Ducks preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

A rising young star, John Gibson does not get nearly the amount of continent-wide respect he deserves. That can change with a long playoff run. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

With an aging veteran core and one of the NHL's best defense groups, the Anaheim Ducks look to make a big push in 2018-19.

How they finished in 2017-18: 44-25-13 (101 points), Finished 9th in NHL, 2nd in the Pacific Division

The Ducks followed up their trip to the Western Conference Final in 2017 with a very similar season as far as goals scored and prevented -- impressive, given the injuries they had -- but dissimilar in that the San Jose Sharks swept them out of the playoffs in the first round. They return with a similar roster, albeit one that's a year older and more fragile.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 95.5

Best-case scenario: John Gibson backstops them to the top five in goals-against in the NHL and the Ducks make the playoffs again, where a veteran team can potentially pull out a series or two.

Worst-case scenario: So the 2017-18 season was a wash because of the injury bug. Although Ryan Kesler misses the entire season, it's different issues that plague the 2018-19 Ducks. Anaheim wants to play faster, but they're an old, slow team that needs a changing of the guard before it can contend again.

Forward overview: This group took a major hit before the start of the season when winger Corey Perry was lost for five months with knee surgery. True, he's been on a downslope offensively for two years, but he's still a 50-point player. Other question marks include Ryan Kesler, working back from injury, and Patrick Eaves, who hopefully returns from an autoimmune disorder that ended his 2017-18 season. Ryan Getzlaf was limited to 56 games last season due to injury; if healthy, the Ducks' top line with their captain, Rickard Rakell (34 goals) and rookie Troy Terry could be one of the best in the conference. Also strong: The chemistry between center Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase on the second line. Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano and Brian Gibbons are other options on the wings. Rookie Sam Steel will likely start as the No. 3 center. NHL rank: 22nd

Defense overview: In a conference with some deep blue lines, the Ducks have one of the deepest. Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour, Korbinian Holzer (when healthy) Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn. NHL rank: 7th

Goalie overview: John Gibson didn't receive a vote for the Vezina Trophy, which is nuts. For the second straight season, Gibson backstopped the Ducks with a sterling save percentage (.926) and consistent play. He's creeping into the elite club. Former Vezina winner Ryan Miller is an above-average backup. NHL rank: 2nd

Special teams: The Ducks were 23rd in the NHL on the power play at 17.8 percent, and given the talent here that number should be higher. They were sixth on the penalty kill (83.2 percent).

Pipeline overview: The Ducks rarely trade away first-round picks and they've had particularly solid drafts over the past three years. There's a lot of depth, particularly at the forward position with the likes of Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom and Troy Terry leading the way. The only thing holding them back a bit is a lack of diversity in talent with a somewhat shallow prospect pool on the blue line. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Flying under the fantasy radar, Brandon Montour served as a pleasant surprise in 2017-18, particularly when subbing in on the power play for an injured Cam Fowler. Even with a healthy Fowler in the mix, the third-year defenseman is expected to build on last season's bundle of 32 points. Fantasy managers in deeper leagues that value power-play production should be extra aware of this young blueliner. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Randy Carlyle gets portrayed as doddering by his detractors, but he bounced back from his struggles in Toronto with back-to-back 100-point seasons. Still a little too rigid in his strategy, but he's gotten regular-season results.

Bold prediction: Kase scores 30 goals.