Reviewing Anaheim’s 2009 Draft Class

Photo: AP

By Thomas Harrington

With the NHL season on pause for now, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Bob Murray’s draft record during his time in Anaheim.

The Ducks have a reputation as a team that drafts well, but I’d like to look back at every draft that Murray has been in charge of and see if that reputation has truly been earned. Personally, I’ve long been a supporter of Anaheim’s draft record and their scouting staff, but I do know that they are far from perfect.

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My opinion going into this is that Murray and Anaheim do a good job of finding NHL talent, but have struggled to find superstars the few times that they have had higher picks. Drafting is far from a perfect science, so they should be commended for finding NHL talent throughout the draft, but also criticized for not bringing in a true superstar, especially when picking in the top 10.

I’ll start with the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the first draft that Murray was in charge of, and go through the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. I figure five years is enough to truly evaluate a draft, so that’s where I’ll stop the full reviews. I’ll give each draft an overall grade, and also look at each pick and see if they were the right player to take or not.

I’ll mention other players who the Ducks could have drafted who may have been better options, but I’ll limit that to other players taken within the same round or 10 picks into the next round if the player was taken near the end of a round.

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Just because a team found a gem in the sixth round of the draft doesn’t mean Anaheim chose the wrong player a hundred picks earlier, it means that the entire league (including the team who eventually picked that player) missed on that player in the first five rounds of the draft. I’ll also be more critical of players chosen in the first three rounds of a draft than players chosen towards the end of a draft.

2009 NHL Entry Draft

The 2009 NHL Entry Draft was led by John Tavares and Victor Hedman, but overall, it was a fairly lackluster draft, especially in the first round. The Ducks had seven picks in the 2009 Draft, including two in the first round. Anaheim selected Peter Holland 15th overall, Kyle Palmieri 26th overall, Mat Clark 37th overall, Igor Bobkov 76th overall, Sami Vatanen 106th overall, Radoslav Illo 136th overall, and Scott Valentine 166th overall. Out of seven players, the Ducks were able to choose two NHL regulars, but they really missed with their first selection.

Peter Holland

After being drafted, Holland spent the next two seasons in the OHL, scoring 168 points in 126 games. Coming out of juniors, Holland looked like a solid prospect for the Ducks. He became a full-time pro in the 2011-2012 season and scored 60 points in 71 AHL games, and scored his first NHL goal while getting four games with the Ducks.

However, his development stalled after that. The following season, he played in 21 games with Anaheim, but only managed to score five points. In the AHL, he scored 39 points in 45 games. He was starting to look like an elite player in the AHL, but not one who could translate that skill to the NHL. During his time in Anaheim, he just never really fit in with the team.

Anaheim ended up trading Holland to Toronto, where he played for a couple of seasons but never became a big-time point producer. His career-high was 27 points in the 2015-2016 season. Similar to his time in Anaheim, Holland just never found his groove in Toronto. Coming out of the draft and for three seasons after, Holland looked like a good pick, but he ended up not working out and this ended up ultimately being a wasted pick by the Ducks.

While the 2009 draft wasn’t particularly deep, the Ducks could have picked Chris Kreider instead, who the Rangers selected 19th overall or Nick Leddy who Minnesota drafted immediately after Holland. Today, Holland is playing in the KHL and it’s doubtful that he’ll play in the NHL ever again.

Kyle Palmieri

While Anaheim ultimately missed on Holland, Palmieri ended up being a much more solid pick by them. After being drafted by the Ducks, Palmieri attended the University of Notre Dame for a season before turning pro in the 2010-2011 season. He spent the next few years splitting time between the NHL and AHL. While he wasn’t quite able to carve out a roster spot on a full-time basis, he improved every season, and in the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, he recorded 21 points in 42 games. The following year he spent the entire season in the NHL and scored 14 goals.

After the 2014-2015 season, the Ducks decided to trade Palmieri to New Jersey. The Ducks received draft picks in return, and Palmieri blossomed into the goal scorer many hoped he would be in Anaheim. In his first season with New Jersey, Palmieri scored 30 goals and 57 points, both of which are still his career highs. While he wasn’t quite able to match those numbers in the past few seasons, he’s become a consistent 20 goal scorer.

At the time of the trade, the Ducks were a much deeper offensive team than they are today, and he wasn’t given a lot of time on the top line or top powerplay unit. In New Jersey, he was elevated into their top six and got plenty of powerplay time, two big reasons why his offense increased so dramatically after the trade.

Palmieri was a very good pick by Anaheim towards the end of the first round, but Colorado did take Ryan O’Reilly early in the second round, just seven picks after Palmieri was chosen. Still, I wouldn’t say Palmieri was a bad pick by Anaheim, but it’s unfortunate that they weren’t a little more patient with him and instead saw him become a top-line winger elsewhere. At the time of this season’s postponement, Palmieri was leading New Jersey with 25 goals and 45 points.

Mat Clark

After being drafted, Clark spent one more year in junior hockey before turning pro. He made his NHL debut in the 2011-2012 season, getting two games with the Ducks. However, he didn’t play any more NHL games until the 2014-2015 season. Later that season, the Ducks traded him to Colorado for Michael Sgarbossa. Clark played a few more years in the AHL before heading to Europe to continue his career. He played there for a couple of years and retired after the 2018-2019 season.

Looking back, Clark wasn’t a good pick by the Ducks in the second round. He was taken 37th overall, while Ottawa chose Jakob Silfverberg just two picks later. While that was a big miss by the Ducks, they helped to rectify this mistake when they picked up Silfverberg in the Bobby Ryan trade. Alternatively, the Ducks could have also taken Tomas Tatar who was taken with the second to last pick of the second round.

Igor Bobkov

After being drafted, Bobkov played a season of hockey in Russia before coming to North America and playing in the OHL for two seasons. He became a full-time pro in the 2012-2013 season, appearing in 28 games for the Norfolk Admirals. Bobkov split the next couple of seasons between the AHL and ECHL before returning to Russia in the 2015-2016 season. He’s been playing in the KHL ever since.

Goaltenders are notoriously hard to predict, but drafting one in the third round wasn’t a bad idea at the time. Unfortunately, Bobkov didn’t work out for Anaheim. The rest of the third round didn’t have a ton of great players, but goaltender Matt Hackett was chosen with the next pick. He didn’t have a great career, but he did play in 26 NHL games. Other choices Anaheim could have made include Cody Eakin or current fan favorite Nicolas Deslauriers.

Sami Vatanen

Vatanen was far and away Anaheim’s best pick of the draft. It took a few years, but he established himself as an NHL defenseman in the 2013-2014 season. He had a career-high 38 points in the 2015-2016 season. He was part of a strong defensive core that included Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson. The other three were viewed as long-term players in Anaheim, and when the Ducks were in serious injury trouble and desperately needed help at center, Vatanen was traded to New Jersey for Adam Henrique.

His numbers in New Jersey weren’t quite as good as what he did in Anaheim, but he was still a solid player for them. He was traded to Carolina at the trade deadline but had not appeared in any games with his new team before the season was put on hold.

Vatanen was arguably the best player picked in the fourth round. Only two players from that round, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm, have more points than Vatanen. Both have played significantly more games than Vatanen at this point in their careers. Also, both were chosen earlier in the fourth round. Some useful players were chosen after Vatanen, but none of them were as good as he was, so there’s no question that Anaheim made the right choice when they selected Vatanen.

Radoslav Illo

After being drafted, Illo played a season in the USHL and then spent four years playing college hockey. He also played in three AHL games at the end of the 2013-2014 season. He then went back to Europe for a year before coming back to North America and playing in the ECHL for two seasons. He then played one more year in Europe and retired from professional hockey.

The NHL Draft is a crapshoot, and once the fifth round rolls around, that becomes even more true. Most of the players taken this late in the draft don’t make it to the NHL, but there’s usually some good players that come out of the draft in the final few rounds. In the fifth round of the 2009 Draft, that player was Mike Hoffman, though he went before Illo was chosen. However, 13 spots after the Ducks took Illo, Chicago chose Marcus Kruger. Kruger is far from an NHL star (his career-high in points is 28), but he does have over 500 NHL games to his credit and is a good value pick in the fifth round.

Scott Valentine

After being drafted, Valentine spent the next couple of years in the OHL before turning pro in the 2011-2012 season. He spent the next three seasons in the AHL and then split the 2014-2015 season between the AHL and ECHL. Following that season, Valentine went to Europe and he’s been playing there ever since.

Anders Lee was the only really good player chosen in the sixth round of the 2009 Draft, but that was well before Anaheim chose Valentine. Eric Wellwood was taken six spots after Valentine and he has 10 points in 31 career NHL games. He’s third in points among those drafted in the sixth round, so I’m not terribly upset about Anaheim choosing Valentine.

Final Grade

Overall, I’d give Anaheim a C for this draft. They really missed on Holland, but he had a great junior career, so his pick did make sense. Palmieri was among the better players taken at the end of the first round and was a solid pick. Clark was a big miss, and Bobkov didn’t develop as hoped.

However, Vatanen was a great pick by Anaheim in the fourth round. He and Palmieri are the positives from this draft, while Holland and Clark are the negatives. After Vatanen, the Ducks didn’t get a lot of value in the later rounds of this draft, but getting a top-four defenseman who can quarterback a powerplay in the fourth round is really the only reason the Ducks get a passing grade for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

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April 16th, 2020


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