Ondrej Kase’s talent was obvious during his breakout second season in the NHL.
Now that he’s recovered from the concussion that cost him the first 18 games of the season, he’s showing the kind of dynamic player he is.
Never were his skills more evident than Wednesday, when his first career NHL hat trick led the Ducks to a 6-3 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Stars at Honda Center.
The 23-year-old Czech Republic native has eight goals and 14 points in 15 games. He’s starred in most of his outings this season, months after he capped a 20-goal campaign.
And for a team that still ranks 30th in the league in goals per game, Kase is proving to be the rare Ducks forward who threatens to score each time he’s on the ice.
“He’s the guy who has the potential to [score 30 goals] for sure,” said the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, who notched career point No. 900 on Kase’s second goal. “The way he can skate, the way he sees the game, as long as he continues doing the same things he’s doing he’ll be fine.”
Most impressive of all: Each of Kase’s three goals came at even strength. He called it an “amazing” moment to see the hats cascade to the ice in the third period following a one-kneed slap shot that tied the score.
Sixty-six seconds later, Brandon Montour found an empty net off the rebound. The Ducks piled on two more goals: a puck off Jakob Silfverberg’s skate that was originally ruled a kick, and a Hampus Lindholm empty-netter.
The four third-period goals erased a two-goal deficit. Kase opened the scoring in the first off a feed from Pontus Aberg, and it was a dominant 20 minutes for the Ducks. They outshot the Stars 15-5.
The Ducks’ play leveled off drastically during the final period. John Gibson allowed two power-play goals from the Stars (Miro Heiskanen and Alexander Radulov) and another from Blake Comeau at even strength.
Kase pulled the Ducks within one late in the second with an assist from Getzlaf, who outmuscled the competition along the half-wall.
With forwards Rickard Rakell, his left foot in a walking boot, and Corey Perry watching from the press box (51 combined goals last season), Kase has picked up the slack, and his teammates said they believe he’s capable of delivering even more dazzling performances.
“He’s got such a different skill level with his speed, his hands and his offensive instincts,” said Brandon Montour, who played alongside Kase in the AHL. “It’s tough for defensemen to challenge. You could see what he’s all about. Good for him.”
The Ducks’ victory comes just before they head out on a season-long six-game trip that stretches past Christmas. They’ve collected wins in seven of their last eight games, and the offense appears to finally be breaking out.
The Ducks are within striking distance of first place in the Pacific Division. If they’re going to keep pace with the leaders, the Calgary Flames, Kase will need to keep the momentum going.