ANAHEIM — Ondrej Kase’s first act with the Ducks was a bit of a revelation. Now comes the all-important follow-up.
The second act for a young player after he has made his breakthrough can be just as revelatory. An upward trajectory might be expected but it is never guaranteed. Terms like the “sophomore slump” exist because there is ample proof of it.
This is what Kase looks to avoid as he enters his second year, the first where he’ll be a regular from the start of the season. No longer is he someone that wasn’t expected to be a factor for the Ducks, which he was that at this time last year.
“The first year, nobody know me,” Kase said Friday. “Now I have a little bit of name so I need to play better because the people (expect) me to play better.”
Kase, 21, was below Randy Carlyle’s radar when the coach started his own second act with the Ducks. By season’s end, the Czech right wing had played in 53 games and became enough of a spark plug that Carlyle often referred to him as their “Energizer Bunny.”
His offensive numbers were modest – five goals and 10 assists – but the scores often came in critical moments. And they usually followed with an excitable celebration that endeared him to his teammates. But as he enters another developmental season, Kase knows he has to be more than an energizing force.
Corey Perry remembers when he first made his name as a rookie in 2005-06 before entering his second season. Perry would use his rookie year as a place to jump off from in putting together a hugely productive career.
“It’s all about the maturity of a player,” said Perry, who took his goal total from 13 to 17 to 29 over his first three years. “Everybody always talk about the sophomore slump but you see a lot of guys, they come in their second year and they’re a better player. They know what the league’s all about and they know what they have to do to be successful to stay in this league.
“I think a lot of guys are using that as motivation pushing themselves forward to be a better player.”
To do so this season, Kase said he has gained 5 pounds and feels stronger “everywhere” after working out over the summer with his younger brother, David, back home. And he showed how dangerous he can be in Friday’s exhibition against the Kings, with two strong scoring chances that Jack Campbell had to made good saves on.
Carlyle is resistant to talking about where Kase – or any of his younger players – can take his…