Young defensemen Josh Mahura, Jacob Larsson earning ice time with Ducks

ANAHEIM — Josh Mahura is 20. Jacob Larsson is 21.

If everything had gone to plan this season, if the Ducks were not so battered and bruised and if their veterans had played up to expectations, then the two 20-something defensemen would be playing with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL.

Instead, Mahura and Larsson were in the Ducks’ lineup for Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center. Injuries and subpar play opened the door for Mahura and Larsson, but Mahura and Larsson walked through and made themselves at home.

Neither has merited talk of an All-Star selection, been mentioned as a rookie of the year candidate or played to the standards of a Norris Trophy winner.

Mahura and Larsson have played well enough to keep playing, though, and that’s been significant for the Ducks. Despite everything that has gone haywire for the Ducks this season, they’ve maintained their edge defensively, as evidenced by their overall 2.72 goals-against average.

Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.

No question, their defensive play has been a group effort, starting with goaltenders John Gibson and Ryan Miller and continuing with their youthful defense corps and their collection of responsible forwards. But they wouldn’t have the league’s sixth-best defense if not for the play of their defensemen.

Mahura has played four games and recorded one assist with a plus-3 defensive rating. Larsson has played 19 games and recorded two assists and a minus-8 rating. Mahura and Larsson have earned their roles and their ice time with the Ducks.

So far, anyway.

“We have a small sample size here,” Coach Randy Carlyle said. “We don’t have 80 games. I always look at it, and people always raise their eyebrows, as you really don’t know what you have in an NHL defenseman until he plays 300 games. That’s a lot of hockey.

“You’ve got to give them that kind of test drive, and that’s a fairly extensive test drive.”

SO FAR, SO GOOD

The Ducks’ philosophy, as explained by Carlyle and General Manager Bob Murray down the years, is to develop young players and bring them along when they’re ready to become NHL players. The Ducks would rather be too late than too early, as Carlyle and Murray have said repeatedly.

Mahura could be headed for a return to the Gulls sooner or later, especially with Cam Fowler on the mend after surgery to repair complex facial fractures last month. Larsson appears set with the Ducks, particularly after Murray traded Marcus Pettersson to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Meanwhile, veteran defensemen Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr have remained in San Diego.

“We wouldn’t have envisioned Mahura coming out of training camp to be on our roster, but through injuries and through the progression of our group and making some changes in our group, those young players are now expected to perform at a higher level,” Carlyle said.

“Those are tests. We’re testing Josh Mahura. We’re still testing Jacob Larsson.”

AHEAD OF PACE

Despite their many injuries, despite their seven-game losing streak and their disjointed play earlier this season, the Ducks (15-10-5) were actually better off in 2018-19 after 30 games than they were last season, exactly the same as they were in 2016-17 and ahead of their pace of 2015-16.

You would have to go back to 2014-15, when the Ducks were 19-6-5, to find a better season-opening stretch of 30 games than this one. Or the one in 2016-17, when they also were 15-10-5 after 30 games in Carlyle’s first season in his second stint with the Ducks.

***

Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.