Welinski Finds Familiarity, Opportunity with AnaheimOct 12, 2020
By AJ Manderichio/AnaheimDucks.com
Familiarity brought Andy Welinski back to the Anaheim organization.
A former third-round selection of the Ducks, Welinski spent the 2019-20 season with the Philadelphia Flyers organization, playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while seeing some time with the big club. After the season – which included some time in the National Hockey League’s playoff bubble in Toronto during the Flyers playoff run to the Eastern Conference Semifinal – the defenseman wanted to find a spot offering the opportunity to earn a shot at a regular role.
“My first taste of free agency last year was a little more comfortable,” he told reports on a Zoom call while discussing his return. “You have that wiggle room to communicate with teams and look at the options a little more ahead of time. This year, we obviously didn’t have that (with no pre free agency negotiation window). It was kind of a shot of the gun and things were on. It was a little more interesting, but again, as a young player, I’m looking to find a spot to become an everyday NHL player.
“It was the best fit to go back to Anaheim and obviously there’s a few reasons that I’m very happy to go back – the familiarity of it is a big one. It wasn’t a key factor, but it was a cherry on top to go back to somewhere that you’re familiar with along with a lot of the players and faces that you’ve played with in the past.”
Welinski began his professional career in the Anaheim organization, making his AHL debut with San Diego at the end of the 2015-16 season. The defenseman – known for his heavy shot and his ability to quarterback a team’s power play – compiled 83 points (24g/59a) in 146 regular-season contests with the Gulls. This includes his best regular-season output to date, a 34-point campaign during the 2017-18 which included 10 goals and seven power-play tallies.
The defenseman added 15 points (3g/12a) in 34 Calder Cup Playoff games with the Gulls.
The Duluth, Minnesota Minn. native also saw his NHL career begin with the Ducks, making his debut during the 2017-18 season. He compiled six points in 33 games with Anaheim, including his first NHL goal on March 29, 2019 against the Calgary Flames.
“It was good,” he said while discussing his prior experience with the Anaheim organization. “Especially as a younger player, having a full year, my first full year professionally was in San Diego. Having that development and knowing that the NHL was one step away – having that so close was a big piece. Having that opportunity my second year in San Diego to get a call-up and get into a few games, eventually into some playoff games was exciting.”
The opportunity to play for Dallas Eakins – his coach in San Diego – further added to the allure of a return to Southern California.
“One of the biggest pieces I liked about Dallas was he’s very personable and he cares about his players,” Welinski said. “Especially as a young guy, that helps tremendously. Obviously, with his knowledge and experience, he’s very good at getting across to players.”
I’ll never forget it, the first time I got called up and was going to play a game, I was walking to the rink and I got a call from him saying, “Congratulations, you earned it.” I thought that was pretty cool. He’s personable and his experiences are endless, so I think that was a big key. Again, especially developing as a younger player, and the older veteran players appreciate transparency like that.”
Welinski continues to adjust to a different and unprecedented offseason. With no firm start date for training camp in the NHL, the defenseman skates and works out in his hometown of Duluth. His former college, University of Minnesota Duluth, set up times for alumni to skate and work out at their facilities.
In a unique offseason, the defenseman continues to go with the flow.
“I think everyone is adapting to rolling with the punches and taking what comes,” he said. “Again, it is strange; I haven’t been home in the fall time for a long time, well since school at least. So that part is a little different, usually you are into the regular season now and we still don’t have a set date on training camp. It is certainly different but, again, over this past six to eight months, everyone has kind of adapted a little bit in their own way to rolling with the punches.”
Andy Zilch and Joe Spurrier contributed to this news story.