1st Round Recap; Murray Discusses Contracts and Kesler

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington and Michael Walters

The first two picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft went as expected, with Rasmus Dahlin going to Buffalo first overall, and Andrei Svechnikov going to Carolina second overall. But it was the third pick where things got interesting. A number of top end wingers and defensemen were available, but Montreal elected to take center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. That pick caused Filip Zadina to drop to Detroit at sixth overall. The Red Wings actually had two good players fall to them, first with Zadina and then Joe Veleno at 30th overall. The Islanders also had a great first round, with Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson falling to them at 11th and 12th overall. In an interesting twist, five Swedish defensemen were taken in the first round, but none by Anaheim.

With the 23rd overall pick, the Anaheim Ducks selected Isac Lundestrom, one of the many players who I thought the Ducks could select. He’s played in the SHL over the last couple of seasons. This past season, he played 42 games for Lulea HF and scored six goals and 15 points. The year before he played in 45 games and scored three goals and six points. While those offensive totals aren’t eye-popping, keep in mind that he was a teenager playing against men, in arguably the third best hockey league in the world. In the SHL, it’s pretty rare for teenagers to light up the scoreboard. Instead, it’s a chance for them to become more well-rounded players. He’s a playmaking center who doesn’t have a lot of flash in his game but is dependable all over the ice. In the playoffs, he went scoreless in three games. He did play in six playoff games in the SuperElit (Sweden’s version of the AHL) and recorded five assists. Besides his time in the SHL, Lundestrom also played for Sweden at the World Junior Championships this past year, scoring two goals in seven games, while earning a silver medal.

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Lundestrom won’t ever be a top scorer in the league, but he could turn into a reliable, two-way center. At his best, he could be a future Ryan Kesler, in that he’ll play on the powerplay, penalty kill, shut down the opponent’s top line, and score 20 goals a season. If his offensive game doesn’t develop in the NHL, then he could at least turn into a solid checking line center. In watching some of his highlights, he’s clearly a player who knows to go to the front of the net and how to cause some havoc while he’s there.

Lundestrom won’t be in the NHL for a little while. He’ll likely stay in Sweden and the SHL this coming season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s there for two years before coming over to North America. After that, depending on how he develops, he could see some time in San Diego before the Ducks bring him up to the NHL. But, if he plays well enough in the SHL, he could go directly to Anaheim. While he’s in the SHL, I’d like to see his offensive totals start increasing over the next couple of seasons. He should also be back at the World Juniors this coming season, and I’d like him to be a much bigger part of Sweden’s offensive attack.

With Lundestrom in the system, Anaheim’s prospect center depth has significantly improved. He joins the ranks of Sam Steel, Antoine Morand, Julius Nattinen, Brent Gates, Jr., Mitch Hults, Alex Dostie, and Kalle Kossila. In my mind, Steel still has the highest ceiling of all these players, but Lundestrom could be second or third. I’m excited about his future and look forward to watching his development in the SHL over the next couple of years.

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With the first round now behind us, the Ducks will have six more picks on the second day of the draft, starting with the 54th overall pick. As the second round begins, there are several players who I had on Anaheim’s first-round list still available. While it’s unlikely any will still be there when Anaheim picks again, it could happen. Or the Ducks could consider trading up to grab them. Or, more likely, they’ve got a list of players likely to be available when they pick. Regardless of what happens, I trust Anaheim’s scouting department and look forward to seeing who they pick on day two of the draft.

Contract Talks Begin; Kesler’s Status 

According to Eric Stephens, who now works for the Athletic, Bob Murray has begun contract talks with several players. He has started talking to John Gibson, Adam Henrique, and Jakob Silfverberg, who all only have one year left on their contracts. He has also made offers to Ondrej Kase, Brandon Montour, and Nick Ritchie, who are each restricted free agents(RFAs) on July 1st. The other Anaheim RFAs include Nic Kerdiles, Kalle Kossila, Kevin Roy and Andy Welinski.

The Ducks have several unrestricted free agents(UFAs), Kevin Bieksa, Jared Boll, J.T. Brown, Jason Chimera, Derek Grant, Chris Kelly, Michael Liambas, Scott Sabourin, Corey Tropp and Antoine Vermette. It’s likely that most of these players don’t return next season. Grant or Vermette could be back given Ryan Kesler‘s health situation unless Anaheim picks up another center during the summer via trade or free agency.

Murray did share some comments with Stephens about Kesler’s health. He said there is “concern” for Kesler and how his hip will respond to treatment, but Murray wasn’t happy with Sportsnet’s article by Elliott Friedman claiming that Kesler could miss all next season. Nothing has been decided yet on Kesler’s situation according to Murray. He said, Kesler’s “got to do right for him and his family.”

For the rest of Murray’s comments visit: Bob Murray says Ducks’ status quo isn’t’ acceptable, vows change (Subscription Required)

For more on the draft and Kesler’s situation, listen to our last two shows by clicking below.

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June 23rd, 2018




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