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With The 23rd Overall Selection, The Anaheim Ducks Will Select …
By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks hold the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. As I’ve done in previous years, I’ve examined several mock drafts and read over scouting reports from a large variety of different hockey sources. I am basing my predictions off of what those rankings and reports say, and also by my own instinct in terms of who I think the Ducks would like on their team. The reason I do it this way and not based on my own observations is because I don’t get much of a chance to see these kids play. Outside of the World Junior Tournament, I don’t watch a lot of junior hockey and even less international hockey, so I go with what is being said by the people who get to watch these kids on a daily basis.
Before I get to my prediction, a bit of background on the upcoming draft. Buffalo holds the first overall pick and will almost assuredly pick Rasmus Dahlin, who some have compared to a young Nicklas Lidstrom. After Dahlin, there are three forwards who will likely go 2-3-4 to Carolina, Montreal, and Ottawa: Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, and Brady Tkachuk. However, this draft is wide open enough where any of these three could conceivably fall out of the top five picks, but I’d be surprised. Players like Oliver Wahlstrom, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard, Adam Boqvist, and Quintin Hughes will likely round out the top 10.
The Ducks say they have a philosophy of drafting the best player available, and, for the most part, I do think that is true. Players chosen late in the first round usually take at least a couple of years to make it to the NHL, so it doesn’t make sense to draft on what Anaheim needs. That being said, I do believe that the Ducks will draft based on positional need in their prospect pool. So if they have a winger and a defenseman ranked at a similar spot, they will take the player who helps fill in their prospect system better. That philosophy has led to Anaheim selecting a dearth of forwards over the last couple of years since the team has been so well stocked with young defensemen.
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Based on Anaheim’s current prospect group, the Ducks have a deep group of left-wingers, led by Max Jones and Maxime Comtois, but a much weaker group on the right side. Their centers are led by Sam Steel and Antoine Morand, but it’s not as deep a group as the left wingers. On defense, Anaheim has seen a number of good young prospects turn pro over the last few years, or are about to in the next year or two. With that in mind, I do think that the Ducks will take at least one left winger and one defenseman with two of their first four picks.
Bob Murray has been the GM of the Ducks since 2009, and since then, he has chosen Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Jacob Larsson, Max Jones, and Sam Steel. A few things stick out about those picks. If Murray takes a defenseman, it’ll be a good skater with a good offensive upside, which describes almost every defenseman available when the Ducks make their pick. His forwards are a little more of a mixed group. Steel is a playmaking center, while Rakell has turned into a 30 goal winger. Ritchie and Jones are power forwards, while Etem was more known for his speed. Not every pick works out, but Murray has had more luck with drafting defensemen in the first round, since three of the four have become NHL regulars, and Larsson hopefully isn’t too far behind. At forward, Rakell was a great pick, while Etem ended up not panning out. Ritchie has been slow to develop, and it’s too soon to say what kind of players Steel and Jones end up becoming.
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Now, on to my prediction, and this assumes that the Ducks don’t make any trades and none of the higher rated players fall to the end of the first round. Even if the Ducks had a higher pick, this draft is so wide open that it would be difficult to predict. With a later first round pick, there is no clear picture in terms of who will be the best player available at 23rd overall.
There is a long list of potential players who the Ducks could be targeting, but I believe it will be one of the following players: center Jacob Olofsson, defenseman K’Andre Miller, center Akil Thomas, center Isac Lundestrom, center Ty Dellandrea, defenseman Jared McIsaac, center Ryan McLeod, winger Dominik Bokk, defenseman Rasmus Sandin, winger Serron Noel, and winger Martin Kaut. Most scouts and mock drafts have these 11 players going in the low to mid-20s, and I think the Ducks would be happy with any of them.
While some of these players will be gone when Anaheim does make their selection, I think it’s a safe bet that at least four or five of them are still available when Anaheim steps up to the podium. However, if certain players rated in teens were to fall to Anaheim at 23, I do think they would take one of them. Possible candidates for that include defenseman Ty Smith, center Rasmus Kupari, defenseman Bode Wilde, winger Grigori Denisenko, or winger Vitali Kravtsov. It’s likely all five of these players will be gone when the Ducks make their pick, but if any of them are still around, there’s a decent chance that the Ducks would instead take one of them.
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Olofsson would be a very safe pick. He’s a reliable, two-way center out of Sweden. He’ll likely never be a top line center, but could turn into a valuable second line center or a checking center. Miller is a big defenseman who converted from forward just a few years ago. He’s got good offensive instincts and excels at rushing the puck up the ice. Thomas led draft-eligible OHL players with 81 points in 68 games. He’s a playmaking center who is strong in the faceoff center, the type of center who teams covet. Lundestrom is another playmaking center. He doesn’t have the offensive flair of some of the other centers in the draft, but he’s another reliable player who does just about everything well. He’s been playing in the SHL for the last two seasons and distinguished himself playing against men.
Dellandrea was the best player on one of the worst teams in the OHL. Despite a rough season for Flint, Dellandrea played hard every night and rarely took a shift off. McIsaac is a physical, two-way defenseman with a strong, all-around game. He can run a powerplay and makes smart decisions all over the ice. McLeod can play both wing and center and is a fast skater. He’s a good playmaker and had one of the higher offensive totals of players coming eligible for this draft from the OHL. Bokk is a right winger with good hands. He’s a playmaker with good size. Sandin is a smooth skating defenseman, the kind the Ducks have drafted a lot of in recent years. He’s not a flashy player, but is reliable and rarely puts a teammate in a poor position with a bad pass. Noel is a power forward with the hands of a goal scorer. He’s 6’5”, but already an excellent skater. Kaut is a player who really impressed at the World Junior Championship, with seven points in seven games. He’s another strong skater who is known for his playmaking skills.
With the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, I predict that the Ducks will select center Jacob Olofsson. He’s not the flashiest of players, but he seems like a Bob Murray-type player. He’s a smart, reliable, two-way center out of Sweden who could be Ryan Kesler’s future replacement. He’s a number of years away from the NHL, but his future looks bright.
This is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory. Regardless of who the Ducks take, I have faith in their scouting staff. While they won’t be drafting the next franchise player, they will hopefully select a player who will be with the team for years to come.
With four picks in the first three rounds of the draft, the Ducks are in an excellent position to draft a number talented prospects. I actually wouldn’t be shocked if the Ducks traded down a couple spots from the 23rd pick to get extra picks in what is supposed to be a very deep draft. It worked out well for them in 2011, when Anaheim traded the 22nd overall pick to Toronto for the 30th and 39th overall picks. The Ducks used those two picks on Rakell and John Gibson. Conversely, if the Ducks feel that there is a franchise-altering player available, they could trade up or even try and get an extra first-round pick, as they did in 2003 when they traded the 36th and 54th overall picks for the 28th overall pick. The Ducks used that pick to take Corey Perry.
The Ducks hold seven picks in the 2018 draft: 23rd overall, 54th overall, 79th overall, 85th overall, 116th overall, 147th overall, and 178th overall.
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June 20th, 2018