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Prediction: With The 9th Overall Pick, The Anaheim Ducks Will Select…
By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks hold two first-round picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft: 9th overall and 29th overall. 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 in order to predict who I think Anaheim will select in the first round. 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 prospects on a daily basis. The Ducks hold seven picks in the draft: 9th overall, 29th overall, 39th overall, 101st overall, 132nd overall, 163rd overall, and 186th overall.
Before I get to my prediction, a bit of background on the 2019 Draft. The New Jersey Devils will almost certainly take Jack Hughes 1st overall, and the Rangers will take Kaapo Kakko 2nd overall. The draft really begins with the third pick, held by the Chicago Blackhawks. Some people consider the talent level of players expected to be picked from 3rd to 10th to be relatively equitable, so Anaheim should be able to get a very good player with their first pick. Players like Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte, Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram, or Cole Caufield could all find their way into the top five, or be available when Anaheim makes their pick.
The Ducks say they have a philosophy of drafting the best player available, and, for the most part, I do think that is true. However, if Anaheim feels they need to really upgrade a particular position, 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 several forwards over the last couple of years since the team was so well stocked with young defensemen.
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, Isac Lundestrom, and Antoine Morand. On defense, Anaheim has seen a number of good young prospects turn pro over the last few years, so it’s not the strength it once was, but they still have Josh Mahura. With that in mind, I do think that the Ducks will take at least one center and one defenseman with two of their first three picks. The good news is that this draft has a ton of high-quality centers, especially in the top 10. The bad news is that this draft isn’t a great one for defensemen. They are certainly good defensemen available, but outside of Byram, probably no true number one defenseman, and he’s not a guarantee in that regard.
Bob Murray has been the GM of the Ducks since 2009, and since 2010, he has chosen Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Jacob Larsson, Jones, Steel, and Lundestrom. A few things stick out about those picks. If Murray takes a defenseman, it’ll be a good skater with a good offensive upside. 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, Jones, and Lundestrom end up becoming.
Now, on to my prediction, and this assumes that the Ducks don’t make any trades. With a top 10 pick, there are going to be at least one or two excellent prospects available at 9th overall. I believe Anaheim will be hoping to draft one of the following players: winger Matthew Boldy, center Kirby Dach, winger Cole Caufield, defenseman Philip Broberg, center Peyton Krebs, winger Vasili Podkolzin, or center Trevor Zegras. Most scouts and mock drafts have these seven players going in the top 10, or just outside of it, and I think the Ducks would be happy with any of them. While some, or even many, of these players will be gone when Anaheim does make their selection, I think it’s a safe bet that at least a couple of them are still available when Anaheim steps up to the podium.
Boldy is a versatile winger who can play in virtually any situation on the ice and find success. He rarely makes mistakes and is one of the smartest players in the draft. Dach is a big center and an excellent playmaker. He’s got a right-handed shot and can run a powerplay. Caufield scores goals. If not for his size, he’d probably be the guaranteed 3rd overall pick. At 5’7”, his height is a concern, but he scored 72 goals in 64 games last year and has one of the best shots in this draft class. Broberg is an excellent skater and athlete. He’s from Sweden and fits the mold of defensemen that Anaheim likes to select. This past season, Krebs was a great player on a bad team, so it’s a little hard to compare him against other players in the draft. He’s an excellent playmaker and had 49 assists in 64 games last season. However, he did just suffer an Achilles injury. He should recover fully, but that could scare Anaheim and other teams off of drafting him in the top 10. Podkolzin is a highly skilled player who played in the KHL for a few games this past season. His skill level is top 10 if not top five worthy, but he’s said that he’s going to finish his KHL contract before coming to North America, which could make him drop to Anaheim, or even lower. Zegras is arguably the second-best passer in this draft, behind only Hughes, and had 61 assists in 60 games last season. He sometimes passes a little too much, but there’s no denying that he’s a highly skilled center.
With the 9th overall, I predict that the Ducks will select center Kirby Dach. The Ducks need someone to replace Ryan Getzlaf, and Dach is a prospect who has been compared to Anaheim’s captain. He’s big, he’s a great passer, and he has a right-hand shot; the Getzlaf comparisons pretty much write themselves. Dach just fits the kind of player that Anaheim likes, a big center who can take over a game and sees the ice really well. That being said, if Zegras or Caufield is available when Anaheim makes their selection, I do think Anaheim should take them, but I think that both will be gone before Anaheim gets to the podium. Zegras’ skill level is just so high, and Caufield is the kind of goal scorer that Anaheim does not have. Assuming both are gone, Anaheim will be incredibly happy with Dach, or any of the other players who will likely be available when the Ducks make their pick.
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June 20th, 2018