hand all season.

Mike Brown, who might be the only guy on the roster to give Teemu Selanne a run for his money in the speed category, is a workhorse on any given night.

Ryan Carter, who is like a magnet for unfortunate injuries, is never able to get in enough games to find a consistent stride to stay in the lineup.

These guys are the fillers. They seem to do it without question. None of them will finish on the top of the scoring charts or play massive amounts of minutes, however, it's the energy they bring to the game and the occasional lucky goal that the Ducks benefit from the most. 

Most importantly when they are called upon to step onto the penalty killing unit, or step in for an injured player, fans are reminded why it is so difficult to see their names on the scratch list from time to time.

And when fans are frustrated with the lackluster performance of the big names, it's reassuring to see the lesser known men who fight for minutes, who are fighting for their hockey careers, to continue to fight for 60 minutes. Or at least for the three or four minutes they do get on the ice every other game.   

But it goes beyond the shuffled fourth-liners. 

This season, the Ducks have been rewarded greatly from the forceful playmaking of Kyle Chipchura and Troy Bodie. Bodie, who in my book has been one of the biggest and best additions of this season, continually surprises me with his size, speed, and aggressiveness.  

Along with Bodie, the Ducks have been handed a great deal of luck with some rookies this season who have proved that with a solid consistent effort that they're worth keeping in the lineup regularly. 

Chances are rookies Dan Sexton and Matt Beleskey will be fighting for a regular spot on the roster next season. These guys came in to provide some relief when the team needed healthy hands. They've proved their staying power as both have bounced between the NHL and the Ducks' many affiliates this season.

Beleskey, who is a superb fit alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, is a young energetic forward with speed and a physical presence to his game that meshes well on the clubs' top line.

While Sexton is always going to battle with his small size, it doesn't keep him from rushing up the ice or battling for the puck along the boards. A short stint on the second line with Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan (which may have been the best line the Ducks have had all season long) was where fans quickly got on board with the "Sex Monster." 

One of the newest Anaheim assets was given his first taste of the NHL due to the reoccurring injury to Getzlaf. A gritty player, something Anaheim is definitely in the market for, Nick Bonino is already striving to make a name for himself as he picked up his first NHL goal on Monday night against the Dallas Stars

He's shown proficiency in the faceoff circle averaging just over 51 percent in his first two games.

In a fitting manner, Bonino's first NHL goal came on an assist from Teemu Selanne shortly after the veteran winger was recognized in front of his fans for becoming the 18th player in NHL history to score 600 career goals. 

Bonino is on his way, only 599 more to go.   

Don't misunderstand, I'd never ask for a rookie to replace the talent that someone like Perry or Getzlaf possess. The passion and the work ethic? Perhaps that is where these lesser known players are superior. 

But it's not just the forwards making an impact this season. Defenseman Brett Festerling has managed to find a role on the team after a brief stint with the Ducks last season before being sent back down. 

Festerling returned a better player because of that experience. More physical along the boards and showing that he's learned a bit of hockey smarts in the process, Festerling has definitely improved over the course of the season. 

Likewise, Sheldon Brookbank has finally cracked the lineup to become somewhat of a regular. Perhaps his consistent hard work in practice has paid off, as he was given one of the final spots on the blue line over the course of the final months of the season. 

Since losing James Wisniewski to the eight game suspension he's serving, Brookbank has been filling in by playing more minutes and even picking up some odd power play and penalty killing time. 

Overall, the Ducks have few positives to take from this lackluster season, however, these few players might just be the best medicine for the team moving forward. 

With players like Selanne, Koivu, and Scott Niedermayer questionable for a return next season, the Ducks will be reliant on the lesser known names to produce a bigger impact in the future.


    Will Hoffman, Panthers Get Last Laugh?

    NHL logo

    Will Hoffman, Panthers Get Last Laugh?

    James O'Brien
    via ProHockeyTalk

    Dahlin Could Provide Buffalo with Much-Needed Boost

    NHL logo

    Dahlin Could Provide Buffalo with Much-Needed Boost

    Joey Alfieri
    via ProHockeyTalk

    Karlsson Wants Long-Term Deal with Golden Knights

    NHL logo

    Karlsson Wants Long-Term Deal with Golden Knights

    Las Vegas Review-Journal
    via Las Vegas Review-Journal

    Kopitar: Doughty Should Stay with Kings

    NHL logo

    Kopitar: Doughty Should Stay with Kings