The Anaheim Ducks announced on Sunday morning that defenseman Sami Vatanen was sent to the team’s AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, along with the announcement they had recalled winger Emerson Etem back to Anaheim.
Vatanen earned a place on the Ducks’ roster this year while veteran defenseman Luca Sbisa was out for a majority of the first half of the regular season due to injury. Once Sbisa returned, him and Vatanen have been competing for ice time.
While Sbisa is definitely the more experienced player and perhaps logical choice to run with throughout the playoffs, Vatanen’s play for the Ducks this season has not only been the focus of much NHL talk, but also allowed him to feature prominently at the Sochi Olympics, bringing home the bronze medal with Team Finland and adding five assists in six games to his international record.
The brilliant thing about watching Vatanen this season with the Ducks has been watching his innate chemistry with Anaheim’s blue line blossom to an unexpected level. On paper, Vatanen has six goals and 15 assists with the Ducks, but he has fed Anaheim numerous offensive chances which didn’t show up on the score sheet. Vatanen’s future is nothing less than bright.
While Sbisa is by no means a bad player, there is something a more raw about what Vatanen has created for the Ducks over the course of his games in Anaheim. It’s an intangible needed most during a run for something as mythical as the Stanley Cup.
Is Vatanen the odds-on choice? No, and right now the Anaheim coaching staff can’t be judged for sending a player like him down as there are only so many spots on the roster. But if the Ducks can’t keep their momentum through the playoffs, one of the questions people might ask is, “What if they had kept their flying V?”