Ducks winger Max Comtois heeded offseason call to raise his game – Daily News

When the 2019-20 season was done, the Ducks’ coaches and executives met with the players individually and made it clear to their youngest ones that simply being on the roster, in the lineup and on the ice for a regular shift wouldn’t cut it in 2020-21.

They demanded improvement.

They demanded production.

They demanded results.

Max Comtois, a 22-year-old left wing, apparently got the message.

Loud and clear.

After 20 games, he’s taken significant strides in his budding career, leading the Ducks with eight goals and 13 points while logging a modest average of 14:53 of ice time. He’s on pace to be their only 20-goal scorer during this shortened season, which says as much about his as it does about them.

His goals have come in clusters: Two in the season-opening game against the Vegas Golden Knights, followed by a third two nights later, followed by a nine-game drought, followed by two against the San Jose Sharks, followed by three more in the past eight games.

“A real great step forward for him,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins. “Max took a lot of interest in his fitness level, and that’s not to say he was out of shape because he wasn’t. He made some adjustments to his training. I think a few adjustments to his diet, as well.

“I think he’s found a real good program on both fronts. That’s where it started, his offseason. He’s played well right from the start. He’s a guy the puck follows around and he has a good head for making the right play and he can really shoot it. That’s been one of the bright spots for our group.”

No question, the goal-starved Ducks need all the help they can get.

They are last in the 31-team NHL with an average of 1.95 goals per game, and that was after they scored three goals in each of their past two games, a pair of 4-3 losses to the Arizona Coyotes. Comtois had a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s game and two assists Monday.

“The thing you like about the kid is just because he started well and scored some goals, ‘OK, I’ve arrived, I just settle in now,’” Eakins said. “No, he knows there’s still lots of work to be done so that he can achieve what he views his career is going to look like from a year-to-year basis.

“He’s really competitive, not only with the other teams but with himself, as well.”

The majority of Comtois’ goals have been from close enough range to see the goaltender’s eyes behind his mask. He has found the crack’s in the opposition’s defense, skated into dangerous territory, made himself available for a pass and shot the puck quickly.

Comtois hasn’t exactly reinvented the game, but he has benefited from a union with center Isac Lundestrom and right wing Rickard Rakell. Many times, they have been the Ducks’ most dangerous line, and they would be even more so if Rakell could convert on his many chances.

Rakell has scored one goal on a team-leading 61 shots on net for a 1.6 shooting percentage.

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