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In a dreadful year for Ducks, young stars Terry, Steel offer glimmer of hope for the future

Anaheim is about to close the chapter one one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but a couple of young stars are set to make an impact in the near future.

The Anaheim Ducks were poised to have a transitional year. With the Ducks too old and slow to compete, it became clear Anaheim was going to need young guys to step up and pull their weight. And that became all the more necessary as injuries placed a damper on Anaheim's chances of squeaking into the playoffs. Each of their top-six defensemen have been injured at some point this season, Ryan Getzlaf, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry missed large chunks of the season and eventually, the team hit the point of no return.

Fortunately, the future does look bright, particularly when it comes to two youngsters currently on the roster – Troy Terry and Sam Steel – who have played well enough during stints with the club to cement themselves as key members of Anaheim's future.

After initially failing to score in a six-game stint out of the pre-season, the Ducks sent Terry down to the San Diego Gulls to get further acclimated to the pro game, and the 21-year-old showed why the team brought him aboard immediately after he finished his remarkable tenure with the University of Denver by scoring a point-per-game in 41 AHL games. Following coach Randy Carlyle's dismissal in February, younger players started to see further opportunities in key roles as the Ducks continued to rack up injuries, and Terry was among the beneficiaries. Called up in mid-February, Terry recorded seven points in a three-game span in mid-March to be named the NHL's third star for the week ending March 10.

Like Terry, Steel made the Ducks out of training camp, but after recording three points in 13 games, he was likewise sent down to the Gulls. In the time since, Steel, 21, has been up and down a few times, and he's found the hot hand in his latest turn with the big club. On Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks, he recorded his first career hat-trick to become the youngest player in Ducks history to score three goals in the regular season. Steel was a scoring star in junior – his 131 points in 2016-17 with the Regina Pats is the third-highest single-season point total in the past 20 WHL seasons – and he has already shown a knack for offense in his brief pro career with eight points in 18 NHL games.

Once Terry and Steel get going at full speed, the Ducks will have some young guns to work with up front, and the next step will be for GM and interim bench boss Bob Murray to hire a coach who isn't afraid to let young players thrive, especially during a rebuilding era for the team. The pieces are there for the Ducks to get some scoring help soon – enter forwards Maxime Comtois and Isac Lundestrom, who should be ready by 2020 – but the operation will rely on the play of Terry and Steel to lead the top line. On Anaheim's current roster, just one forward drafted in the past decade, Rakell, has over 100 points, so this is truly the first real sign of help since Perry and Getzlaf joined the fray in 2005.

By the time Steel becomes an RFA in 2021-22 – Terry's entry-level contract ends a year prior – the team will have to decide about the futures of Perry and Getzlaf, who will both be unrestricted free agents. Both will be 36 by then, and the team will either move on or ask them to stay in mentorship roles on more budget-conscious contracts. The Ducks will make keeping their young group a priority and should have some nice cap room to deal with depending on the futures of Perry and Getzlaf.

Ducks fans haven't had much to cheer about this season, and the past 15 years have had its challenges, but there's hope for the franchise. Goaltender John Gibson is just 25 and has become one of the NHL's best puck-stoppers, The next thing to address is Anaheim's defense situation, which isn't as promising as it was a few years ago. But up front, the Ducks have a lot to look forward to in Terry and Steel, the team's next dynamic duo.

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