The Ducks have signed winger Zack Kassian to a professional tryout contract, the team confirmed this morning.
Kassian, 32, most recently skated for the Arizona Coyotes, but prior to his 2022-23 campaign in the desert, he spent seven seasons in the Pacific Division with the Edmonton Oilers. In Edmonton, his tenure was synchronized with that of reigning scoring champion, most valuable player and most outstanding player Connor McDavid, who had been drafted by Edmonton shortly before Kassian’s arrival.
That was no coincidence, as the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Kassian became a significant protector of McDavid, and his physical play has largely been what has kept him in the NHL. His 1,360 hits rank 47th among active players despite the fact Kassian has averaged a modest 12:37 of time on ice in his career.
Originally drafted in the first round, 13th overall, by the Buffalo Sabres in 2009, his time in Buffalo concluded when the Vancouver Canucks, who came within one victory of winning the Stanley Cup a season earlier, brought in Kassian to add muscle and grit to a team that included the sublimely gifted Sedin twins as well as two sandpaper players – Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa – who would later join the Ducks.
After a tumultuous stint in Montreal, for which he never played a game, Kassian arrived, and thrived, in Edmonton. While he never developed into an offensive force as a power forward the way Todd Bertuzzi, an influential player in Kassian’s youth, did, Kassian displayed respectable touch and formidable aggression. He set career highs in games played (79) and penalty minutes (102) in 2018-19, as well as a personal-best scoring mark that he’d break the following season with 34 points in 59 games in 2019-20.
Kassian is the seventh player to sign a PTO this offseason, with more likely to come ahead of next month’s training camps. While such opportunities seldomly lead to an NHL signing, the level and recency of Kassian’s experience favor his chances. So, too, does the fact that the Ducks are in a rebuild and have placed an emphasis on physical play already this offseason with the additions of defensemen Ilya Lyubushkin, the Buffalo Sabres’ team leader in hits, and Radko Gudas, who ranks seventh among active skaters in hits.
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